I tapped the red hang-up button on my smartphone and glanced at my four-year-old. All the lima beans on her lunch plate were gone. Every single one.
I resisted the urge to peek under the table. “Where are your lima beans?”
She beamed back at me. “I ate them.”
The girl the dog avoided at meal times because she’d fed him broccoli and who wouldn’t touch her salad because she “didn’t eat nature.” The girl who turned her nose up at Brussel sprouts because they “smelled like burps.” The girl who hated the color green on principle. This child had eaten all her lima beans?
“Shirt up. Let me see.”
Dizzy lifted her pink t-shirt an inch or two. I stuck my fingers in her jeans pockets and dug. Empty. This time.
“Seat cushion,” I ordered.
With a flourish that would have made Vanna White jealous, she lifted the pad on her chair. Not a single bean. Nothing on the floor either.
I picked up our lunch dishes, nothing smashed to the bottom, and headed to the sink. “All right, go put on your shoes.”
She scampered up the stairs with a giggle, Goldilocks curls bouncing.
I found the payload while rinsing her glass. Along with the last inch of her milk, the limas dropped into the garbage disposal one after another.
This refusal to eat or even try anything green had to stop.
We pulled into the Community Garden parking lot far too close to nap time, but the afternoon’s errands—post office, library, dry cleaner—had taken longer than expected.
Isabella eyed our destination with suspicion, and no wonder. Everything from the rows of vegetables, to the distant greenhouse, to the hand painted signs was the color of her nemesis.
“I can’t go in there, Mommy,” she said, little hands on her hips. “I’m allergic to green.”
“No one is allergic to a color, silly.” I tweaked the end of her nose. “C’mon, I want to show you something.”
I took her up and down the rows of vegetables while I explained what each one was. We fingered alien-looking Brussel sprout stalks. We found bouquets of broccoli and cauliflower hiding amid plant leaves. We admired the giant flower-like cabbages. We even picked and ate strawberries right off the plant.
When we finished, I put on my cheeriest voice. “Which veggies should we eat for dinner tonight? You get to choose.”
She scuffed one pink tennis shoe in the dirt. “I don’t wanna.”
“You don’t want to choose?”
“I don’t wanna eat plants. Why do we have to?” She mumbled, chin tucked down.
I knelt in front of her. “Because they’re healthy. You can’t live on Nutella and gummy bears forever.”
The mention of her favorite treats brought her head back up, tears in her over-tired eyes. “Aren’t Nutella and gummy bears healthy?”
“No, sweetie. It’s the stuff that grows on plants, trees, or in the ground, that’s healthy.” I pulled her to me and kissed her forehead. “Now, which one would you like to try?”
Isabella pointed to the cauliflower. The only veggie that wasn’t green.
Still, it was a start.
I didn’t think Isabella would ever forgive me for watching her as she screwed up her face, chewed, and gagged down every bite of cauliflower I served her for dinner. Afterward, she crossed her arms and scowled at me, even when I gave her a handful of gummy bears as a reward. She refused to make eye contact as I tucked her in for bed, and didn’t ask for a story.
The next week’s meals were all the same. Me, watching Dizzy like a hawk while she forced down her veggies. Dizzy, running off to her room as soon as dinner was over with a clump of gummy bears warming in her hand.
When she bounded down the stairs for breakfast with her pink purse and asked to go back to the “plant zoo,” I was immediately suspicious.
“I wanna see the plants again.”
Maybe she had finally decided veggies weren’t as bad as she thought. Didn’t they say kids had to try something up to twenty-seven times before they liked it?
Or maybe she was trying to finagle cupcakes, ice cream, or some other sugary treat from me.
When we reached the Community Garden, Dizzy dragged me forward in a trip-to-the-amusement-park hurry. I almost tripped when she stopped at the first row of vegetables with a very serious expression on her face.
“You wait here,” she commanded. “I’m gonna find the veggies I want for dinner and come back for you.”
This early in the morning the garden was mostly deserted. It was small enough I could hear her if she called for me. “Okay, but don’t be gone long.”
She clapped her hands together. “Be right back.” She ran a few steps and turned back. “No peeking!”
I was halfway through my unread emails when I heard her barreling toward me. “Mommy, come see!”
I followed her to the patch of strawberry plants. Not really a vegetable, but…
“Look.” She pointed to green globs on several of the plants.
I bent over for a closer look and swallowed a laugh. Green gummy bears stuck to the plants’ leaves.
The grin on her face was the kind that only a self-assured four-year-old can give—wide with deep dimples. “Now gummy bears are healthy too.”
I waited until I could speak without laughing to ask, “But, Dizzy, where are the rest of the colors?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “They got picked. The green ones aren’t ripe yet.”