My child doesn't eat. Sorry, I mean he doesn't eat anything that he's supposed to eat. He'll happily wolf down cake, chocolate, ice-cream and chips if they're on offer. He's also partial to his toenails and the odd bit of playdough, oh, and the archaic crumbs that he finds between the sofa cushions. He's never really been bothered about eating, even when he was a tiny breastfeeding baby. It's just all too much of an inconvenience for him. He has things to do, people to see, things to open and tip all over the floor that are supposedly childproof. He's a busy man, you know. God knows how he's managed to grow into a two stone toddler; all those bits of tissue paper from the bin and grass must be fairly calorific after all.
Unfortunately, he's rather too keen on junk food. "My child doesn't really like fizzy drinks" say my friends. Pff. On the odd occasion that Rory's stolen a sip of lemonade, he looks like he's about to rupture something with the deliciousness of it all. It's getting embarrassing now. On waking the other day, before rubbing the sleep from his eyes, before the pillow creases had begun to fade from his face, he looked up at me and whispered "burgers" in tones far too lusty for a two year old. He then sat in the pushchair as we walked through town shouting "Can I have more Monster Munch Mummy?" over and over again, making me look like the sort of wretched mother who knowingly stuffs her child with salt, sugar and E numbers night and day. How many times have we fed our child Monster Munch? Once. One piece. It was obviously so delicious that it's stuck in his mind as the pinnacle of all culinary delights as he requests it over and over again, usually in restaurants.
Of course, I do try to be a good mum so I don't give in to most of his demands and I attempt to serve up a healthy family meal every day of the week. This is, without fail, ignored by Rory and often leads to a nuclear style meltdown. "I NO LIKE MUMMY" screams my child, drumming his little feet on the floor. " I am not your friend." Of course. How ridiculous of me to attempt to put nutrients into my son. I am completely deserving of such treatment. Tell you what - I'll stand in this corner and give myself a good thrashing with the wooden spoon shall I?
Yesterday, after a perfectly acceptable lunch of pasta in homemade tomato sauce with cheese on top had been refused and turned into an epic battle, I decided that a different approach was needed. Have you seen that I Can Cook programme on CBeebies? The one with the presenter with the impossibly perfect hair - Katy whatever her name is.* She's always cooking up food that looks like crap with kids and they seem to eat it (although they're probably rather handsomely paid to do so). "Today's recipe is going to be....cabbage and broad bean soup", she says. "Now doesn't that look yummy?"
"Mmmmmmmmm", say all the kids, rubbing their tummies with glee.
"You are WRONG, Katy", says Rory, pointing indignantly at the TV. "Looks like yuck".
Never mind, she's got the right idea. Involving children with preparing and cooking food is great for learning opportunities and encourages them to eat what they've made. I do a lot of baking with Rory and he helps me to make sandwiches and things, but I've never involved him in making anything more complex than a pizza before. Ah well, desperate times call for desperate measures.
We sang the hand washing song while we washed our hands (successful, even though I wanted to punch myself in the face for using the word "yucky").
"Today's recipe is....spicy sausage casserole", I say, fake smile plastered on my face. "Now doesn't that sound delicious?"
"Hmmmm", says Rory doubtfully and puts his apron on.
Oh God, cooking a main meal with a toddler is a nightmare. I managed to just about prise him away from fiddling with all the knobs that turn the hob on with the promise that he could hold a knife (just a butter knife - I'm not that stupid) and cut up the peppers. He was very enthusiastic about that part - the knife brandishing, not the peppers. The peppers remained defiantly un-chopped while he waved his butter knife about with a demonic expression of his face muttering "I stab you mummy". How the hell does he know what stabbing is anyway? Ripping the mushrooms into pieces was more successful. Meanwhile, I was chopping up sausages and attempting to ensure that he didn't touch them as I have a thing about raw meat. He then lost interest and did a runner up the stairs while I was covered in sausage meat. By the time I'd got everything into the pan and had washed my hands, he was in my bedroom, rifling through my make-up bag and decorating his genitals with Benetint. At this point I had to go and open the door to the Avon lady, who always manages to call round at the most inopportune moments. "Umm, no I can't quite remember where I put the brochure" I said apologetically, trying (and failing) to block the view of the carnage behind me while my semi naked child performed a painted bollock fashion parade on our front porch. No time to clean him up though, it was back to the kitchen from which was emanating a smell of burning sausages. Rory was convinced to throw a handful of kidney beans into the saucepan, then entrusted with the Worcestershire sauce bottle (foolish, in retrospect). He even crumbled an Oxo cube in the general direction of the pan, and it must be said that he snorted very little of it up his nose despite attempts to the contrary.
We then left it to simmer and embarked upon a clean up operation. When Rich arrived home from work, he entered a (semi) clean house to find his wife dishing up three steaming bowls of sausage casserole and a child devoid of any make-up on his balls. It was a charming domestic scene.
So, did Rory willingly eat the casserole that he helped to cook? Did he rub his tummy and say "yum yum" a lot like they do on I Can Cook? Did he buggery. He refused to take a mouthful and I had to resort to pretending that all his Brio Thomas the Tank Engine trains wanted to eat it ("Peep peep! Can I have some of your delicious dinner Rory?"), and even then he refused until I put on a scouse accent for each and every sodding engine.
Well, Katy from I Can Cook, that was so not worth it. As my child would say "I am not your friend".
*Ashworth - I've just googled her.