What’s surprising is how recent the fight is. The phrase “picky eater” first appears in the lexicon in 1970. Until the early 20th century, there’s scant evidence of concerns over children refusing what they were given, even though what they were given often was an afterthought of an adult menu. As the food historian Bee Wilson wittily put it, during the Victorian era, “Children’s food could be summed up by the word ‘scraps.’” This is something I think about after cooking three different entrees for various family members before eating my own dinner of rejected grilled cheese crusts over the kitchen sink.
If children or parents were unhappy with the older arrangement, their grievances don’t inform the historical record until the late 19th century. That’s when we start to find middle-class parents and experts worrying about children’s diets, as Scottish physician Thomas Dutton did in his 1895 book, “The Rearing and Feeding of Children: A Practical Mother’s Guide.” But his complaints sound like dream wishes to modern ears: “Children will eat anything and everything,” he wrote, complaining about the lack of a special diet for them. Families were feeding children “at the same table as their elders” and giving them grown-up food that he considered “not suitable” for little stomachs.
American pediatrician Luther Emmett Holt’s influential 1894 book “The Care and Feeding of Children” amplified the era’s growing obsession with children’s delicate digestive systems. In detailed charts, he laid out a diet of the blandest foods imaginable: barley gruel, a sort of pudding called rice jelly, oat water, stale bread and broth (which he called “beef juice”). Raw fruits and vegetables were out of the question—Dr. Holt called for them to be stewed—and oatmeal was to be cooked for three hours or more before it was safe for children. “All omelets are objectionable,” he added; eggs were OK only if poached or soft-boiled.
To be fair to Dr. Holt, in the days before reliable washing and refrigeration, he was hardly alone in suspecting fresh fruits and vegetable of causing digestive upset, or worse. British court records from the 19th century include cases of childhood fatalities attributed to “death by fruit,” and until vitamins were discovered, fruits and vegetables were considered empty calories at best.
.. To be fair to Dr. Holt, in the days before reliable washing and refrigeration, he was hardly alone in suspecting fresh fruits and vegetable of causing digestive upset, or worse. British court records from the 19th century include cases of childhood fatalities attributed to “death by fruit,” and until vitamins were discovered, fruits and vegetables were considered empty calories at best... Canadian pediatrician Clara Davis, who conducted a series of experiments in the 1920s and ’30s to see what would happen if small children, including babies, were allowed to pick their own foods. For her study, Davis was able to round up 15 infants from indigent teenage moms or widows and supervise all of their eating for periods ranging from six months to 4½ years, according to articles she published in 1928 and 1939 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and a 2006 re-examination of her work in the same publication.The children were allowed to choose among 34 items, including milk, fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beef, both raw and cooked. They made some rather eccentric choices, including fistfuls of salt, and most were apparently fond of brains and bone marrow. Sometimes they ate little, and sometimes more than an adult (notably, six hard-boiled eggs on top of a full meal, or five bananas in a single sitting). The tiny subjects varied widely in their self-chosen menus, but the idiosyncrasies evened out over time, and each child, Davis reported, ended up eating a balanced and complete diet.
Sickly and scrawny at the start of the study, they became healthy and well-nourished, she wrote, supporting a concept that was becoming known at the time as body wisdom. “For every diet differed from every other diet, fifteen different patterns of taste being presented, and not one diet was the predominantly cereal and milk diet with smaller supplements of fruit, eggs and meat that is commonly thought proper for this age,” she wrote. “They achieved the goal, but by widely various means, as Heaven may presumably be reached by different roads.”
For decades, experts relied on the study to support the claim that when left to their own devices, children naturally eat what’s best for them. What it actually proved, however, is that children naturally eat a healthy diet when they’re provided only with wholesome options. Davis’s study excluded processed foods, refined flours and sugar. She planned a follow-up experiment to see what would happen if children could choose from processed foods as well, but she never carried out the research.
Not in a clinical setting, anyway. In an uncontrolled and undocumented way, the study has been proceeding on a mass scale for the past 80 years. It shows that given enough choices, children are no more likely to eat what their bodies need than I am—which is not at all, unless my body actually does require Diet Mountain Dew and tortilla chips.
Benjamin Spock discussed Davis’s study at length in his 1946 classic “Baby and Child Care,” using her findings to encourage parents to take a more relaxed approach to feeding. By getting worked up about it, he wrote, you could turn a temporary issue into a lifelong problem.
Sam has a peculiar set of food sensitivities, but he also may just be giving us the business. Modern children learn very early that food is one area where they can wield some agency. Long before they can control what comes out of their bodies, they’re controlling what goes into them.
