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Individual Peculiarities

A couple of days ago, several commenters responded to a detail about my child warming his milk in the microwave with "What 5-year-old drinks warm milk anyway?"

So, I thought we'd have some fun today with food and other small habits our kids develop. For instance, my 5-year-old will only drink milk if it's warm and he prefers his vegetables frozen, particularly in the summer. These peculiarities don't bother me. When it comes to food, I'm happy for him to eat healthy in whatever way feels right to him. Meanwhile, to get the three-year-old to do anything, I often have to call him the character he's pretending to be. When it's time to get dressed or come to the table, I end up calling for the red-eyed tree frog or backhoe or Mack the big rig or Lightning McQueen or Nemo or hammerhead shark... you get the picture.

When I was a kid, I dunked every vegetable my mom made me eat into gobs of ketchup. And I don't remember eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches back then -- instead it was peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. Just the thought of that sugar-laden lunch makes me cringe now.

What peculiarities have your kids picked up? What interesting habits did you have as a child?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 8, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers
Previous: A Little of This, A Little of That | Next: The Best Age To Become A Parent


My eldest son took apart every appliance in our house by the time he was 3 years old and fixed, oiled, repaired or retooled all of them. He relaxed by jumping on the mini-trampoline. He snacked by eating his way through our salad garden outdoors every day.He does not eat sweet things.

My youngest son is very focused and mature. He eats whatever he cooks, and he cooks like a 5-star chef.There are vegetables he actually does not like.He subscribes to the five basic food groups: sweet, crunchy, salty, brightly colored and fizzy.

Both children brake for sushi. You might put anything in nori and they will eat it.

I never, ever had a problem with discipline with either child. My eldest son is uber messy and creative. My youngest son is uber neat and creative. Makes it interesting.

Posted by: Annie | June 8, 2007 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Annie, your children sound interesting.

My son is obsessed with phones. He is 4. He has memorized my husband's and my cell numbers, my parents' number, my work number, and our home number. He likes to make calls, but he always asks. Last Christmas, he asked for a cell phone with service. Tchah!!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 8, 2007 7:52 AM | Report abuse

n"For instance, my 5-year-old will only drink milk if it's warm and he prefers his vegetables frozen, particularly in the summer. These peculiarities don't bother me"

Duh! Your son's preference for warm milk is what led you to permitting him to use the microwave unsupervised!!! Since when does a 5-year-old call the shots?

Is the kid going to get warm milk in school? And everyplace else he goes for the rest of his life? Talk about raising whiners and weaklings! Have you ever taken any kind of a meaningful stand with these kids?

"you get the picture."

Yeah, I get the picture. The kids are in charge in your house and you are along for a looney tunes ride!

No one will be surprised to see your kids end up in handcuffs!

Posted by: Jake | June 8, 2007 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Stacey: I'll stick up for you. I let my 5 year old use the microwave unsupervised. Somehow I don't think that's going to result in my child being led away in handcuffs one day. Although if she does maybe she can plead insanity brought on by poor parenting and serve just 45 hours of a 45 day sentence.

Posted by: m | June 8, 2007 8:27 AM | Report abuse

We learned to cook eggs on the stove (no microwave) when I was 8 and my brother was 6. Look! lessons in self sufficiency!

Congrats to you for teaching your child to microwave his own milk. Hey, if he wants his milk warm, teach him to do it. I like it!

Really hoping Jake's comments were tongue-in-cheek. If not, I hope he does not bite his lips when he's still making his kids' lunches when they still live at home at 25.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2007 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, whether it's strange or not for your kid to drink warm milk doesn't matter. The key is that you made him do it himself. My goal as a parent is to teach my kids how to do things for themselves as soon as they are able. I'm always shocked at how parents continue to enable their kids' utter laziness and lack of appreciation by doing everything for their kids.

As soon as my kids can reach the dials for the washer and dryer (heck, maybe I'll get them a step stool to reach them sooner), they're going to do their own laundry. I certainly don't need to waste my post-work time sorting through their laundry. My kids will be making their own lunches as soon as they can. These are things I did as a kid and somehow didn't die, and so my kids will be doing them ASAP.

Posted by: Ryan | June 8, 2007 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Wow, jake. Get help.

