Monday, January 11, 2016

When feeding gets tough

"Dinner time!"

The announcement slices through the noisy house, beckoning all occupants to cease action and come. But, as usual, it falls on deaf ears. Hungry bellies that have manifested themselves as whiny voices begging for just one more snack all afternoon, are now engrossed elsewhere. Tears have been shed by all of the littles, far more than deserved by their perceived crises.

"Dinner time!!!!"

The call is again met with silence. Mother collapses in her chair, residual stress from the witching hours still pulsing through her veins. She whispers prayers of thanksgiving that no one lost their lives in the making of this meal. Again she tries:

"Come to the table for dinner!!!"

Finally tiny voices respond with "Ok just a minute" and "Let me just finish this one last thing."


This time the tone is sharp. Feet scurry, shuffling, thumping down the stairs. Finally six little eyes appear, peaking over their plates at the food spread before them. They aren't even seated before the oldest one groans "I wanted PASTA for dinner!!" Then the middle child joins in with "Yeah, this is YUCKY!" as the youngest hits the deck screaming "BLUE fork!! I want the BLUE ONE!!" at the top of his little lungs. Mom rises to scoop him off the floor and into his booster seat. He is uncooperative, arching his back in protest. Mother wrestles the toddler into submission and then turns around just in time to watch the middle's elbow jab into her cup, catapulting it across the table. The cup sails through the air, ricocheting off the sliding glass door and landing on the floor, leaving milk contrails streaking down the window. Mother sighs audibly "Every meal." Like clockwork, she had just finished mopping not two hours before, an activity that always precedes the biggest of milk spills. By the time Dad arrives home from work, nearly everyone is crying.

Welcome to dinner time in the Crozier household! 

Does any of this feel familiar? I was struck this week with the utter monotony of feeding in the general day to day. We are coming down hard after a lovely winter break filled with holiday parties and dinners gloriously prepared by others. But now we are back to it and the going is rough. I've been feeling a little discouraged and I'm guessing you might be too so I thought I'd jot down a few words of encouragement (for you and me both!) 

When feedings seems particularly hard, it's so easy to focus on all of our apparent failures like how:

  • my kids haven't really eaten dinner for the past 10 days except for the night when our friends cooked (not mommy) and so of course ALL of them ate tons and then had seconds and thirds
  • my kids frequently complain about what is being served
  • my kids never sit still at the table and sometimes leave and come back while my mind is engrossed elsewhere
  • my kids seem so picky
  • my kids start dishing up before us adults are even seated
  • my kids can't keep their chairs on all fours
  • my kids don't eat vegetables 

I could go on and on, mostly because my husband and I recently amassed a whole list of mealtime offenses after one particularly disastrous dinner. In these moments, it's tempting to throw in the towel and make broad generalizations that may not be entirely factual. In doing so, we overlook all the things they are actually going rather well. In my house, these include the fact that: 

  • two of my three kids like cherry tomatoes
  • ALL of my kids eat raw carrots sticks (all of them!!! and last time I checked carrots are a vegetable!!)
  • my kids ask to be excused when they are finished
  • one of my kids told me I was "the best soup maker" the other day
  • my kids can drink from real live glasses and actually NOT BREAK THEM

So yeah, I guess feeding can't be a total bomb. All this to say, when the going gets rough and it feels like nothing is going well, take a second to stop and step back and look at the big picture. I'll bet you, like me, can find a couple things to celebrate in feeding. As for the challenges, well, its probably time to draw a line in the sand. It's easy to grow lax over the holidays and allow mealtime expectations to loosen. But, the holidays have come and gone and so let's get back on track. Decide where you can set a boundary, stick to it, and remind your eaters of the rules.

Here are the things we are focusing on over here right now:

We use manners. No one is required to eat what is served at mealtimes. But a simple "no thank you" when an item is undesirable will suffice. There is no need to give an verbal discourse on all the reasons why a food is "gross." The eaters over here are highly influenced by peer pressure and one negative word can steer the whole herd.

We sit together at the table. In our chairs. With all 4 legs on the ground. I'm so over mobile mealtimes, particularly with my 2 year old who seems to think dinner should be a drive through experience! We attended many-a-holiday-potluck gathering where grazing was appropriate but we are back to enforcing our house rules and we eat at the table. My kids know that if they leave the table to play after the meal has started, they are excused for good. Also, if our chairs start popping wheelies (which they are known to do, particularly whichever chair my eldest happens to be sitting on), they are removed from the table for the remainder of the meal and the diner is left to stand in place. This, I might add, is the only exception to our sit-at-the-table-to-eat rule and I hope it's temporary! (I plan to nip this wheelie thing in the bud here real fast so that we can have a hard and fast we-sit-while-eating rule!)

Serve at least one known favorite. I've been trying out a lot of really fun recipes lately. It's been super awesome to experiment but the reality is that my kids do not do well with one-pot meals or mixed dishes like saucy meats (think Chicken Tikka Masala or main dish salads). There was a period of time where this fact was really frustrating me, until I reminded myself that this is developmentally appropriate for my kids to feel this way. Children like their foods separate. It isn't that you have a crazy anal child on your hands if they are freaking out that the green on their plate is touching the white. It is merely the fact that your child is, well, a child. A mixed dish (or any new dish) can be totally overwhelming for littles so it's important to remember to accompany them with a known, liked side dish whenever they are introduced. And don't lose heart if they won't even try it. This too is normal. Serve it again and again. And again and again. Eventually, they maybe might just possibly grow curious what it is that mommy and daddy keep putting in their bellies and give it a shot themselves.

Good luck! I'm right here in the trenches with you. :)

1 comment:

  1. UGH. I dread dinner every single night. Max actually believes I'm trying to poison him. How can I let a four-year old's critic of my cooking actually hurt my feelings? Well, when it happens every single night, I'm cooking for the adults and THEN him separately, throw in sleep deprivation, very little thanks given, and dishes that never ever got it. Hurt feelings on repeat.

    I know know know he will outgrow this. But this is one of those parts of parenting we joke about and roll our eyes about...but it actually makes me feel crazy.

    All that to say: I am with you.


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