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Picky Eaters

It was a special Saturday night: my husband and I and our 3 1/2- year-old, Melissa, had invited her 3-year-old friend and her parents for dinner. I'd spent two hours preparing a new dish, lemon chicken. I spooned out vegetables, rice, and meat, and then we all sat down to enjoy our food.

But the girls weren't enjoying. "What's this?" demanded my daughter, poking at her piece of chicken.

I'd been afraid of this. "Sauce," I said brightly. "It's really yummy. Just try it and you'll see. Here, let me cut a piece for you...."

"Sauce!" Melissa thrust my hand away, her eyes widening in horror.

"Mommy," moaned her friend, who was pushing her chicken back and forth on the plate. "What is this? It looks funny."

"Just try it," said her mother. "You might like it." Both children looked at us skeptically. Then, as if on cue, they both cried, "Eewww! It's yucky!"

It was not always thus. At 4 months, my daughter took to food like a born gourmand. Rice cereal was ambrosia: She polished off her first bowl, then demanded seconds. It was the same with strained sweet potatoes, pureed carrots, mashed banana, yogurt  -- she crammed it all into her mouth, smeared it onto her face in infant ecstasy. And she always wanted to try whatever my husband and I were eating, her eyes following our forks like a hungry dog's.

Carol Lynn Mithers is the author of Therapy Gone Mad.

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