If this is Sam’s power play, it’s something I probably deserve, having used food as a cudgel for most of my own adolescence. I put my own parents through a good 10 years of mealtime torture. Though I ate without complaint the broccoli and squash that my mother served, being confronted with meat of any kind sent me into fight-or-flight mode (and still does). My carnivorous husband behaves the same way when presented with salad. Because we’re adults, we ascribe this not to pickiness but to preference. Meanwhile, our 9-year-old daughter, having watched us both, will eat neither meat nor most vegetables.
What ends up working in “Green Eggs and Ham” is leaving the protagonist alone. I can see the appeal of this approach. Ignorance seems to have worked for centuries; intervention, in the last hundred years or so, rather poorly. I sometimes wonder if it’s time to stop. This suits Sam just fine. He’s happy to make a meal out of four cotton-candy-flavored yogurts and a Popsicle, as he did recently.
On the other hand, I’d like him to reach his full adult height and retain his teeth, which means he’ll have to expand his menu. As Clara Davis demonstrated, children make good choices when all their options are good, but in modern America—and in our own home—that condition rarely holds. Sam is unlikely to start eating kale and quinoa if they aren’t even in the house.
But the new year brings the kind of zeal and optimism that sends a parent to the farmers market, to replace the Bomb Pops with bananas; the pizza, with peas. If we swap the bad choices with better ones, perhaps 2019 will be the year in which Sam learns to keep down exotic foodstuffs like cucumber or toast.
And maybe the rest of us will do better, too: cutting down on the relentless snacking that keeps us from eating more nutritious foods at mealtimes, and trying the healthier foods whose tastes can take longer to appeal. It’s still January, and one can still hope.
In each instance, it has been less than a year since the allegations against these men surfaced, and in each instance, the men have done little in the way of public contrition. When they have apologized, they have done so with carefully worded, legally vetted statements. They have deflected responsibility. They have demonstrated that they don’t really think they’ve done anything wrong. And worse, people have asked for the #MeToo movement to provide a path to redemption for these men, as if it is the primary responsibility of the victimized to help their victimizers find redemption.
“Should a man pay for his misdeeds for the rest of his life?” This is always the question raised when we talk about justice in the case of harassment and rape allegations against public figures. How long should a man who has faced no legal and few financial consequences for such actions pay the price?
I appreciate the idea of restorative justice — that it might be possible to achieve justice through discussing the assault I experienced with the perpetrators and that I might be involved in determining an appropriate punishment for their crime. Restorative justice might afford me the agency they took from me. But I also appreciate the idea of those men spending some time in a prison cell, as problematic as the carceral system is, to think long and hard about the ways in which they violated me. I would like them to face material consequences for their actions because I have been doing so for 30 years. There is a part of me that wants them to endure what I endured. There is a part of me that is not interested in restoration. That part of me is interested in vengeance.
We spend so little energy thinking about justice for victims and so much energy thinking about the men who perpetrate sexual harassment and violence. We worry about what will become of them in the wake of their mistakes. We don’t worry as much about those who have suffered at their hands. It is easier, for far too many people, to empathize with predators than it is to empathize with prey.
.. he has remained in control of the narrative. He gets to break the rules, and then he gets to establish rules of his own when he must answer for his misdeeds.
.. He should pay until he demonstrates some measure of understanding of what he has done wrong and the extent of the harm he has caused. He should attempt to financially compensate his victims for all the work they did not get to do because of his efforts to silence them.
- .. He should facilitate their getting the professional opportunities they should have been able to take advantage of all these years.
- He should finance their mental health care as long as they may need it.
- He should donate to nonprofit organizations that work with sexual harassment and assault victims.
- He should publicly admit what he did and why it was wrong without excuses and legalese and deflection.
.. Whatever private acts of contrition these men, and a few women, might make to their victims demands a corresponding public act of contrition, one offered genuinely, rather than to save face or appease the crowd. Until then, they don’t deserve restorative justice or redemption. That is the price they must pay for the wrong they have done.
Moynihan understood that politics is downstream from culture, which flows through families. Sasse, a Yale history Ph.D. whose well-furnished mind resembles Moynihan’s, understands this:
.. Sasse’s argument in The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance is not another scolding of the young. Rather, he regrets how the no-longer-young have crippled the rising generation with kindness, flinching from the truth that the good pain of hard physical work produces the “scar tissue of character.”
.. Adolescents spending scores of hours a week on screen time with their devices acquire “a zombie-like passivity” that saps their “agency.”
.. This aligns him against those who believe that schooling should be “a substitute for parents” as life’s “defining formative institution.”
.. Schools should embrace the need of “controlling” students and “the influences by which they are controlled.” Parents must be marginalized lest they interfere with education understood, as Sasse witheringly says, as “not primarily about helping individuals, but rather about molding the collective.”
.. Sasse thinks the generation coming of age “has begun life with far too few problems.”
