Puffy, orange, bite size, salty little fish with that little smile. They were a staple in my childhood home. They are now a staple in my toddler’s life.
And I hate them. Hate them with a passion.
Don’t get me wrong; they are a tasty little treat. Perfectly fine for children and adults. Completely undeserving of my strong feelings.
But I do hate them. I want to never see those little smiling faces in my home again.
As a graduate student in psychology I had 8-9 month long practicum placements where I learned what psychologists do and how to do it, too. My first placement was in a special clinic at a children’s hospital that saw families with a child with Failure to Thrive.
That sounds a little scary. Failure to Thrive. This doesn’t mean the child was sick and dying. Anything but. Many of them screamed at us and were actually quite strong and stubborn. No, this means the child (we mostly saw toddlers) had fallen below the 0 percentile for weight. It was our job to provide recommendations to the family to help the child gain weight. Sometimes it was mostly dietary changes that were necessary, ensuring the child was given plenty of high calorie foods like milk and cheese and peanut butter. Sometimes it was behavioral, which is where the psychology part came in. Sometimes the child and family had behavior problems around meals and snacks, like power struggles.
But the one bane was those goldfish crackers, those little smiling orange fish. Did you know there are 150 calories in a serving size of 55 crackers? That doesn’t sound so bad. But think about it. A child well below a healthy weight, a toddler who doesn’t eat much to begin with and who certainly does not have an adult appetite or serving size. 55 crackers is like a whole meal or two. Meaning lunch is maybe 150 calories. But those little fish can fill a tiny tummy, so that tiny tummy isn’t hungry for snacks, for dinner, for dessert…
Family after family fed their child these little orange fishies. We told them: STOP. It wasn’t going to help. It was just going to take up space that could belong to, say, a 261 calorie cheese sandwich.
My toddler is not Failure to Thrive. But he is small. He isn’t below the 0 percentile, but he also isn’t too far away. He loves those smiling fish, would eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and then some. He isn’t Failure to Thrive, so I don’t have the heart to take them away. But I do restrict when and how much. He gets one small package a week and, if he runs out, too bad. Sometimes it happens, sometimes he throws a tantrum, sometimes he completely refuses to eat. But sometimes he’s okay, he understands. It’s Friday and he knows he’ll get more tomorrow.
Those tiny smiling fish. Those puffy orange things that have captured my son’s heart. I want to destroy you, but I don’t have the strength to withstand the meltdown that will inevitably happen.
I curse the day my husband and I were so desperate to feed him something, anything, because he barely touched food, that we gave him those orange monstrosities out of desperation.
I hate you, you little orange fish. Please swim away soon.