Finish What’s on Your Plate, Mister!

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, May 15, 2006

Among the many, many sins currently being revisited upon me by my children is my son’s appetite, or more specifically, lack thereof. I was a picky eater, and Atticus is certainly a picky eater. He has a very limited palette — breakfast cereals, certain cookies, hamburgers (plain), hot dogs, carrots, ice-creams (vanilla or cookie-dough), apples, peanut butter, plain noodles, milk, and blue sugar-water. That’s about it. And he typically doesn’t eat much of those at any one time.

Drives me crazy. It shouldn’t because those are pretty much the things I remember having an exclusive taste for. There are some small differences, but they’re nuanced. I was, for example, a Froot Loop man; Atticus is a Lucky Charm guy. But for all intents and artificial flavors, the same.

I don’t know what it is about seeing your own quirky behavior being played out by your own children (Ellie’s reluctance to answer a ringing phone, Lena’s insistence on doing things her own way, no matter how convoluted), but it touches a nerve. You want to fix it, even though in most cases it really doesn’t require fixing. For Atticus and eating, I think it may come from having expanded my tastes. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying asparagus season, and I want to share it. Ah, there’s nothing quite so evangelical (or annoying) as the recently converted….

To my credit, though, I’ve never attempted to force Atticus to eat anything by telling him that there were starving children in China who would love to have what’s on his plate. Probably because I don’t recall my parents ever using that tactic on me. (My Mom *did* dump a bowl of spaghetti on my head one time, but that’s another story.) Besides, I don’t know that the “starving children” guilt-trip ever worked. The obvious answer is always, “Fine. Send them my lima beans. Maybe they can eat them without puking.”

This week’s comic is a twist on that theme. It turns out that as the new generation Chinese experience the benefits of upward mobility, they are less inclined to work in sweatshops. Which could eventually pose a problem for me and Atticus: Who’s going to make the cheap plastic toy prizes that come in our favorite cereals?

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