Heroin addiction is rampant. In my medium-sized Ohio county last year, deaths from drug addiction outnumbered deaths from natural causes. The average kid will live in multiple homes over the course of her life, experience a constant cycle of growing close to a “stepdad” only to see him walk out on the family, know multiple drug users personally, maybe live in a foster home for a bit (or at least in the home of an unofficial foster like an aunt or grandparent), watch friends and family get arrested, and on and on. And on top of that is the economic struggle, from the factories shuttering their doors to the Main Streets with nothing but cash-for-gold stores and pawn shops.
.. Whatever the merits of better tax policy and growth (and I believe there are many), the simple fact is that these policies have done little to address a very real social crisis.
.. His apocalyptic tone matches their lived experiences on the ground. He seems to love to annoy the elites, which is something a lot of people wish they could do but can’t because they lack a platform.
.. these people, his voters, are proud. A big chunk of the white working class has deep roots in Appalachia, and the Scots-Irish honor culture is alive and well. We were taught to raise our fists to anyone who insulted our mother.
.. Unsurprisingly, southern, rural whites enlist in the military at a disproportionate rate. Can you imagine the humiliation these people feel at the successive failures of Bush/Obama foreign policy?
.. the barely-banked contempt they — the professional-class whites, I mean — have for poor white people is visceral, and obvious to me. Yet it is invisible to them.
.. “We”–meaning hillbillies–“are the only group of people you don’t have to be ashamed to look down upon.”
.. humans appear to have some need to look down on someone; there’s just a basic tribalistic impulse in all of us.
.. By looking down on the hillbilly, you can get that high of self-righteousness and superiority without violating any of the moral norms of your own tribe. So your own prejudice is never revealed for what it is.
.. A lot of it is pure disconnect–many elites just don’t know a member of the white working class.
.. this condescension is a big part of Trump’s appeal. He’s the one politician who actively fights elite sensibilities
.. this condescension is a big part of Trump’s appeal. He’s the one politician who actively fights elite sensibilities
.. they’ve been looking for someone for a while who will declare war on the condescenders. If nothing else, Trump does that.
.. what elites see as blunders people back home see as someone who–finally–conducts themselves in a relatable way. He shoots from the hip; he’s not constantly afraid of offending someone; he’ll get angry about politics; he’ll call someone a liar or a fraud. This is how a lot of people in the white working class actually talk about politics,
.. all the talk about “political correctness” isn’t about any specific substantive point, as much as it is a way of expanding the scope of acceptable behavior.
.. the meta-narrative of the 2016 election is learned helplessness as a political value
.. Believing you have no control is incredibly destructive
.. The first time I encountered this idea was in my exposure to addiction subculture,
.. there’s a recognition of the role of better choices in addressing these problems. The refusal to talk about individual agency is in some ways a consequence of a very detached elite, one too afraid to judge and consequently too handicapped to really understand.
.. I think that’s the only way to have this conversation and to make the necessary changes: sympathy and honesty.
.. One of the things I mention in the book is that domestic strife and family violence are cultural traits
.. I had to learn, with the help of my aunt and sister (both of whom had successful marriages), but especially with the help of my wife, how not to turn every small disagreement into a shouting match or a public scene.
.. They’re right that it’s a cultural problem: I learned domestic strife
from my mother, and she learned it from her parents.
.. “They want us to be shepherds to these kids, but they ignore that many of them are raised by wolves.” Again, they’re not all wrong: certainly some schools are unfairly funded. But there’s this weird refusal to deal with the poor as moral agents in their own right. In some cases, the best that public policy can do is help people make better choices, or expose them to better influences through better family policy (like my Mamaw).
.. two of the biggest predictors of low upward mobility were 1) living in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty and 2) growing up in a neighborhood with a lot of single mothers.
.. I’d make one important point: that not drinking, treating people well, working hard, and so forth, requires a lot of willpower when you didn’t grow up in privilege.
.. for a kid like me, the Marine Corps was basically a four-year education in character and self-management.
.. The other thing the Marine Corps did is hold our hands and prevent us from making stupid decisions. It didn’t work on everyone, of course, but I remember telling my senior noncommissioned officer that I was going to buy a car, probably a BMW. “Stop being an idiot and go get a Honda.” Then I told him that I had been approved for a new Honda, at the dealer’s low interest rate of 21.9 percent. “Stop being an idiot and go to the credit union.”
.. On the one hand, he criticized the elites and actually acknowledge the hurt of so many working class voters. After so many years of Republican politicians refusing to even talk about factory closures, Trump’s message is an oasis in the desert. But of course he spent way too much time appealing to people’s fears, and he offered zero substance for how to improve their lives. It was Trump at his best and worst.
.. It’s not just that he inflames the tribalism of the Right; it’s that he encourages the worst impulses of the Left.