Dispatches From the Baby’s Room: The Right to be Picky When Bored

We realized that we had three tomato plants growing in the pot that holds our fledgling lemon tree. The cause, we deduced, was our compost, which we’d used when we planted the tree. The tomato plants had finally grown much taller than the tree and we had to get them out; we didn’t want anything to happen to the lemon tree.

For the past few days, Luna has been challenging us during meals. She can’t be allowed to see what’s coming next (peanut butter sandwich after strawberries), because if she wants it (peanut butter sandwich) more than what she’s eating at the moment (strawberries), that’s it, she wants the sandwich, no matter how much she enjoys strawberries. And she can’t be given what she likes best first, otherwise she won’t want what comes after it. But, if you give her too much of the stuff she’s so-so on, she’s full by the time you get to what she likes most.

(How much of this is actually true, a conscious decision on her part, as opposed to deductions and inferences we’ve made to keep ourselves sane, is up for debate and will come into play in a minute.)

I decided yesterday to go to Home Depot before lunch to get the dirt and pots we’d need to deal with the tomato plant/lemon tree situation. In the past, we’ve tried to only run errands after Luna has eaten. But with the finickiness of meals lately, I reasoned that maybe her eating exactly at noon wasn’t necessary; it’s a short drive, a quick errand, and a beautiful day. I brought a pouch with me just in case.

There were no outbursts. Lunch commenced when we got back at 1pm and every morsel was eaten. Luna’s 3:00pm nap was, as it has been lately, an exercise in futility (a topic for a different Dispatch, once we actually glean some fucking wisdom from trudging through that specific hell) and by 4:30pm, having had some coffee, I decided that it was now time to transplant the tomatoes and deal with some other smaller gardening issues, normal 5:00pm dinner time be damned.

To wrap this no longer “paragraph-long(isn) tip” up, I’ll tell you what you’ve probably already guessed—kept busy by dirt and bugs and plants and her water table, Luna hummed along outside with me for 90 minutes. We cleaned up and cleaned off and she didn’t eat dinner until 6pm. When she did, she ate everything—peas, applesauce, and meatloaf.

I’m famous (in my house) for being a prickly, wishy-washy disaster when I’m bored and hungry. I lose the ability to make decisions or even come up with ideas. My common refrain: honestly, all this talking about what to eat and where to eat is making me never want to eat again. Combine low blood sugar with a flair for the dramatic and, well—luckily, I married a patient woman.

All of this—the tomato plants and the errands and the meal times and the fussiness—finally triangulated in my mind. I realized that the common denominator for Luna’s pickiness lately—was boredom. When kept busy with the ebb and flow of daily activity, meal times stopped being another stopwatched, frustrating experience (strapped into a chair for an hour) and became a welcome surprise. Just like the rest of us (and in Luna’s case, exactly like her father), a 15 month-old has the right to be picky when bored.


Dispatches From The Baby’s Room are paragraph-long(ish) tips on how to maybe make the act of raising a child easier. Or maybe just slightly less insane. Or, in twenty years from now, a guide on how to mess a kid up real good. DFTBR are easily digestible, hand-held, and best of all, free. They are the things Joe Stracci thinks about while putting all of the Mega Bloks back in the bag, making the sound the duck makes, and changing diapers in the dark.