Little Chick eats pretty much everything. Except most vegetables and salad. We have tried making them look more desirable by following Pinterest boards with beautiful suggestions and have hidden them in or amongst preferred food. But Little Chick sniffs them out and refuses to eat them.

However, carrots are now on the menu. The solution was so obvious. He loves helping to prepare meals, what if he helped provide the food?

Each year Grandad sets a birthday challenge for all his grandchildren. Usually, it is growing or creating something: for his 70th he required both. Little Chick and each of his cousins were to grow their own carrots then include them in a carrot cake, which would be judged and sampled at Grandad’s birthday party.

We were given plenty of warning so that we could grow our carrots in advance. Little Chick assisted us at every stage: he diligently watered them every day through the summer, often nipping out of his paddling pool to check if they needed sun lotion.

This dedication, and the happy accident of using an irrigated compost bin to plant them, resulted in a bumper crop of giant, tasty carrots. I was always going to be biased but they were the biggest and best by far. In the short time we have known him I have never seen Little Chick look so proud as when he harvested his vegetables and declared “my carrots”. Nor have I been as surprised as when he brushed off the soil and took a huge bite, murmuring with delight at the taste he had produced. Taking ownership of his food production continued as the Other Mrs Reed Warbler helped him bake a cake, following the issued recipe, to allow for fair judgement.

Little Chick loves baking. So does the other Mrs Reed Warbler. I’m not a fan. Happily, it can be something he shares with Mama and I perform taste tests and deliver appropriate praise. The care and attention he gave that cake was astonishing and belied his tender years. His repetition of “Grandad’s cake” also made it clear that he knew it was a special gift for a special person.

When Grandad’s birthday finally arrived, the whole family kindly and genuinely applauded his efforts; graciously Little Chick accepted their praise. All children were awarded a medal for participation and a trophy (engraved – this competition is taken very seriously). His prizes now sit on the shelf in his playroom, pride of place.

Next year’s challenge will be confirmed in the coming months (there are rumblings of growing fruit then producing jam). I hope it will stir as much excitement as this year’s has, promote as much pride, and produce such great results.

Carrots are important because they showed Little Chick that trying new things can be good, that he is very capable, that we can all work together as a team, that not all veg is yuk, and that commitment pays off. They also remind me of the kindness and patience people have shown us, how they have accepted Little Chick, and welcomed him into the wider family. Carrots taste of love.

Edit (January 2019): Little Chick has continued to eat carrots and added further vegetables to his diet. In the spring, we plan to encourage more gardening and growing and have set aside a small plot solely for Little Chick’s use.

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