Sunday, June 17, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Tell Me About It: Recognize visiting dad's picky eating as control issue and let it slide

Q: My extended family is coming for a long weekend. I haven't seen them in a while and I'm looking forward to seeing them all.

My dad is a picky eater in ways I don't really understand. Last time he was here, he complained about the farmer's market eggs that I bought ("the yolks are too yellow"), the homemade cheesecake ("let's go get fast-food soft-serve instead"), and he wouldn't eat the pancakes I made because the only syrup I have is maple. He has always been picky, but I don't really remember what he likes; I haven't lived with him in 12 years.

I like cooking, so it hurts my feelings when he turns up his nose at what I make. I can't afford to take everyone out for every meal. Other than handing my dad a map of fast-food locations, how can I deal with him for the next four days?

Picky Eater's Child

A: You do know what he likes: junk, and whatever else you don't have.

Please see it as a control issue and let it slide.

I'm not suggesting he's the classic control/emotional abuse/I-must-manipulate-others case, but instead someone on the less extreme end of the insecurity spectrum: someone very uncomfortable so far off his turf. And so he fixes on anything new to him, and complains about it to shift the blame for his unease somewhere else.

If it helps, think of the people you'd expect to complain about too-yellow eggs and desserts that aren't bland and predictable enough: little kids. They're unnerved by a world that feels too big for them to manage, and want both the comfort of the familiar and the relief of making their fear someone else's problem.

So, in addition to not taking things personally, ask your dad beforehand for his preferred cereal, brand and flavor of ice cream, and some other standby foods you can offer.

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