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.

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