“It’s too white,” Mikey says, folding his arms on the table and resting his chin on them, a scowl on his face.
My husband and I look at each other across the little bistro table outside a local eatery. “I don’t… What do you mean it’s too white, buddy?” my husband asks our son. “What’s too white?”
“That is.” Mikey points to the chicken tender Mike is holding up that is definitely a perfectly golden color of fried, battered poultry that looks just like every other chicken tender on the planet.
We both look around the table, around at the people bustling by who are unaware of the precipice our life teeters on at this very moment, and I’m pretty sure my husband even glances under the table to see if Mikey can possibly be talking about something else.
Nope. He’s definitely offended by the chicken tender.
“Mikey, it’s chicken. You love chicken!” I remind him.
“It’s white!” he is more persistent now.
Mike looks at me with a “What planet are we on?” face and I return it with an “I’ve got nothing” shrug.
Mike then takes a little nibble off the tip of the chicken tender to show Mikey the inside is exactly what he’s used to: processed white meat. “See? It’s the same as always.”
That wins us a grunt in response.
Here’s the reason for our panic: Mikey only has a handful of things that he eats, so when something gets crossed off the list, our universe narrows quite dramatically.
When it comes to meals, he pretty much only eats pancakes and (crispy) bacon, pizza from the pizzeria (not the frozen variety), Nature’s Promise frozen turkey meatballs from Stop & Shop, an occasional hot dog, and chicken nuggets/tenders — accompanied by French fries if they are from a fast food establishment, but NOT if they are from a restaurant.
The kid doesn’t eat any kind of pasta, or sandwiches.
He used to eat the dinosaur-shaped frozen chicken nuggets from the grocery store faster than we could keep them in stock, but as soon as we introduced the Happy Meal and chicken tenders from a restaurant, the store-bought ones were out.
So now, being faced with the possibility that chicken tenders could be deemed “too white,” my husband and I need to make a game-time decision as to how we want to proceed. Force him to eat the repugnant poultry offering before him, or just let it go?
When the 4-year-old food critic says he wants cheese pizza instead, my husband goes with a knee-jerk response: “No. Mikey, you like chicken tenders. You asked for chicken tenders. We’re not getting you pizza because you changed your mind.”
I’m torn between total agreement, because we always said we were not going to be those parents who offer their child an endless buffet of options to satisfy his changing cravings; and complete skepticism, because we are not dealing with a rational life form right now.
But, with that decision made, we stick to our guns and end up taking Mikey’s meal home without ordering anything more. Eventually he will be hungry enough that he will eat the dang things.
Well, after a few hours of running errands, playground time and other shenanigans, we pull into the driveway and decide we should probably throw out the chicken tenders since they have been fermenting on the dashboard all afternoon.
Then, out of nowhere, Mikey requests the one other food item he likes to eat. “Momma, can I have steak on the handle?” he asks.
Lamb chops. He’s asking for lamb chops.
I thank the Italian in-laws for that.
We just so happen to have a package of five of those lollipop lamb chops in the freezer, so my husband quickly defrosts them and grills them, figuring Mikey is good to eat two or three.
Nope. He ate all five. He ate $20 worth of lamb chops in about 10 minutes.
You know what my husband and I had for dinner?
Fermented chicken tenders.
Wish I was making this stuff up, folks.
Holly Crocco is editor of the Putnam County Times/Press and mother of a 4-year-old. She can be reached at email@example.com.