My childhood breakfasts consisted of leftovers from the previous nights' dinner (invariably, Chinese food) -- my parents ignored my pleas for "normal" breakfast items like Froot Loops and Pop Tarts (both, I reminded my mom and dad, are part of a nutritious breakfast, goddammit). "When I grow up," I seethed, "I'm going to let my kids eat WHATEVER THEY WANT."
It's obvious now that I jinxed myself.
I start each morning with high hopes that my four-year-old will feel like eating something easy to prepare. And by "prepare," I mean "dump into a bowl."
He, on the other hand, approaches breakfast like a seasoned hostage negotiator. Or hostage-taker.
Crossing my fingers, I shoot first, with an all-too-cheery "How 'bout some cereal for breakfast?"
"What else do you have?" he fires back.
"This isn't a restaurant." I inform him. He stares at me blankly, expectantly -- a well-honed tactic to elicit an offer of a breakfast alternative. It works. "You can have toaster waffles," I add, reaching for the freezer.
"Nah. What else?" He adds a sweet smile. Cunning.
I roll my eyes. "Nothing else. That's all we got, buddy."
"Okay, then I won't eat anything."
That won't do; my wife would have my head. Conceding defeat, I mutter: "How about a scrambled egg?"
"OH-kaaay, but with toast. HALF a piece of toast. And not too crunchy -- it has to be kind of crunchy, but still a little soft. And I want to scramble the egg."
He does, and I cook it. I cut and toast the bread. I load it on a SpongeBob plate. It is as perfect as I can make it.
"Daddy, you didn't cut up my egg!"
I cut it to ribbony shreds with the edge of a fork, and set the plate down again. "Eat!" I command.
He sits and stares at his breakfast, expressionless, motionless. Finally, he sighs: "Nah. I'm not hungry." Pause. "I want a banana and some cheese. Cheddar cheese, not string cheese. You gave me string cheese last time, and I hate it."
As our early morning stalemate continues, our nineteen-month-old stands up, having wriggled free of his high chair restraining belt. He starts screeching and flicking Cheerios onto the floor, demanding fruit. "FWOOT. FWOOT. FWOOT." (This kid is, we've decided, a lacto-carbo-fruitarian: He ingests nothing but dairy products, simple white carbs and fruit. He disdains vegetables and meat; if we try to hide a speck of chicken or a pea under a spoonful of macaroni, he spits it out.) Finally, he settles for a few grapes, a sippy cup of milk, a piece of his brother's uneaten toast, and a handful of almonds.
His big brother, meanwhile, has finally eaten a couple of bites of his scrambled egg, and has devoured an entire banana. He's also munched on the Cheerios left on his baby brother's tray.
On the plus side, I suppose the kids are getting what they need for breakfast: "a combination of a healthy carbohydrate that offers fiber and a protein food." According to nutritionists, picky kids don't have to eat traditional breakfast items; rather:
Leftover beans and salsa or a grilled cheese and turkey bacon sandwich on whole-wheat bread with a piece of fruit on the side are other good choices; even leftovers of lean meat or chicken from last night’s dinner, along with toast and fruit, do the job. Nut-butter sandwiches are great if made with higher-fiber breads and low-sugar fruit spreads.So guess who's having breadsticks, cream cheese and prunes tomorrow morning?