Saturday, June 14, 2008

Prickly Pears

My son likes pears.

This might not seem like such a big deal. Because, what's not to like? You love apples, right? So what's the problem with a freakin pear? But for the last 8 years of solid food, pears were this exotic challenge for him, like the oyster of the fruit world. They might be sweet and some variety of green or red and grow on a tree like that mainstay of your fruit intake for eight years, the apple. But they're just... different.

I have read in Temple Grandin's books (she is the autistic animal expert who changed slaughterhouses so reduce fear in the animals) how animals don't generalize. They are all about the details. For example, a horse that is afraid of a man in a black cowboy hat may not be able to generalize enough to consequently be afraid of a man in a baseball cap, or even a man in a white cowboy hat. And dogs might obey a command given in a specific place or manner, but not be able to generalize the behavior to perform in another situation. Animals are totally focused on details.

I think kids are doing the same thing with food. They are totally fixated on the details, and they can't always generalize. So, the kid who likes chicken when it's breaded and fried may not like chicken when it's stir-fried. This causes great distress to parents ("But you love chicken!") Or a kid who likes hamburgers may not automatically like meatballs at first exposure (cf: my children). And kids with extreme food issues will sometimes like Wendy's french fries, but not McDonald's french fries. Every new food is a new experience, even if we adults know that it falls into an already accepted category of foods. And therein lies the irritation. What seems like a complete lack of logic to us is actually a hyper logic to the kids.

So my son, who has eaten apples with no problem for his entire life, and who has spent most of his life being an extremely picky eater, has never been interested in pears. They were different, duh! Pear-shaped! Softer-textured! More aromatic.

Until a few months ago when, magically, he was willing to try on one day, and then liked it. And wanted more. There's been a lot of magic lately happening with him. This is the kid who, as a toddler wouldn't eat cake or drink juice.

Last night after an early dinner in the park, both kids were hungry before bedtime. "Well, I have pears and cherry tomatoes," I said (truthfully -our food stores are low at the moment).

"Pears? I want a pear! I love pears"

Next up: oysters.

(Just kidding.)

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