Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Food Issues and Other Minefields

Re-wiring one's brain is hard. I did this years ago to combat depression and anxiety (you wouldn't know it reading this blog lately, but trust me, it used to be way worse, and by "it" I mean "me") and am now attempting to do it again to be a better parent. It's hard work. But I'm determined to get there.

I'm proud to announce I've gotten a lot better about not snapping at B when he gets really out of control and tantrum-y. Several times over the last few days when I could see that ol' train a-comin' I would instead take a second to quell my own instinct to either slap him (have never hit him and never would), throw him in his room (did this twice), or just snap at him to knock it off, and instead would go hug him and ask what he needs. It's incredible how quickly this stops the tantrum train! He has enough language to tell me now which makes this approach possible. And I can tell by what he wants that the tantrum started by his perception (often correct) that I'm not listening to him or can't understand him. I've done the what do you need/hug approach enough lately that he now will say "I need a hug, I need a hug!!!" when he feels himself getting upset. It's pretty awesome. Why can't things always be like this??? Well, because my brain still goes to the angry place too easily. When someone is whining at you over something you think is unimportant and stupid you just want them to shut up. But there's a better way to get there. I just need practice!

I appreciated the suggestions about mealtime battles. I love the idea that when it comes to food, we as parents decide the when, what, and where, but the toddler decides whether or how much. This is another area where I seriously have to get out of my own way. I find it absolutely maddening when B doesn't eat, or doesn't eat enough, despite the fact that he's gaining weight and thriving. So...why am I so bothered? I think it's a few reasons. One is just my normal, cave mom instinct that if he doesn't eat he will die, which is a tough one to quiet. Then it's the fact that I love to cook and always fantasized about enjoying meals with my children, but I know this reality is many years away and that depresses me. Finally, to me food is love (you could call it my "love language") so on some level when B rejects food it makes me feel personally rejected. I know that sounds stupid, but it's deep in there, I think. I'll never forget the time I slaved all day to make Thanksgiving dinner for an old boyfriend only to have him make fun of the whole thing and tell me everything that was wrong with it. Talk about feeling rejected!

So I'm trying some new things when it comes to food - things that are so simple that I should have done ages ago but just haven't had the balls to - such as setting a time limit for eating, enforcing the "eat what I give you or forget it", and then trying to not be upset and disappointed by the amount of food waste/rejection that goes on. It's not personal even though it feels personal. Tonight I actually got him to eat this curried rice and lentil dish I'd made for myself. He didn't eat a lot of it, but he did eat some, which is something. I think I'm just going to keep trying adult food and see what happens. I am terrified of becoming one of these moms who only feeds her kids macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. Seriously, I can do better than that! 

The food thing is a work in progress and is very emotional for me. It reminds me of a clip from one of my favorite This American Life episodes called "Are You Going to Eat That?" in which a father recounts his frustration at his anorexic daughter's refusal of food; he says that as a parent his one job in life is to provide food for his children to keep them alive, so it just killed him inside and made him feel like such a failure when she refused to eat. 

Oh, the things we do to our parents that we can't even fathom! 


  1. Hard work indeed. I am so glad you wrote this because I identify so much & am glad not to be alone in working hard to be a better, more patient parent. It is amazingly awesome when our kids start getting it, like when B says he needs a hug. Here's hoping it becomes second nature in all of us.

  2. I love that he can tell you when he needs a hug!

    C will stop mid meltdown if she needs a hug, but she hasn't been able to stop one in its tracks to ask for a hug, I think.

    The food thing is TOUGH. I think it's awesome that you are setting limits on his mealtimes so it doesn't make you TOO crazy, but it's still hard. I tried not to cheer that Calliope ate one bite of scrambled eggs tonight. I mean, that is huge progress. One bite.

    I never was going to be a parent who made "kid food." but when your kid doesn't eat (and was possibly failure to thrive), it's really really really hard to resist. I've held off on chicken nuggets, so far, but totally caved on mac n cheese.

    And was so proud of myself tonight when Calliope asked for food after dinner and I held the line and reminded her, "I told you that when dinner was over there would be no more food tonight. You can eat in the morning." SUPER hard.

    Now to hold the line on weekend snacking to minimum two hour intervals between feedings. It's SO hard with a distractable kid who will barely eat if anything else is going on. But aren't most kids distractible?

  3. I would LOVE more info on the brain-rewiring thing... I, too, snap at J way too often, and need to learn a way to change that!

    The food thing really is hard. Jordyn tends to get distracted or otherwise not eat when it's time to, and then literally within minutes (if we were at a restaurant, before we're out of the parking lot!), start saying "eat!" or "I want a snack". Or, she'll not eat when I repeatedly tell her to, and then as soon as I say a meal is over, she says, "no no no I'm not finished!". It drives me INSANE! I've taken to telling her "this is the time to eat" after getting her to make eye contact with me so I know she hears it. I do also give time limits often. She's a pretty good eater, so I shouldn't really complain; I know many people have it way worse than me in this area.