Month: October 2013

Feeding Kids – I’m Failing This One

Before Oldest Progeny was born, I had quite a bit of trepidation on how to feed her.  We had determined that breastfeeding was worth trying, and were going to make a go of it, but I was nervous.   And though there were tears and difficulty, we ultimately did alright.  I wish I’d known how comparatively easy feeding an infant is.  Fast forward to now, seven years later, and I have no idea how to feed that child.  Well, I know exactly what she wants me to feed her, but that ain’t happening.  It is well past time for things to be changed.  The MRB is about to get a workout.

I have created a monster.  I own that.  This is my fault.  I would like very much to spread the blame out, to say that I don’t raise her in a vacuum and that it’s as much everyone else’s fault, too – but I can’t really do that.  I have no doubt that the babysitters ALWAYS stopping to pick up her favorite pizza – even going out of their way to do so – was a contributing factor; that her daddy truly not understanding that it is NOT okay to stop whatever he was doing to make her a jam sandwich was fuel to the fire – but I have been responsible for most of her meals since she was born.  This is my monster. Whether or not the other things hurt or helped, this is my fault.

I started badly.  And I have guilt over that every day, at every meal.  DH (Dear Husband, for those who don’t troll the mommy message boards) and I tend to like food a bit on the spicy side, so I got into the habit of serving non-spicy meals to our beginning eater.  It was fun, at first.  We would go to the deli, and sample whatever they were handing out.  Sometimes she didn’t like it, but if she did, it was added to the rotation – I would have it sliced thick, and we would cube it to serve with grapes and crackers.  There was a time when our fridge was full of plastic storage boxes containing cubes of salami, ham, pepperoni, turkey, roast beef, muenster, cheddar, or swiss.  We would try things that looked interesting from the produce section, too – apples of different types, grapes in different colors, peaches, pears, watermelon, kiwi, star fruit, ugli fruit, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers.  Whatever colors and textures caught our attention, we tried.  I thought that was doing okay, but I feel like it led us down the wrong path.  I should have relegated that to lunch, but I got into the habit of doing it for dinner, also.  And I can’t help but think of that as being where I went wrong.  It became an expectation, that she would get a unique dinner of her choice.

And then.  A sudden refusal to eat roast beef cubes.  Then turkey.  Then ham.  Then chicken nuggets.  And my biggest error was that I went with it!  We are down to shredded mozzarella (not cubed, not sliced, just shredded).  Grilled cheese sandwiches.  Jam sandwiches.  Red grapes. Pretzels. Goldfish crackers.  Plain cheese pizza.  I can count the foods she eats with consistency on less than two hands.

I will admit, part of my problem with this is that it’s embarrassing.  When we had to leave a birthday party, because my then-four-year-old threw a screaming fit that the hostess served cheese pizza without a side of cheese sticks.  And now? she comes and sings happy birthday, and then goes to play by herself.  She would rather be alone than socialize with kids eating something she doesn’t like.  Thank goodness, at least some of her friends understand that she isn’t intentionally being rude, she’s just picky.  It’s odd to hear that kind of insight from a seven year old, but I am grateful for it.

And the defiance!  She has admitted to me that part of this is a power trip.  There are foods that she won’t eat at home, that she will eat at her grandmother’s house.  I have bought the same brands.  I have had her grandmother purchase them and bring them here.  I have brought home the leftovers.  Nope.  I have tried to give her choices for a lot of things, but at home, this is where she’s decided to make her stand (I suspect she has chosen a different platform with Grandmom and Pop).  Unfortunately, I can’t let it go on anymore.  I suspect it’s going to get uglier than it already has, but I’m done.  The irony has not escaped me, that we were very conscientious – even strict, at times – about creating good tooth brushing and bedtime habits – but messed up royally here.

No small part of my frustration is that I am flat exhausted.  I used to like to cook.  I like trying new things.  But I simply don’t have the energy to make four meals every night – who does?  One for me, with the veggies I like.  One for DH – same main course, but no veggies.  One for the Eldest – since the only protein she will now accept is cheese, I feel like we’ll be one of those families who has to hospitalize a malnourished child if I don’t give it to her (if there is a bottom to be hit in the picky eating battles – that’s it – and one I intend to avoid).  One for youngest – as slight a variation on the main meal as possible (I am so afraid of screwing up with this one, too) – who points out that it’s not fair for eldest to get something special but not her.  Given all that, guess whose food preferences are often put by the wayside, to make accommodating every one else easier?  There are a lot of dishes that I really miss cooking and eating, but you know what?  It’s a lot easier to ignore my preferences than it is to listen to everyone else’s complaints sometimes.  It’s not fair, but Hey! I’m only preparing three meals instead of four!  Bonus points if no variations are needed for either of the kids!

