My son has always been an eater. There was never a breast or a bottle or a type of food that he turned down. When he hit 14 months or so, he started to get a little bit distracted, presumably inured to the excitement of new tastes and textures. The arms race of getting him to eat started out slowly. Initially a toy or two to play with during a meal were enough. Then, we would need to put on a show with these toys. Then, feeding him while watching a TV show would suffice. Then he needed his own screen to manipulate (a smartphone or tablet) in order to eat. Now, we need to read him his favorite books or he won't eat.

I shouldn't say that he "won't eat." Strictly speaking, he puts food in his mouth and chews it, and I can only assume he swallows trace amounts of it. Whereas he used to swallow his food, he started doing this weird thing where he ends the chew cycle not with ingestion, but with elaborate... egestion. He sticks out his tongue, displaying the chewed up bolus of whatever, then fans his fingers across his tongue, catapulting bits of food in all directions; all the while laughing like a cartoon villain as he does this.

When "the thing" started, it coincided with some major teething, so initially we thought he was doing it because his mouth was hurting him. I imagined his thought process to be something along the lines of, "I'm hungry. Yum this food is yummy. Ouch ouch ouch this chewing thing hurts my gums." But the nights punctuated by a sudden shriek of agony followed by blubbering in pain came and went, and it seemed that the teething hypothesis had to be discarded as eagerly as his food was becoming airborn.

One morning, sonny and I were in the playroom drawing on a sketch pad with (washable) crayons, when the intro to Sesame Street began its all-too-familiar tune. I happened to look up at the screen at just the moment to see "the thing" played out in grotesque familiarity, by a character who is no doubt most often overlooked: The Cookie Monster. There it was, as if my son's soul had teleported into TV Land, animated now in cartoon form.

Could it be? My son had chosen to identify not with Elmo or Grover or Abby, the clear protagonists of Sesame Street, but with the kookie character of Cookie Monster? In my mind Cookie Monster was always a supporting role. A character inserted perhaps (as Dave Chapelle once joked) to help urban children build a basis for understanding and accepting addiction and their friendly neighborhood junkies. My husband feverishly googled this phenomenon: "My child is doing the Cookie Monster thing." The good old internet, old faithful, spewed up some results. Not much, though. Not a meme, for sure... maybe there was still hope.

A few days after Thanksgiving, the universe sent us an unmistakable sign. I hosted my family at my house, and as a result I inherited a stack of those round cork hotplates...which look conspicuously like oatmeal cookies. My son had just finished doing the thing, and I looked at the floor forlorn and broken hearted; the dinner I had so lovingly prepared out of quality expensive ingredients strewn about like victims of a mass shooting. Suddenly he grabbed the hot plates and licked/chewed on each one, throwing them in random directions. The finale this time? "COOK-EEEE!" he said gleefully. It was undeniable.

Nowadays, my former good eater says COOKIE multiple times during every meal except breakfast. Most of his food hits the floor. Distractions work on and off, but it's clear that the cause is not tooth pain, it's psychological. John identifies with Cookie Monster. I don't know why. Myself, I have a penchant for underdogs, but I was hoping that John would gravitate towards the guileless heroes, and have an uninterupted irony-free ascent towards beauty and success. What do I do? Do I write a letter to the Sesame Street people? Do I start a support group? Alas... my child is ruined. RUiNED.

MMMMM. You know what would be good for drowning my sorrows right now? Some cookies.