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.
8 thoughts on “Someday, the war will be over, and our everyday battles will be a distant memory”
I had to email this to Jon at work. We have a 41 inch, 30 pound, 4 year old. We seriously just hit 30 pounds. At this rate he will be in his car seat through high school into college. I am okay with that though 🙂 We started doing something called a snack tray when we moved here. It is a sectioned thing (like they use at bars for the cherries and olives) with 4 different snack choices. I am looking now, today it is baby carrots, Pirate’s booty, craisins, gold fish. It varies day to day. But what is left is gold fish and carrots. Regardless, this is his for the day, he can eat as much or as little, as often or not through the day. We put it up for breakfast, lunch, dinner. It has stopped the constant “I am hungry”, “I want a snack”. It teaches him self regulation (the portions are decent and there is enough in this tray that would add up to all the snacks you distribute in a day). He is not a goldfish fan or a carrots fan, so later on when he is hungry he still has snack choices, just not the one he *wants. He needs to finish his breakfast every morning before I will get a snack tray started. By the time dinner rolls around the carrots will probably be left so I save them in the tray for tomorrow.
Okay, Tracy and Irene, I might be over-estimating Eliza’s weight. She might be more like 31 pounds. Tracy, I like the idea of the snack tray, if only to offer different varieties on a daily basis of major food groups (a whole grain, a fruit, a vegetable and a dairy maybe). I might start doing that. My kids definitely eat good breakfasts, so I generally try to get some vegetables in them then. For example, I make spinach and cheese quesadillas, or I add a spoonful of pumpkin or sweet potato puree to their oatmeal. The evening hours are definitely the most stressful for me. I think the hardest part is realizing I need to take my emotions out of it. They WILL eat if they’re hungry. I can’t allow myself to get all worked up about them not eating what I want them to eat and when I want them to eat it.
Dang it. I just wrote a super long reply and it didn’t take. 😦
Long story short, we use a 5 star system a day to get J to eat with a reward of wearing her princess dress on Saturdays. It totally works. That being said, I still have a 4.5 yr old who weighs 28 lbs…so…what can you do.
Oh no, I’m so sorry it didn’t work! I was wondering what the princess dress/star system was. That makes sense, especially if it works! I think J has a fast metabolism (like my kids do) and she’s just going to be on the thinner side. There’s a scale for a reason – generally, you fall on it somewhere and someone has to be the 1-5%, right? 😉 I also keep telling myself that my kids don’t eat the junk that a lot of kids their ages eat. I would rather put healthy food in front of them, and if they refuse it, that’s their prerogative. Because the next meal will be healthy, too. There are probably a lot of kids who eat McDonald’s for half of their meals.
It’s so refreshing to read this. When we ask our 4yo what he wants to eat, he says, “Chips and milk.” That’s about all he will eat, besides the occasional breakfast item. He eats no fruits or vegetables and the only “meat” he will eat is bacon. I’m still fighting the battle with him as he gags or refuses to try or even touch new foods. I’ve consulted various specialists who have given varying opinions. We’re waiting to see if he gets into “food school” this summer. Keeping our fingers crossed!
Hi Kathy, that sounds really hard. I’m so sorry it’s such a tough situation for you! I bet food school would help. Sometimes textures are really bothersome to kids, or the color of their food bothers them. Maybe if you add some green food coloring to his chips, then you can get him to eat green foods? It’s just a thought. Having a “rainbow” of food might be a fun way to get him to eat. But maybe you’ve tried everything. I certainly hope things improve for you soon. Hang in there!!
That part about negotiating peas was hysterical!
Oh yes, AnnieLaurie. Everyone in my family thought I should become a lawyer. I will argue and negotiate until I am blue in the face.