But my biggest problem with this, where I really feel like I am failing her, is that a great deal of social life circles around food.  Even the simple act of preparing a meal together as a family is a miserable proposition, since she not only refuses to taste many foods – she doesn’t want to smell or touch them, either.  She will never enjoy dinner parties.  That first Girl Scout campout, when the kids have the pride of having made the dinner all by themselves, won’t mean anything to her.  What about hitting IHOP after the school dance?  Appetizers with the co-workers after work on Friday?  Impromptu lunch dates with a girlfriend.  Already, I dropped her off late and picked her up early for a sleepover because she would eat neither the dinner nor the breakfast the hostess had planned to serve.  Her capacity to enjoy enjoy any given birthday party is hit-or-miss. I feel like she is and will be missing so much.  How many social occasions can she/we refuse or obviously not enjoy before friendships suffer for it?  And that worry, more than the defiance or exhaustion or embarrassment, just makes me cry.

I’m sorry, baby.  I want – we need – to fix this.  I’ll try – and I’m sorry for that, too, because it’s going to be rough on all of us.

This is NOT what I planned to do today.

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.  -Woody Allen

A sense of humor is a major defense against minor troubles. -Mignon McLaughlin

I had grand ideas for the day today.  You see, Tuesdays are my day off.  Youngest Progeny has MDO (Mothers’ Day Out, for those not in the know) on Tuesdays.  (Thursdays, too, but those are my volunteer days.)

For a while now (specifically, since August of 2011), I’ve been cheerfully following the idea that, “When you don’t HAVE time, MAKE time.”  Turns out, I’ve had the quote wrong in my head all along.  A quick internet search takes me to Planet Claire Quotes (http://www.planetclaire.org) and tells me that it’s actually supposed to be,

Oh, you should always waste time when you don’t have any. -The Doctor (Dr. Who, series 6, episode 8, “Let’s Kill Hitler”)

Although, making time when I don’t have any has sort of been working for me, so I’m going to continue on with it.  Maybe it’s a subconscious effort to work harder and faster.  Maybe it’s re-prioritizing.  Anyway, it works.

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Hey! – since I’ve had the quote wrong all along, does that mean that this is a Me original?

When you don’t have time, make time. -Me

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Although in this case, the time was sort of built in, so I got to waste some without having to make some.  Not enough to knock out some of the more involved things on the to-do list, but enough time to do a quick quote search and blog about it.  This kept my brain busy while the carpet steamer heated up (we bought the steamer before having kids, because the house came with off-white carpet – little did we know what a sanity-saver it would be AFTER having kids).  Which is kind of what altered my plans in the first place.  When “steam-clean a child’s bedroom” becomes an impromptu and necessary addition to one’s to-do list, it’s generally because it is something that absolutely can NOT be put off until tomorrow.

So, off I go, to my now-warm carpet steamer.

My wish for you all today, is the ability to laugh at all your discombobulated plans.

The kids want to SEE the Mommy Rule Book

It was inevitable, I suppose.

“Can I see the mommy rule book?” No.  No, you can’t.

“Why not?”  Because you’re not a mommy.  Yeah, they’re not buying that one.

Speaking of buying…”Where do you buy the mommy rule book?”  You don’t buy it.  “Then how do you get it?”  And that is where I got truly inspired…You don’t GET it.  You LEARN it.

People who are a lot smarter than I am, say there might be evidence to support that.  It’s called “The Internal Working Model.”  My best understanding of that is, that even young babies learn about themselves and how to do things – including how to be a mommy or daddy – based on how they observe the world as infants.  They internalize their infant experiences, and that becomes their working model for how to handle life.

But that doesn’t satisfy the kiddos.  They want something in writing.  I’ve tried to fake it.  Sometimes, I’ve even thrown in chapter titles.  However, when I tell them stories, the kids always call me on it if I change a minor detail or leave something out, so I dare not be inconsistent with this.

So, here’s my attempt at writing down the Mommy Rule Book.  (Inevitably, it’s going to change.  But I’m not trying to be definitive, or make real rules, or even be complete – I’m just trying to keep it straight in my head, and maybe get a couple of more years out of it!)

Chapter One: Because I’m the Mom, and I Said So

First of all, there’s that whole Internal Working Model thing.  We can “say so,” because we’ve learned so.  And because we understand germ theory.  And social convention.  And manners.  And seat belt laws.  And….all that other stuff the kids won’t listen to explanations for.  But there’s often a reason for what we say.  Really, there is.

Chapter Two: Hygiene
Kiddo doesn’t want to leave the playground at McDonald’s, even though urine is in danger of turning the tube slide into a water park? “I’m sorry, honey, we have to leave, it’s in the Mommy Rule Book.” Sweet little moppet threatens a category five temper tantrum over washing her hair? Yeah, I invoke the MRB.

