Toddlers are funny things. One moment, they’re begging for food so hard that teaching them their “please” and “thank yous” becomes surprisingly easy.
And then one day, their palate becomes SO refined, SO la-di-da… that nothing you prepare for lunch and dinner quite cuts the mustard anymore.
I’m sitting here blogging, because my daughter and I are having a standoff. I’ve made her an egg mayo sandwich – something she practically inhaled before – but she is refusing to eat it. The difference is that this is now her afternoon tea, and the sandwiches were actually her lunch. So basically, she’s gone hungry since eleven this morning.
I have to admit that her refusal to eat certain foods – especially sandwiches – has been her latest thing for the last few month. Like bad underwear or a stealthy ninja, this bad habit happened to creep up on us and so I didn’t quite realise what was going on until it dawned on me that my usually easygoing munchkin has become a Fussy Eater.
And even though I know this is a rite of passage for all parents – that most toddlers demonstrate their independence from you by food flinging – let me just say that I am a little annoyed and very sheepish. Annoyed, because it’s quite disappointing to prepare a divine toddler meal, only to have the ingrate treat your effort like boiled liver. Very sheepish, because for YEARS, I was a fussy eater.
I still have very vivid memories of mealtimes, and how I absolutely hated the process. I didn’t need food. Never felt hungry. Grew like a beanpole (10cm a year from ages 7 to 12), but absolutely abhorred sitting down for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Didn’t even care for snacks. It could take me an hour to finish dinner. Half an hour for lunch, but only because I had to finish my plate before afternoon school and let’s face it – I’d mastered the art of silently dumping my green veggies in the compost bin, down the rubbish chute, or out our 9th storey window. True story.
Cut back to this moment and as I sit here typing the last paragraph, my 16-month-old daughter is shoving egg mayo sandwich bits (mostly the bread) down her chair and under her bottom, tossing limp lettuce off the tray, and then frantically wiping her tray clean with both chubby hands so everything else gets stuck between her fingers but hey Look, Mommy. I “finished” everything. NOW can I have something else, please?
I don’t believe in karma but if I did, I’d say that karma is a female dog and this is payback of the cosmos. As it is, I think the Lord my God is having a good laugh. He, and my mother reading this post.
Before I’d cottoned on to the fact that my daughter had turned into a Fussy Eater, I had a Plan B in the fridge, and a Plan C in the pantry. If push came to shove, I had a Plan D in the freezer but it’d take me another 20 minutes.
Now I realise that all I’d been doing, literally, was feeding the beast.
So. Latest plan this week – my passive aggressive food fight. Except I think I’ll do it slightly different from what my childhood memories recollect – which was a lot of screaming and sarcasm by my poor, exasperated family. And because mealtimes became such a negative, almost traumatic event for most of my childhood years, I think I just became a lousier, semi-paralysed eater as the years wore on until something clicked when I turned 12 and I could polish off 2 adult helpings for lunch. In 10 minutes.
So basically, the new rules are that Arddun gets her health snack ONLY if she finishes her lunch. (Usually she gets a small afternoon tea around 3pm, depending on what time she lunched and napped.) And there is to be no screaming – either by her or by me. And there is to be no complaining, either by her or by me. We are still polite and respectful. So if she doesn’t like what she got for lunch and asks to be excused after a suitable period in her highchair, that’s fine – I’ll cheerfully wash her hands and she can be on her way. But with no snack in between, she’s basically begging for dinner by half past four. And then voila – dinner suddenly looks very, very good. And hey, did you want seconds?
It’s worked so far, although sometimes I cave and give her two grapes before dinner. But she’s finished her dinner most of the time this week, so I can only hope and pray that she’s intelligent enough to figure things out for herself.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to throw her egg-encrusted jeans in the wash.
2 November 2012 at 3:07 pm
I feel your pain!
2 November 2012 at 4:24 pm
oh this gave me a good laugh – partly cos my 2 super adventurous eaters also had a fussy phase around this stage and also because I was VERY fussy as a kid (and sadly still am w a lot of stuff).
It was a real challenge for me to come up w a ‘food policy’ for our family that combined the healthy eating and food relationship goals i had in mind, with good manners/non-fussiness/appreciation of food but also not turning into the torturous battles of my childhood (memories of timers set for me to finish meals, tears, gagging, painful for everyone!). So yeah… its tough huh! Anyway – i know those egg sandwiches were awesome so im sure she will come around. Great strategy mama!! and thanks for a delightful catch up today! xx
2 November 2012 at 4:38 pm
I am not alone with the childhood torturous food battles! Whooo! I wonder if that accounts for our svelte figures (fussy eating), although I have to say that I’ve lost my waistline whereas your non-pregnant waistline would make Katie Holmes weep.
Yes, gagging! I remember gagging a lot. And crying a lot, which just makes food taste saltier and more disgusting. Didn’t have a timer. Had the threat of the cane, though. I was so upset one evening after a particularly awful dinner, I decided to leave home so I packed all my prized toys in the biggest bag I could get my hands on. I was 9.
What was your food policy? I’m curious. I got my idea from reading Mel Hayde because their policy is no dessert for the one who didn’t finish their dinner. But because we don’t do desserts in our household, I had to tweak it.
8 November 2012 at 8:08 pm
hey sorry for late reply to this! ok – our food policy – which is based on about 500 different factors (hmmm maybe i shoudl do a blog post!) and will definitely be subject to change based on various factors is… pretty much that I try to serve the kids small portions of meals and the rule is that they have to try everything (at least one bite) and are encouraged to finish their plate but they dont HAVE to.. however they get nothing else for the meal if they dont eat everything on their initial plate (and nothing else eg snacks etc till the next meal time). I think the Mel Hayde idea is a great one too, just we dont usually have desserts either plus i feel a bit funny about rewarding or punishing w food, you know? anyway, thats the basic policy based on a zillion things but I can see it getting stricter over the years if kids got fussier (cos right now they arent in that phase!). Plus so many different food msgs im trying to incorporate… now i want to explain it all but way too wordy to do so here and take over your blog, lol!! anyway i think what u are doing w arddun is great and clearly working too. i think at different times depending on the kid they will need different rules, u know?