Walking the Picket line

by statia on August 28, 2008

The Mini has been showing huge improvements since we’ve started working with Early Intervention and our other protocol.  Every day is a new adventure and I truly consider us one of the lucky ones.  We’re a lot less worried about the road ahead as far as development goes and our teachers are beyond awesome.  They love him.  How could they not love the cutest, most charming little boy on the planet?  I dare anyone to even try to hate that much cute.

But the “awakening”, as we so fondly refer to it in this house, has its drawbacks.  Along with newly emerging toddler idiosynchrasis, one of the first things we noticed within days of starting him on the voodoo lotion protocol (technical term), was that he became a lot more picky in his food choices.  At one time, I could literally shove the most foul food in his mouth, and while it may not have been his cup of tea, he would have eaten it.  Now?  Nearly everything gets spit back out.  He woke up one morning realizing his independence and figured out that he didn’t have to chew everything I stuck into his mouth.  And as time has gone on, it’s gotten worse.   Preferring to throw tantrums, rather than eat.  Now, I know that part of this is just the age and the stage at which he’s in.   That’s fine.  I never once thought that he would forever be a good eater.  Hell, I STILL go through my picky stages and I’m old now.   I think that part of it is that I got a really good run, and I consider myself lucky.  He would eat anything that I gave him (and I pushed the limits in variety while I still could) I put in front of him until he was 16 months old.

There’s one rule that I will not deviate from and that is making 47 different dishes to get him to eat.  I simply will NOT.  No matter how much I want him to eat.  I for one, am not a short order cook and the minute I cave in, he will realize that he can get his way.  He’s a smart kid and suddenly very demanding.  He also knows how to work Mama, and this one rule I refuse to bend on.

The one thing I was (and to a large extent still am) against is hiding vegetables in food.   My parents never did this with me, and we were never picky when it came to vegetables.  But a few weeks ago, I came across the Jessica Seinfeld book,  for five bucks at a local chain called Five Below (aka the everything Made In China store).  And I don’t even like her because everyone knows she’s a total hack and a thief (ok, maybe not everyone, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).   But for five dollars I ate my words and got the fuck over myself and bought a copy of the damn book for some other ideas beyond what I was already doing.   I got what I paid for, but it did shed a little insight.

I definitely mimmic Donna in her chant:   “I will win the battle of wills with a toddler.” To some that may sound stupid. Arguing that a toddler can’t and shouldn’t be reasoned with, and that’s true, but to me this isn’t trying to reason with him, so much as making him understand that you just don’t always get your own way .  To some that may sound naive.  But we try to keep our meals simple and what we feel is acceptable for a toddler to eat (last night we had homemade “turkey nuggets” and watermelon for chrissake).  I let him make his own choices by holding up two different things on his plate and letting him dictate what he wants to choose.  And sometimes, I do say yes.  It’s much easier to get him to eat when I let him have something he specifically asks for.   This also works in our favor two fold as he never knew how to ask for his wants and needs.

I’m am however, hoping that this little burst of independence is short lived, because I’m getting really sick of meatloaf.

But I’m not holding my breath.


donna August 28, 2008 at 7:10 pm

It is so hard! I only stick to steadfastly to my guns about not fixing other meals because I watched my SIL bend over backwards to get my niece to eat. And I couldn’t understand why she could not see that my niece was just controlling her. If you know a child likes a grilled cheese for instance, and they refuse to eat it, you can assume one of two things is happening. Either the kid is not hungry, and you shouldn’t force them to eat, or they are trying to get you to do what they want, and you can’t let it happen. And if you do it even once they will KNOW they can do it again. It took my SIL over five years to learn that lesson. It’s no fun to battle if your opponent won’t engage. The minute she told my niece at age six “It’s my job to prepare a healthy meal for you. You decide what to do with it” and walked out of the room, the child stopped battling over food. It took 15 minutes. I’m not exaggerating.

Now, I do honestly respect that some foods kids just don’t like and that’s fair. Bridget doesn’t like anything with any sort of Asian flair. So if we have stir fry or something Asian-y, I will either alter the recipe, leave out some things from seasoning for her to eat plain, or just make her something different. I think that’s fair and it doesn’t happen at her request so there is no battle.

I just don’t understand how this Mom gig went so fast from just keeping them alive to molding their psyches.

Shanna August 28, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Other possible tricks you may not have tried yet (and shoot me if you have):

- Letting the Mini use grown-up utensils (salad fork and teaspoon from your regular set). There are days where my daughter will eat [i]anything[/i] we feed her, as long as she can have it on a fork.

- Not-quite-hiding vegetables: mixing frozen spinach into pasta sauce or adding some carrots (and more peppers than you usually would) to rice and beans. he can see them, so he’s not being tricked, but he may eat more veggetables “by accident” this way. Or he may refuse to eat mixed foods, in which case: shoot me.

