Help! My Kid Is a Picky Eater and I Am Freaking Out!
Frequently Asked Questions on vitamins, jazz, and animated Stone Age families.
I chatted some more about Bedrock and Barney Rubble. He upended a box of Duplo blocks, letting go a cascading plastic clatter, a stochastic crash of chunky acoustics auto-echoic of innocent chaos. I kept going about how Bam-Bam, with his banging, was not a good role model and how Fred, not unlike Daddy, worked for Mr. Slate.
He said, “I want to watch Mickey Mouse.” We had never sat down to watch Mickey Mouse. This is just a phrase that American children say. Unless they live someplace like rural Montana or downtown Berkeley, they cannot avoid encountering him, and their brains are spongy, and the pop impact of the cartoon greats is undeniable.
For instance, when I showed the boy the vitamin box, he saw Fred and said, “Ameego.”
I said, “Amigo?”
He said, “Amingo!”
I said, “Amingo?”
He said, “L’Mingo.”
I said, “Did you say Flamingo?”
Long story short, a few weeks earlier, we had been through Las Vegas, which is the kind of place where, when in lieu of a full-fledged zoo outing, you can visit the Wildlife Habitat surrounding the wedding chapel at the Flamingo Hotel & Casino. If the kid hadn’t brought it up, I would have forgotten that Fred had some kind of presence near the valet stand.
I’m not certain why. It likely had something to do with the live-action film Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000), starring Game of Thrones’ Mark Addy as Fred. But he might have been promoting a slot machine, really. A review of the Flintstones’ merchandising résumé indicates a certain tendency toward innovative whorishness. It is sometimes supposed that “Yabba Dabba Doo” is an homage to the Brylcreem slogan “A little dab’ll do you,” and if the claim isn’t true, it should be. The introduction of the vitamins—in 1968, the year after NBC began airing The Flintstones on Saturday mornings—was perhaps Fred’s most wholesome marketing moment. A consumer of Pebbles cereals, for example, will never stand accused of being a food snob, fro-yo toppings aside. (Last month, Post Foods announced that pro-wrestler John Cena would be tagging in for Fred on the box fronts of Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles. Could you imagine Randy Savage pitching Grape-Nuts?) And obviously you want to steer your children away from this black-and-white TV commercial, on account of Fred’s shabby grammar in asserting that Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.
I opened the box and looked at the vitamin bottle. Here was Fred again. His 5 o’clock shadow spotlighted the capacious grin of his gaping mouth, and his tongue was ready for liftoff, set to crow exultant yawps with much ado.
The kid took the bottle in hand and said, “I want to open it—I want to open it—I want to open it—I want to open it—I want to open it—I want to open it—I want to open it—I want to open it.”
I said, “You’re welcome to try, but it’s got a child-resistant cap, and you’re a child. The raison d’être of the cap is to resist you. It’d be tough.”
He said, “I want to open it, please.”
This attempt at courtesy deserved a reward, so I turned to YouTube and fired up The Flintstones’ intro, with its immortal jazzy jingle, properly called “(Meet) the Flintstones.” Composed by toon-tune maestro Hoyt Curtin on the model of George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” deliciously syncopated and unfailingly cheering, the Flintstones theme is a high point of children’s music. This is another reason to choose this brand of vitamins: It offers a context in which to begin entertaining your child with a classic song easily played on toy xylophone and delightfully elaborated upon by jazz guitarists, all of which sure beats the hell out of another round-and-round of “Wheels on the Bus.”
Moreover, the speed with which your child will adopt yabba dabba doo as a thing to say likely will inspire two levels of critical reflection: interrogating your own pop-cultural toddlerhood and reviewing his media diet. The latter will prove a useful exercise whether you forbid television entirely or are the type who will let the child hang out while you watch your own shows (until the day comes when, at the start of a DVRed crime drama, he says, “Why is that lady sleeping on the floor?”).
I leave you with one yabba-dabba-don’t: Introduce the vitamins at breakfast, not dinner. You are supposed to give the kid his vitamin with food, and as you say, toddlers do not reliably eat dinner. The low point of the evening I have described came soon after I abandoned trying to make the kid eat what I wanted him to eat and decided to settle for what he wanted to eat. But Daddy did not immediately remove the lid from the yogurt tub, and the kid, in an unprecedented tantrum, executed a leg press and flipped over the coffee table. Forget everything you’ve learned from reality television: You haven’t seen a table flipped until you’ve seen a 2-year-old do the job, which you can’t even see because it happens so fast. The kid was lucky that his mother wasn’t home. She would have screamed so much that the neighbors would have called the cops, and when they showed up, she would have pressed charges.
So it goes. He had a timeout, and he apologized. He had his yogurt and his chunk of Betty Rubble, and he got to hear “(Meet) the Flintstones” twice more, and I, thinking about that song’s jazziness, got to reflect on the art of improvisation, on how parenting is a perpetual improv class for itself.
Cool story, bro. But, hey, you said earlier I should give my kid half a vitamin. What’s up with that?
Half a tablet is the recommended dosage for 2- and 3-year-olds. Although children ages 4 and up—you and me, for instance—are allowed whole tablets, I recommend that you split the daily vitamin with the child: Your central incisors are the most convenient tools for bisecting the suckers, and giving ’stones in this manner is a delightful morning ritual—a secular sacrament for the Pop poppa.
Troy Patterson is Slate's television critic.