What Happened to Number Two?

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Daniel loves to roast marshmallows!

 

My precious Daniel is three years old today, and looking forward to celebrating his birthday with a summer seafood dinner (octopus, anyone?), his favorite corn on the cob and birthday cake.  And as I think about the progress that he’s made in his eating habits and tastes over the last six months to twelve months, I can’t help but look back and remember the time that he inspired the section of my book called “What Happened to Number Two?”

If you’ve read “My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything,” you may remember that I describe our first son, Willie, as the “good” eater.  It was experiences in teaching him about food and flavors that were the catalyst for the research and interviews that led to the publication of the book.  But then when Daniel came along three years later, we got a dose of reality with the recognition that it’s not always so easy, or so natural with every child.

Daniel was always a voracious eater, at least in terms of the amount of food consumed.  From breast milk and formula to first table foods and beyond, he could put away an impression amount.  But for a long time, whatever he accomplished in volume, he countered in variety, at least with regard to his favorites and what he wanted to eat.  Compared to Willie, Daniel was definitely a “picky eater” as both an infant and a young toddler.  He didn’t mind saying NO (and no and no and no) when presented with something new or unfamiliar, or something that just didn’t taste right.

It’s interesting: While many parents have told me that the same thing happened in their family (Child Number One would eat anything, while Number Two and beyond presented the challenge), I have heard an equal number of stories about the opposite effect.  Just as often, it seems, it’s the first kid or two who are the Picky Eaters, while the younger ones come along without any problem.  Moms and dads frequently mention this, wondering if it is just the different natures of the kids, or if in fact they themselves  are doing something differently, somehow treating one child “better” or worse than another?

I would say that it’s a little bit of both.

Different kids, different personalities, different interests in terms of food and different levels of comfort with trying new things.  Absolutely, that’s a part of it.  But I also think that we as parents need to recognize that, no matter how much we like to think that we are generally raising all of our kids equitably and without favoritism, we do treat them differently, simply because of their place in the family structure.  It was easier, for us at least, to focus all of our attention on teaching one child to eat well; by the time there were two, there was just less time to give Daniel one-on-one coaching on the subject.

We forget a lot, too, from one kid to the next.  When we go to dinner now with six-year-old William, we’re blissfully past the nights during his toddler years that he wouldn’t eat anything, or had a tantrum at the table.  And now, when a younger child at the table starts those same antics, it’s a little too easy to say “Just give him whatever he wants, so the rest of us can enjoy our meal!”   Not smart, in the long run, and definitely not the way to train Daniel to love to eat everything.

What has been your experience with birth order of your kids, as it relates to Picky Eating?

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One Response to “What Happened to Number Two?”

  1. Claire Says:

    I’m amazed at how different my kids eating habits are. My second eats so much, but is picky when it comes to vegetables and trying new things. My first will eat Sushi and always reaches for the salad first, but trying to get him to sit down is the problem.

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