Monday, January 24, 2011

Let it flow

I am starting to think I need to call this blog "Food Wars" instead of "Nap Wars". Because sleeping hasn't been much of a problem (except for those two year molars) but eating is a whole different battle. When it comes to the toddler menu, it consists mainly of chicken fingers, fries, noodles, and fruit. And bread. Lots and lots of bread. Turns out Ben is a carb-lover like his mama. Vegetables are always present on the plate but getting them to be eaten is like trying to dig a six foot hole in the ground. With a teaspoon. In January. 

We have tried everything we can think of to turn our finicky eater in to the "Toddler who eats well" (Which is probably an urban myth anyway). We have served whatever we were eating ourselves. We have tried to serve favorites like blueberries or cheese with the less desirable peas or green beans. I have made vegetables like my southern in-laws - lots of butter and salt. We have tried bribery - everything from "If you eat a bite of this, you can have another bite of that" and "Do you want to get down and play? Just one more bite!" I am not proud of this, just trying to illustrate to what lengths we have gone to try to get our son to eat something with some kind of nutritional value. (No offense to you, Macaroni and Cheese, I just know that your nutritional content leaves a lot to be desired).

Finally this weekend, it all came to a head. Ben was continuing to avoid eating breakfast and I enlisted the help of my husband. During the course of the meal, everyone lost their tempers and two of us ended up in tears. We finally had to acknowledge that NOTHING we were doing was working. It was like trying to slam a square peg in to a very small, very round hole. So we gave up. We let him get down and play. 

We finally realized that we were never going to turn him into a veggie lover. Or, for that matter, a meat lover. When he turned his nose up at lunch, we didn't fight him, we just let it go. At dinner time, he was served some of the same meal. This time, he ate. We did the same trick this morning at breakfast. We served a nutritious meal, and he ate what he wanted and then got down to play. At lunch he was served the leftover fruit from breakfast and he gobbled it up, along with last night's chicken nuggets. He turned his nose up at the peas, but hey - they can't all be winners, right? Besides, he's not missing them. He'll see them again at dinner.

This probably seems really permissive, and I don't mean for people to get the idea that he is only eating graham crackers and popcorn. Though I am sure that would be his ideal meal.  The stress and aggravation of trying to force-feed him peas or Lima beans just wasn't worth the outcome. Three forkfuls of veggies or chicken cost hour upon hour of anxiety, stress, anger, frustration, guilt, and tears. And Ben didn't like it much either. 

I think we are just now learning to pick our battles. That some healthy food is better than none at all. That meals are meant to be enjoyable, not stressful. That a happy relaxed toddler is probably likely to eat more than one that is crying and screaming to get down. Sometimes I think we are w-a-a-a-a-a-y behind the learning curve on this whole "parenting" thing. 



  1. I have SO been here, sister. With my oldest, we forced food, to the point that every meal, every day, was a battle. It was. not. fun. Meals were the worst part of our day, rather than an enjoyable, cozily shared moment. I threw my hands up, and decided that the atmosphere of family dinners was -- at that moment -- more important than the content. We worked HARD to approach each meal with as little stress as possible, just letting them choose what went in their mouths. It works. I tell you, it works.

    It's hard, especially for control-freak me, to let go of not seeing their meals as balanced as they could be, but....the lack of stress is worth it.

    We don't let them off scott-free, though: if they don't eat as much as we think they should, they are allowed to get down...when the rest of us are done. And there's no dessert option. I say, "Sure, you can be done -- but you can't have dessert." Sometimes, this makes them choke down the required bites miserably, and sometimes they say, 'oh well -- I'm stopping.' We just go with it. It's not permissive, it's natural consequences.

    You guys are doing well, and you'll get through this :)

  2. Thanks, Sarah! I am so glad to hear that I am not the only one with a picky toddler! I'd worry more if he wasn't growing but since that is not the case, we (I) am going to try really hard to give up the control!

  3. I have been struggling with this SAME thing! I finally just decided that if she's hungry, she'll eat! I don't try to convince my toddler to eat her meals, but she IS required to sit at the table with us until dinner is over. And usually? She eats a much more reasonable meal than she did when I was trying to MAKE her ingest the 'right' amount of daily servings of vegetables.