A couple years ago, when the little guy was between 2 and 3 years old, he had this love for vegetables and fruit. Now, don’t get lulled into the idea that his love of fruits and vegetables was in the “normal” way – like eating them. Remember who we’re dealing with here.
It all began with books. Children’s books love to tell stories about fruit and vegetables. My guess is this helps to teach all about vocabulary, colors and good eating habits. My son loved these books:
Sesame Street fostered this interest for him with its repository of songs and cartoons to promote healthy eating. My little boy loved an episode of Sesame Street with this song:
So, I imagine (although I have no experience with NT kids) that these books and shows would foster an interest in trying to eat healthy, colorful fruits and vegetables and promote interests in trying new foods. For “regular” kids. It took – umm- a different turn in our household.
First, it was pointing at and naming fruits and veggies. He made it clear he wanted me to point at them and he would provide the names. As early as 18 months he was identifying apples and bananas. His favorite was the zhuh-zhee (his own made up name for “orange” – don’t ask me – I have no idea where that came from!!).
For hours we would look at books of fruits and vegetables. He was fascinated by their shapes and colors as well as their names. So, we would have “school” and he would name off the fruits, vegetables and their shapes and colors when he was between 2 and 3 years old. Given this strange devotion, it was only natural that we would transfer the interest to the real thing.
In the grocery store, we would spend – literally – 20-30 minutes looking at fruits and vegetables. He would have to touch them and pick one out to carry around like a NT kid would a toy. All the adults thought he was this amazing health nut kid that wanted to eat all this produce. “What a wonderful healthy child!” they would tell me. I would just nod and smile.
The truth was that he would have nothing to do with eating any of the vegetables. He did eat the fruit. Mostly though, these fruits and vegetables were his friends. Like a doll, he would carry them around the house. He had a variety of things that he loved.
If I dared to try and do any other grocery shopping first, I would get a meltdown. “Go there!” he would point with a special inflection in his voice. I tried many times to tell him we’d get there and do other grocery shopping first but it got to a point where I knew I had to give him some produce first to get the rest of the shopping done and that was just how it was.
First, and foremost there was the cucumber. We could absolutely not leave the produce aisle without the “perfect” cucumber. I have no idea how he determined which was was the right one because he would alternate between picking a huge cucumber and a smaller one. I always had him in the cart. He would dictate from his cart throne by pointing to the cucumber that he wanted. If I picked up the wrong one? I was scolded. After it escalated into meltdown status, a few times when I tried to give him the wrong one, I simply would let him pick out some produce, so I could finish my shopping.
Sometimes, he’d have to have a zucchini also. But the zucchini (which was much more versatile for me to actually use in my household) could not be substituted for the cucumber. It was just an accessory.
Second, on his list was always to have a squash. He loved acorn, yellow and butternut squash. He loved the feel and the size and the shape of them. There was also one that captured his eye there as well and it was my duty to get it for him.
Also making his top five list of vegetables were the colorful bell peppers, white radishes (Daikon) and pumpkins.
I often had to buy and bring home these vegetables which he would carry around the house. I would have to keep them on the kitchen counter only to throw them out while he was sleeping because they were starting to shrivel and get funky. When he would notice, there would be a meltdown. Sometimes, I actually had to get a new one and replace the old one in the kitchen in a sneaky maneuver.
He loved a good orange, apple, pear, lemon, or lime. It must have been the round shape and bright colors. We were always afraid he might choke on a grape so we had to restrict him to the larger fruits. Luckily, he would eat some of these and I could make use of the rest.
So, with this great love of all things vegetable and fruit, during the summer after his third birthday, I planted a garden. I’ve planted gardens before but never at this house. We tried to grow jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, cantaloupe, strawberries and watermelon. We had success with the tomatoes and a few zucchini but not with the rest because we had rabbits. In the five years I’d lived in the house before the garden, I only rarely saw a rabbit in the neighborhood. The year I planted the garden, there was a rabbit population explosion! They stole everything.
But not before I caught this picture of the little guy getting his first two zucchini out of the garden.
Yes, they too became his friends. After that summer, like most of his other intense focuses, the fruits and veggies settled into the background. Now and then he will ask for an orange or a stray cucumber but he’s so over it now.
We’ve been talking about growing some fruits and vegetables when grandma comes home. That will be at her house. I’m not planting for the wildlife again. I felt too much like Elmer Fudd.