2009.09.30 Who are you and what have you done with my daughter?

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

I called Maddie’s phone Monday night after I read an e-mail that appeared to be from her. I was pretty sure someone had kidnapped her or was inhabiting her body, since she was saying things in her letter like, “I ate a veggie burger and liked it” and “I'm in the Meditation Club.”

These could not be considered normal Maddie Green behaviors, so I began to suspect something must be awry. She’d been doing weird things lately—eating banana butts and shopping for the makings of ants-on-a-log of her own volition—very suspect activities from the world’s pickiest eater.

Banana butts are how David and Maddie refer to the bottom end of a banana. Maddie usually eats down to within an inch of the end of a banana, and then passes it on to someone else, usually David, to finish it off. So, imagine my surprise when she sent this e-mail last week:

“I just ate the butt of the banana.”

“I wish I had been there to celebrate with you,” I wrote back. “Was it intentional?”

Surprisingly, it was. One of her housemates had convinced her that the bottom of a banana is no different than the top.

We were at the food co-op in Ann Arbor a couple weeks ago when I noticed Maddie putting celery in the cart.

“Whoa, that’s strange,” I thought. Then she put in a package of organic raisins. “Huh?” I thought. When I saw her scooping peanut butter from the bulk bin, I thought, “Oh, she’s going to make puppy chow.”

Puppy chow is that very sweet concoction made with Crispix cereal, butter, chocolate chips, peanut butter and way too much powdered sugar.

“Puppy chow?” I asked, as I pushed the cart alongside her.

“No, I’m going to make ants-on-a-log,” she said.

Ants-on-a-log (celery spread with peanut butter dotted with raisins) was always one of those “treats” Maddie tolerated. She never seemed to like it, but she ate it anyway.

“Wow!” I thought.

There were early warning signs of this un-Maddie-like behavior. Back on August 26, she had e-mailed:

“I got a falafel sandwich at Jerusalem Garden...I ate almost all of it.”

“Falafel?“ I wrote back, “Will we know who you are the next time we see you?”

But when I read “veggie burgers” and “meditation” on Monday night, I figured things were getting a little too weird. I called to find out what the heck was going on.

“Who are you and what have you done with my daughter? I asked.

“What?!” answered someone who sounded amazingly like Maddie.

The fake Maddie said she was at the library. She couldn’t really talk and I couldn’t really hear her since she was speaking so softly.

Of course, I know this is my child, and I should be ashamed of myself for ever being impatient with her picky eating habits. Although not to as great a degree as Maddie, I was a picky eater as a child.

My mother, in direct contrast to my father, embraced the philosophy “Never force a child to eat anything.”

“Leave her alone! She’ll grow out of it!” I can remember hearing those words as a child, and I’m guessing my mother was talking to my father. She had faith that I would one day grow to like mushrooms, green peppers, onions and become a more adventurous eater. You might guess I was pretty happy when my parents separated when I was seven.

My mother had uncanny wisdom developed from experience, not from reading books. She didn’t believe in spanking and she bucked the rules when she felt strongly about something. Because my older sisters didn’t fare well in school when they started at an early age, she waited until I was seven before starting me, and then she started me in first grade. 

So, you’d think with modeling like that, I would have trusted Maddie would one day eat falafel and veggie burgers. But, pumped with an over-abundance of book knowledge about nutrition, I was too worried that she’d die from malnutrition if left to her choices of food—especially since her idea of a good meal was Doritos and a Nutty Bar.

Sure, I fixed peanut butter and honey sandwiches for lunch every single day during her elementary school years, but at home, she had several “no choice” foods (tofu, brown rice, broccoli and romaine lettuce among them) she had to eat whether she liked them or not.

And there was that horrible occasion when we were coming home from Toledo and I reduced her to tears by insisting she eat some Muenster cheese because she hadn’t eaten anything decent all day.

No wonder it’s taken this long for her to expand her palate.

Time for me to eat crow.

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