My kids could cook at least ten different things by the time they were five. By the time my youngest was five she would make me hot tea almost daily. Her little quirk is putting ice in skim milk. She is 9 now and also does her own laundry, as does my oldest. She was fixated on wearing the same outfit every day the year she started kindergarten. When I tried to fight back by telling her that I was not going to wash it every day, she volunteered to do it. Most appliances are so easy to use that you actually do not have to know how to read to use them. There are only 2 buttons to push on my front loader to get it started, but she had to use a step stool to put the soap in. The only caveat I had was that she had to wash a full load. Another odd thing she eats is frozen food. Fish sticks, etc. She also likes cold soup.

My kids are 9 and 11. If I were to disappear for two weeks they would manage just fine without me. That is the goal, isn't it?

Posted by: dj | June 8, 2007 8:48 AM | Report abuse

My older son used to love plain bread. If you gave him a hot dog with bun, he threw out the hot dog and ate the bun, sometimes would hide whole packs of buns in his bedroom to eat. He would be glued to cooking shows on TV and grew up to work as a head cook and loves to cook at home.
My daughter hated cooking and preferred plain mayonnaise sandwiches and still does today.
My youngest son (15) loves to cook and create meals in the kitchen.

Posted by: cr | June 8, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

I think the key is to teach your children healthy eating habits and moderation from th time they are young. I rarely buy soda and junk foods, so none of my children have ever been overweight or had a weight problem.

Posted by: cr | June 8, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Get a front loading washing machine. The dials are on the front so the kids can reach them. My 14yo DD and 11yo DS have been doing laundry for quite a while now.
They also regularly cook for the family too.
Way to go in raising independent kids, Stacy!

Posted by: MDMom | June 8, 2007 9:06 AM | Report abuse

MDMom, I have a front loader, thank you very much. Unless your kids like wearing wet clothes, they're still going to have to reach the knobs for the dryer -- and thus may still need a step stool. ;)

Posted by: Ryan | June 8, 2007 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Oh, sorry, Ryan, my dryer has the controls on the front too. They are stackables that we don't stack.

Posted by: MDMom | June 8, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

My son is not yet two, so we're not doing the laundry thing quite yet, but I learned when I was 9 or 10, and felt quite proud of it.

I agree with the self-sufficiency thing.

I keep thinking about a comment made by my 14-year-old cousin recently. We were having a discussion about her parents' constant harping on her about manners (which can be either good or absolutely atrocious).

We also talked about an English relative of ours (into our family by marriage) who my cousin does not like. This English relative has called my cousin "rude" to her face (rude itself, but probably deserved). Essentially, my cousin has concluded -- "Americans are rude. I'm not really into manners. What's the big deal? Get over it!"

She is an extreme example of prime "teenageritis" I think.

Posted by: Tani | June 8, 2007 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I enjoy reading Jake's comments. He is very straightforward and tells it like it is. He's says a lot of things that I am thinking so I agree with him on a lot of things.
And I'm a mother of a 3 1/2 year old daughter.

Posted by: Soguns1 | June 8, 2007 10:13 AM | Report abuse

When we go to the movies my son loves to order buttered popcorn and then candy
He takes the box of candy and pours it into the warm buttered popcorn. Will not eat it for about 3 min - giving the candy a chance to melt over the popcorn. Its messy sticky and great. The kid started doing this from day one-- when we accidentally dropped the candy into his popcorn at the movies. I like to think of it as his little trait!

Posted by: 0532 | June 8, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Let's see Jake...her son can use the microwave and likes warm does that equate to being a whiner and a weakling? I assume your kids only eat exactly what you tell them, behave perfectly in every situation and have never not listened to you once? Since we know that is impossible, if you have a criticism...why don't you at least keep it constructive instead of mean and filled with name calling. At least then some people may respect your opinion.

Posted by: HappyDad | June 8, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

I used to like tomato-pickle sandwiches. Both my brother and I used to eat raw rhubarb--super sour, but great!
My friend's son won't wear anything on his feet except red rubber boots.

Posted by: worker bee | June 8, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Remove Jake's comments. I quote the posting rules: "User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site."

Equating a 5 year-old's warm milk preferences with a future in prison is pretty inappropriate (and ludicrous).

Posted by: coulkat | June 8, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

My firstborn (6 y.o.) child has Asperger's syndrome (the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum), so "peculiar" is our "normal".

