Some days my kids don’t eat. What I mean is not a lot and not what I want them to eat.
I used to see parents out with their kids in restaurants, judging them for allowing them to eat bread, french fries and ice cream for dinner. Now I’ve been there and done that to keep them quiet. In my defense, we’ve taken the kids to some nice restaurants where I’ve weighed the unavoidable disapproving looks for malnourishing my children against those glares I would get if a tantrum about anything ensued (like someone using someone else’s crayon, or one or both not wanting to sit in a seat). Malnourishment wins a lot of the time. It’s called picking your battles. Even at home, mealtime can be a mine field.
Me: “You can eat your dinner, or you can not eat your dinner, and then go straight up for a bath, without building a fort and without a popsicle. It’s your choice.”
Eliza: “Mommy, I don’t want to build a fort. I don’t want a popsicle.”
Seriously? I know she’s lying. But right now, I’m trying to deal with the not eating, so I can’t get into a discussion about whether she’s telling the truth because I have to deal with the consequences of her answer. I cannot get sidetracked by her efforts to derail me. So, we take her up for bed and that’s that. She doesn’t eat. My 41-inch tall, 31-pound daughter chooses to go without food. (She might get to move out of her car seat and into a booster by her sixth birthday.) Zach refuses to eat any part of his dinner about half of the time. The pediatrician assures me that he must be getting enough in the earlier parts of the day. But how infuriating it is that he won’t even taste what I’ve cooked!
I remember my childhood. I remember secretly feeding my veggies to the dogs. I remember refusing to eat. I also remember my parents threatening to reheat the food for breakfast if I didn’t eat it right then (and they did). When I realized they were serious, I started negotiating. “I’ll eat 3 peas.” “No, Christine, eat 20 peas.” “Four.” “Ten, and that’s final.” And then I would hold my nose and gag and make all sorts of crazy torture-enduring faces at them while I drank the peas down with milk. And now? I actually like peas. And I enjoy most of the vegetables I didn’t like as a child. I grew up and had to make a decision about whether I wanted to live a healthy lifestyle or not.
Someday I’m going to look back and see that the truth is, my kids get food. They get nourishment. The probably get more calories each day than 80% of the people in this world. Could they do better? Sure. Everyone probably could. But there are actually kids who don’t have enough food. And there are actually kids who don’t eat, like they must be intubated to get the nutrition they need. I saw a news story on it once. Those are real problems. What I face is … annoyance and a lack of control. (Welcome to parenting 101.)
Thus, I’m hopeful that if my kids see Greg and me eat well, they will grow up to eat well. I hope they one day make good food choices on their own, because at ages 2 and 3, they aren’t capable of it. And that’s okay. I have to stop looking at all these obstacles (they don’t eat, they don’t sleep, they fight, they’re defiant) as battles.
Instead, they are opportunities for growth. I’m here to teach them to make good food choices, and teach them how to behave and have self-control even when they’re tired (hmm, am I capable of that?), and teach them how to value putting others first, and teach them to be agreeable or others won’t want to be their friends. (And okay, that sometimes, a person is just asking for it and that’s when you slug ’em.)
Someday they will not be children any more. They will still be mine, but my prime time for parenting will be over. So I want to get over the random days they don’t eat and realize that this, too, shall pass. It’s not letting them win the battle, it’s giving up fighting at all.