Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Laments of a Jewish Mother's Failure to Get Her Child To Eat

I have turned into a Jewish mother. I have turned into my Jewish grandmother. The kind that forces you to eat when you're not hungry then turns your un-hunger into guilt about the starving children in Africa, and all of the other children that are starving everywhere except for this blessed house.

Tonight, I took the first step in turning my child into Philip Roth, circa "Portnoy's Complaint." I don't know if it's impossible to incite pre-school resentment and Odeipal rage in a five-year-old over his refusal to eat edemame, or anything else healthy, but if it is - I may have done it tonight. If you haven't read "Portnoy's Complaint," then you only need to hear this passage to follow.
"From my bed, I hear [my mother] babbling about her problems to the women around the mah-jongg game: My Alex is suddenly such a bad eater I have to stand over him with a knife. And none of them apparently finds this tactic of hers at all excessive. I have to stand over him with a knife! And not one of those women gets up from the mah-jongg table and walks out of her house! Because in their world, that is the way it is with bad eaters -- you have to stand over them with a knife!"
I became a vegetarian at 10 years old. It was the moment I understood what veal really was; I got up from the table and swore off meat. My mother was excessive with the meat. Roast beef. Pork chops. Lamb chops. Lamb stew. Tongue. (Tongue. Who knew tongue was a tongue?) Liver and onions. (And if we ate our liver and onions, we could watch the Barry Manilow special!)

My mother didn't know what to do with me as a vegetarian, but respected my choice. My grandmother, on the other hand, harassed me. "Come on, just a little piece of chicken isn't going to kill you. One little piece. It's just chicken for God sakes. Mashuganah! What kind of person doesn't eat a little piece of chicken?" I was bullied. I was tormented and picked at. My cousins would make chicken noises as my grandfather made eggs! "It's a chicken abortion!" I'd cry.

And now I'm doing the same to Jake. A boy should eat his vegetables. You want to be like Popeye? You want to be big and strong? Oh, boy, you're going to be mad at me when you don't grow up strong and you say, 'Mommy, why didn't you make me eat my vegetables?"

Here was tonight's drama:

"Jake, just eat four bites of the edemame."

"No. Two."

"Okay, three, and if you don't eat it in the next five minutes, I'm going to take away Wii."


"Okay, if you don't eat those three edemame beans in the next 4 minutes and 50 seconds, I'm going to take away dessert."

"Nooooo!" [crying]

"Jake, stop climbing on me and eat your edemame!"

"But, Mom, can I tell you something?"

"No! Eat your edemame! When I was a kid, I loved vegetables--"

"But, Mom, I really want to tell you something, because I don't like this one--" [he shows me a shriveled edemame]

"I ate spinach. I ate broccoli. Nonnie gave me every vegetable and I ate it. You have 4 minutes and ten seconds. Put the edemame in your mouth, Jake!"

[He puts one in his mouth. Is chewing. And crying.]

"Stop crying and chew! Do you want to be a big strong boy? Do you want to be a tennis pro like Rafa Nadal?"

"I want to go to sleep!"

"You only want to go to sleep because you don't want to eat your edemame!"

And it goes like this until he brushes his teeth with the edemame still in his mouth.

I would have been better off standing over him with a knife.

And if he ends up writing a book on masturbation and overbearing mothers -- and detests every God-damned vegetable on the planet -- I only have myself to blame. Oy vey!


  1. Isn't it so hard to know what to do sometimes? I know I feel like once I dig in, I need to see it through. But then at the end of it I wonder if it was really worth my effort. I question what I or my son even gained.

    They all go to therapy and blame us at some point. What will be interesting is what specifically we did to mess them all up ;)

  2. He ate five bites of peas last night! I feel as thought I should be handed an award...


Blog Widget by LinkWithin