Like many spectrum kids, he is extremely picky about what he will eat -- even more picky about what he will touch with his hands and then eat! Even if he can eat something without touching it (by using a fork, for example), he is so non-motivated to eat that it takes forever for him to eat a meal unless we hand-feed him like a baby bird.

Our solution: food on a stick. We discovered at a Chinese buffet that the only thing he would eat are those skewers of grilled chicken... but wonder of wonders, once he started gnawing on the chicken-on-a-stick he would just continue on until he ate the whole thing! He seems to think that the big hunk o' meat is "one unit of food", and getting him to eat one unit is relatively easy. So, now when we are home, we put all kinds of food (hot dogs, roast chicken, bagels) on a stick. Thank goodness for cheap disposable chopsticks!

We just love our quirky little guy; he's scrawny from eating so little but he's loving and sweet and scary-smart... a joy!

Posted by: kedzie | June 8, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Get over yourself, Jake. I remember being five and having my mom leave me in charge of something on the stove. My potholder caught fire, and instead of dropping it and running away, I walked over to the sink and ran water over it to put out the fire. When she came back, I told her what happened, so that she would know why the potholder was dripping wet. And do you know why the house didn't burn down? Because she'd already taught me what to do. So what's the big deal about the microwave?

On topic, I had to eat as soon as I got up, and I got up much earlier than everyone in the house. My parents put a small pitcher of milk on a low shelf in the fridge, and a bowl of cereal on the table. That way I could fix my own breakfast--and then I was happy to play quietly until they woke up. Bad parenting, or teaching me to fend for myself?

Posted by: Kate | June 8, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

My younger brother used to get up before everyone else and take the knobs off of the appliances. This was the '60's so everything had knobs.

My sister did not like her food to touch. I think this is more common than you would guess. I have a good friend who also doesn't like her food to touch. Sis would eat all of one food first, then another, then the last. I dated I guy who did this. Ugh.

I am pretty normal, but I do put ice chips in white wine. Makes it last longer and I like it quite cold.

Oh, and I babysat an infant who was adopted from an orphanage in Russia. He liked his bottle milk cold out of the refrigerator! When it got warm, he would stop drinking.

Posted by: abbyowner | June 8, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I rarely buy soda and junk foods, so none of my children have ever been overweight or had a weight problem.
My mother didn't buy soda and junk foods either, but I had a weight problem because my parents didn't exercise and wanted me indoors studying. Your "so" comment just kind of hit me, like that would be the only reason someone gained weight and not, you know, eating large plates of pasta and reading a book.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

My son has to eat everything with a fork -sandwhiches, pizza... he doesn't like to touch food.

Posted by: md | June 8, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

My 14 YO (today's her birthday!) will eat one bite of almost anything - but will cover it in Tabasco soy sauce if I don't wrestle the bottle from her. I'm hoping when the bottle is empty she'll stop, but it's been a year and it's only half gone. yuk.

She also enjoys eating ramen noodles, which she'll make herself, but won't drink the broth.

Other than concerns about her BP with all that salt, I'm happy - she's more likely to eat veggies and drink water than most kids I know (actually orders water voluntarily at restaurants regularly!) and is in shape and fit.

Did I mention her dislike of evening showers, which we all take - she sets her alarm for 5am, showers, and then gets back in bed until time for the house to get up for the day. Boggles my mind.

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | June 8, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

My son burnt a bag of popcorn in the microwave. The house stank for 2 weeks and the microwave stank for 2 months.

What a kid, eats bell peppers like an apple.

Posted by: Father of 4 | June 8, 2007 11:41 AM | Report abuse

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ Nothing more boring than parents talking about their kids.

Posted by: NoKidsKen | June 8, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

So NoKidsKen - why are you reading a blog ABOUT parents talking about their kids? It seems easy enough to avoid hearing parents talking about their kids if you don't want to. Duh.

Posted by: rea | June 8, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse

What's wrong with warm milk?...I find this cold milk thing peculiar...I grew up in India drinking only hot milk! My husband grew up here drinking only cold milk. Our son, will only drink warm milk! Warm or cold, just a personal preference I'd say. If the 5 yr old likes warm milk fine by me.