- Eat meals with him, the exact same foods, let him see you serving him and yourself from the same pot/serving bowl/whatever.

I totally stand by you on not being a short-order cook. I try to make sure every meal they are served contains [i]something[/i] I know they’ll eat, and there’s usually a block of cheddar in the fridge as back-up food if absolutely nothing else will fly, but I refuse to be the mom who makes scrambled eggs/plain pasta/grilled cheese for lunch and dinner every single day. Of course, we’ve been lucky enough so far with non-pickiness, and try very hard not to make a big deal about food refusal…

Shanna August 28, 2008 at 7:38 pm

(Oh – except for milk. If you can find a way to get my kids to drink cow’s milk that [i]doesn’t[/i] involve making a fruit smoothie that they refuse to drink half the time, I will pay you the big, big bucks. They can’t nurse forever.)

Jenn August 28, 2008 at 10:55 pm

I also refuse to make something else to eat. I figure even if they skip dinner (they eat breakfast and lunch) every day for a month, they’ll be ok. I do try to have at least one item that I know they will eat with a meal (which means fruit, bread, or dairy product). I don’t have a problem with hiding vegetables, but I think they should also be given in their normal form along with the hiding. I don’t see hiding veggies in food as any different than taking a vitamin. That said, I almost never do it.

And I am not used to the new name lol. Every time I see “Failure to Nap” come up in my feedreader, I’m like who the eff is that?

Deltus August 28, 2008 at 11:07 pm

Oh, totally with you on the not making something special if they don’t eat their dinner. In fact, I’m more hard core than my wife, in that if my kids complain about the food, they can get up from the table and go hungry until the next meal, as far as I’m concerned. They’ll learn not to complain.

Incidentally, what’s wrong with hiding the veggies? What they don’t know won’t hurt them.

Kathy August 29, 2008 at 1:54 pm

The hardest part about the whole toddler thing for was “letting go” of trying to make sure he ate enough. If hes hungry, he’ll eat… if he skips a meal, no big deal. He won’t die of starvation. I had to teach myself not to get stressed out if he refused food.

I make Reilly one meal and if he doesn’t want it, then the meal is over. I don’t make him liver and onions of course, I’ll make something he typically likes, and that’s it. No eat? Meal over. There is no struggling and no complaining on either end. Peace is restored!

Kris September 1, 2008 at 6:05 pm

Good for you. When my girls were smaller I just made sure out of whatever food I was making, there was at least one or two things that they liked (or I’d alter the dish, serving them before adding the rest of the spices like Donna said above).

If you don’t care for kielbasa, then eat the veggies and potatoes. If you don’t like the potatoes with dill, then eat the chicken and broccoli.

And for the record, my oldest now loves broccoli and brussel sprouts.

Tonya September 3, 2008 at 3:51 am

I have swung both ways. It usually depends on how much sleep I’ve been getting, but Tiny Boy does realize that when I say “no” I mean it. He has tried crying, whining, hanging on me, but I don’t give in once I’ve said no.

I do think that toddlers can be reasoned with. My daughter was mostly impossible in this regard, but Tiny Boy will calm down when I say “I hear you, you’re really angry. You want more bread, but your body needs meat now.” etc. Doesn’t mean he’ll eat it, but he doesn’t keep screaming at least. We taught him very young (12 mos?) to “calm down” by taking a deep breath and pausing to be quiet. If he’s asking something reasonable, I ask him to calm down, and he does instantly. When I have a clue what he wants, I prompt him with an example (“More milk, Mama?”) and he tries to repeat it, and stays calm. It works with him, but it didn’t so well with my first (either her personality or we weren’t as consistent with her as we are with him).

As for diet, the nutritionist has us all doing dairy-free, gluten-free, casein-free, and it bites ass. This is our first week and I HATE it.

Erin September 5, 2008 at 12:33 am

I do what Kathy does. I make Charlotte one meal and if she doesn’t eat it, the meal’s over. Tonight she asked for applesauce so I let her feed it herself and while she did that, I made her a grilled cheese which she also ate. She’s a TERRIBLE eater but I trust that she’ll eat when she’s hungry and missing a meal or two (or five) isn’t the end of the world.

robyn September 6, 2008 at 3:26 am

N finally started eating again by 3. At 3, T is on very high-powered Rx vitamins and Pediasure. Mother of the Year, I am. We’ve been to three different pediatricians in two years and that’s just the way he is. We serve him what N gets. He won’t eat it. We deal. By 3 there are so many other battles…

jesser September 12, 2008 at 3:34 pm

I am so with you. I am not making “Toddler Food” just so Tabby will eat something at every meal. She eats when she eats. And I think that most of the time she doesn’t eat right now because she’s too damned busy with being a toddler. She wants to go and do, not sit and eat. And then when hunger strikes her she eats like a sumo wrestler. Still, not pleasant to hear she’d gained 4 oz and 4 inches in 6 months. The pediatrician said it’s normal at least …

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