Subchapter 1: Boo-boos. “Yes, it hurts, but you have to let me wash it and put a band-aid on it.”

Subchapter 2: Dentists

Subchapter 3:Barbers/hairstylists.

Chapter Three: Food
It’s hard to explain things like, “In fifty years, when your first bone density test results are awesome, you’re going to thank me for making you drink a glass of milk every day.” Probably, “Because childhood obesity is threatening to cut your generations’ life span,” is a bit much, too.

Subchapter One: things that aren’t food. (Gum, paper, play-doh, whatever…)

Subchapter Two: Inconsistency Loophole. “I know we had ice cream for dinner last night, but we can’t do it three nights in a row…”

Subchapter Three: Yes, you have to try it.  (Subchapter Three has a loophole – things that just about everyone agrees are icky.  “Just hide the….whatever that is….under your napkin, and we’ll stop on the way home.”)

Chapter Four: Safety
“Don’t stand on dead tree branches.” “Wear your bike helmet.” “Buckle the seatbelt.” “Don’t pet strange dogs.” “Change the windshield wipers.” “Drive with the headlights on.” Graphic explanations are for school health class and after school specials.  Chapter Four is for me.

Subchapter One:  Internet.  Because there is some scary stuff out there.

Subchapter Two:  Hygiene, again.

Chapter Five: Inclement Weather
I’m sure I’m not the only mom who sends a jacket to school with her kid, knowing the child isn’t going to wear it, but not wanting the teacher to think I’m the kind of mom who wouldn’t send a jacket.

Chapter Six: Social Niceties
Yes, you have to say please, thank you, and excuse me. No, you can’t run naked through the mall. No, you can’t scream at the top of your lungs in…anywhere indoors. No, you can’t stand on your seat in the movie theater. Etc. Etc. Sorry, it’s in the MRB.

Subchapter 1: Inconsistencies Loophole. That’s for grown-ups or movie characters only. Like why that man in mommy’s favorite TV show says THAT word all the time, but she can’t. “That’s the rule. It’s in the MRB.”

Subchapter 2: It’s not because YOU want to;  it’s because THEY would appreciate it.  Funerals.  Appropriate clothing at weddings (or anywhere else).  Photos at family reunions.  And all that jazz.

Chapter Seven: Social Responsibility
“I know it’s show and tell day, but you have a 101 fever and you’re covered in purple spots, so you have to stay home.” The funnier (if it’s not you) “Don’t pee on the slide.” Also good for sitting in the sick room during doctor’s visits and why you should cover your mouth when you sneeze. The answers to “why” on these actually exist, but are complicated. (Thank goodness for Google and wikipedia. The MRB usually buys me enough time to reference them.) If you have pets, you can throw in leash laws, pooper scoopers, and why you want to prevent your cat from having kittens, too.

Chapter Eight:  Let’s Go.                                                                                         Because my job is to encourage you to try.  So, we’re going to dance class/band practice/football practice/sleepaway camp….

Chapter Nine:  Education I’m doing you kids a great disservice if I’m not helping you learn stuff.

Chapter Ten: I Know You Don’t Like This Rule, But It’s For Your Own Good
Or, rules intuition tells you are good, but you couldn’t say why. Have a bedtime. Don’t eat worms. Do something other than watch TV.  Rules that you know must have a good explanation, but you haven’t looked them up yet, or the explanation is too complicated to make sense to you, so you have no hope of explaining it to them, or filing it neatly somewhere else in the MRB.

Subchapter: I’m YOUR mommy, and I said so – I don’t care if s/he’s allowed to do/not do it.  If I were her/his mom, then s/he would have this rule, too.

Chapter Eleven: Because If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy                           You are perfectly entitled to Mom’s Night Out every once in a while.  And having your own games on the tablet and phone.  And having an occasional glass of wine after the kids go to bed.  Or cooking what YOU like for dinner, every once in a while.  It’s like that little card in airplanes that tells you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before helping the kids.  It’s counter-instinctual, but if you pass out from lack of oxygen, then what good are you to them?

Chapter Twelve: Just Because, That’s Why
Sort of the intersection of Chapters Six and Ten.  This is for stuff you just want for the family, but the only explanation you have is the one that feels really corny:  memories. Maybe you want to institute a monthly game night. Maybe you want to take family pictures. Or sing a song in the car. Or whatever. Your husband may or may not understand your sudden need for everyone to decorate the Christmas tree together with handmade strands of popcorn (popped in a saucepan over the stove and strung lovingly in front of a cozy fire) while sipping apple cider and singing Jingle Bells. He doesn’t have to. But you’re allowed the attempt. It’s in the Mommy Rule Book.