Posted by: SMM1 | June 8, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I have a nephew who was born big- at four looked like eight. He has always hid his eating habits in front of the family. His mohter is very overweight and had displayed poor choices in food most of her life ex: fudge candy- dips for chips etc
The kid really did not hav a chance. His peculiar habits stem from the parent. Both will probabaly be over weight for life.

Posted by: peculiar | June 8, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

I have a nephew who was born big- at four looked like eight. He has always hid his eating habits in front of the family. His mohter is very overweight and had displayed poor choices in food most of her life ex: fudge candy- dips for chips etc
The kid really did not hav a chance. His peculiar habits stem from the parent. Both will probabaly be over weight for life.

Posted by: peculiar | June 8, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

I have a nephew who was born big- at four looked like eight. He has always hid his eating habits in front of the family. His mohter is very overweight and had displayed poor choices in food most of her life ex: fudge candy- dips for chips etc
The kid really did not hav a chance. His peculiar habits stem from the parent. Both will probabaly be over weight for life.

Posted by: peculiar | June 8, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Like SMM1, I'm Indian and grew up drinking warm milk. To this day, I don't like cold milk but will drink it if I have absolutely no choice. And forget cold cereal. I nuke mine in the microwave for 1.5 minutes to get it just right.

Posted by: Little Red | June 8, 2007 12:09 PM | Report abuse

My issue isn't that he's five and doing for himself, it's that he's doing for himself with a microwave. There's a REASON you're not supposed to microwave baby bottles, and its the same reason you shouldn't let him put milk in the microwave: hot spots. He can get really hurt, and it won't be something he can just run water over (by the way, whoever said they put the fire out when they were kids by running water over it, todah l'El it wasn't a grease fire, huh?)

Also, Stacey, I think some of the other posters' issues with THIS blog post is that you give an example of being addicted to really horrible food, as though it's normal or OK. I understand that you don't allow that stuff for your kids, but a child's addiction (to food at least) really is the responsibility of the parent. There was that obese kid whose mother simply shrugged and said "well, he spits vegetables out, what am I supposed to do?" And every parent in America was going "Um...only give him vegetables until he comes around?"

Posted by: Kat | June 8, 2007 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I agree with all the posters who encouraged self sufficiency,as long as it is reasonable and safe for the child.

My daughters also learned to cook at a young age (the older was the house expert on grilled cheese sandwiches). And they did have unusual preferences, such a frozen peas which they both nicknamed "bubblegum", I still don't know why. They were required to eat a balanced diet, but we had no problem with giving them their peas still frozen while my husband and I cooked ours.

Are they now suffering for it? I don't think so; one is now a doctor and the other is a civil engineer, both very accomplished in their fields.

And they now eat their peas either hot or cold!

Posted by: nowtheyaregrown | June 8, 2007 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I think it's nice to hear about childrens' pecularities and parents not always being perfect. I've found parenting to be the greatest balancing act ever and where you constantly have to choose your battles. If warm milk or tabasco sauce or eggs with mustard comes up... it's nice to hear that there are other things to put your foot down about.
We're not perfect and we don't have to make perfect kids.

Posted by: Mama | June 8, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I cannot eat a peanut butter and jelly (okay ... for me it's jam!) sandwich with the two pieces of bread together. Each piece has to have pb&j on its own respective piece, I do not fold and I must have chips! To each his own. Peculiarities are interesting and funny as long as they don't hurt anyone. If we were all alike, we'd be a bore like the poster who keeps putting "ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ's" after comments in this blog.

Posted by: luv2laff11 | June 8, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

My kid's favorite food is peanut butter & mustard (gulden's mustard). We've learned if he tells us he doesn't want to eat something not to force it on him otherwise he ends up puking.

Posted by: John | June 8, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

My child will not eat lunch. She will not eat dinner.

But if you, instead, ask if she would like some "cheese" or "mashed potatoes" or "rice" (the only foods she will consume in the evening) she will RUN to the table grabbing her bib on the way.

Just don't slip and call it "dinner" or she goes into hysterics claiming she doesn't WANT dinner


And that's only ONE of her quirks.... ;)

Posted by: Very picky kid's mom | June 8, 2007 2:47 PM | Report abuse

To: Very picky kid's mom: You're not alone! I often have to put some cottage cheese in front of 3-year-old's eyes to get him to come to the table! He's not a fan of words like "breakfast," "lunch" or "dinner" either.

To Kat: Not to defend the foods my parents raised me on because they don't exist in my house now, but the food choices many families made 30 years ago were much different than they are today. My mother thought nothing of cooking with chicken fat, letting us drink Tab and those offensive fluffernutter sandwiches on white bread. My understanding is that those were all the rage in the New England area back then.

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | June 8, 2007 3:05 PM | Report abuse

those offensive fluffernutter sandwiches on white bread. My understanding is that those were all the rage in the New England area back then.

You are correct.

I had a Canadian friend who had the same sandwich every day for lunch in elementary school: Marshmallow fluff and strawberry jam, milk, a banana, and a maple donut! Canadians can talk all they want, the diet in the Maritimes is as bad if not worse than Appalachia. As an adult the guy ate 2 donuts for breakfast- in the 1990s!

Posted by: DCer | June 8, 2007 4:03 PM | Report abuse

My childhood "weird" sandwich was peanut butter and Cheddar cheese on whole wheat.

I think I probably drove my mother nuts with food issues. I once made the mistake of complaining to my mom that I was bored with the lunches she was making for me to take to school. She retaliated with a PB-and-lettuce sandwich and some carrot sticks. I started making my own school lunch.

I've been lactose-intolerant for most of my life, so it's no surprise I don't like milk or cereal. But it gave my mother fits that I would (and still do!) eat dinner leftovers for breakfast.

Posted by: BxNY | June 8, 2007 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Stacey: My bubbe cooked with shmaltz and all that, but we never had marshmallow fluff. I know nutrition was dire back in the day, and I understand parents didn't get why certain things were so bad. My contention is the way your old eating habits are juxtaposed in the post with your children's as though its the same thing. mom used to go to New York for months at a time, and my dad was self-employed, so a lot of my childhood since about ten years old was inventing food for my sister. The two things I remember best was putting slices of cheese on bread and microwaving it for 20 seconds (everything gets nice and stale), and putting jam on a piece of bread, rolling it up, buttering the outside, and sprinkling it with sugar and cinnamon, and sticking the whole thing in the toaster oven. I called it "Jelly roll" and I think that was the only jelly roll my sister and I ever had until we were adults.

Posted by: Kat | June 9, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

HA!!! I'm 30+ years old and I still like Fluffernutters. It was so annoying though. For years they didn't sell it in MD so my family would stock up when we went to New England in the summer. But probably a weirder thing I ate as a child were peanut butter and bacon sandwiches.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | June 10, 2007 8:48 PM | Report abuse

At 30+, I still love fluffernutters.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 10, 2007 8:50 PM | Report abuse

I've a feeling my 18 month old twins are going to take after your son. Every morning, it's a cup of warm milk after getting up. They start their day happy and we've got time to get breakfast ready. (Not to mention some family snuggling time in bed.)

With regards to hot spots in milk, this is an overblown concern. Milk, being a fluid, will rapidly reach an equilibrium temperature. Shake it up a bit and no problems. Solid foods, of course, are quite different and I recognize that hot spots can be dangerous.

Posted by: Fairlington Blade | June 11, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

My mom used to pack olive sandwiches (chopped olives on white bread with mayo) and peanut-butter and bacon sandwiches in my lunch. The lunch ladies always thought it strange that I would have bell peppers (cut up, of course) in my lunch too.

And the only way I like to drink milk is cold with brownies or chocolate cake.

Posted by: KD | June 11, 2007 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Where the heck were all these microwave supporters the day we actually had the thread?

I am against 5 yo microwaving a glass of milk because I think it's just a bit too young and too high risk for damage to make it worthwhile.

As for quirks- who DOESN'T have them? Adults or kids? Everyone's got something really weird about them, and everyone's got something they are a little compulsive about.

Posted by: Liz D | June 11, 2007 1:58 PM | Report abuse

My favorite snack when I was a kid: butter and sugar sandwiches on white bread. I don't think my mother knew about them. :) Even today I have a crappy diet, but I don't eat butter and sugar sandwiches anymore...

Posted by: tmac | June 11, 2007 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I would drink only warm milk cooled when i was very young and used to drink 6-7 bottles of milk everyday till age 5.
After moving to a foreign country, i drink cold milk.

Posted by: jay | June 11, 2007 10:44 PM | Report abuse

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