Home Truths: Tonight I Chose Fun.
Tonight, I was tired. Tonight, I was running late from work for the day care pick-up. Tonight, I was dreading the solo parenting evening ahead of me. Tonight, I was foreseeing the negotiations and standoffs that I felt sure I would have with my 3 year old, about every single transition in the evening routine. Evenings are hard work. I am seven months pregnant and they are HARD WORK.
Tonight, was looking typical; the negotiation about going upstairs for a bath, the stalling tactics, the testing of boundaries, on it went. But then came a raspberry blown onto my neck by Mr A, and the giggle. I giggled too. In that moment, I chose fun. I stopped looking at the clock. I stopped trying to rush him, and I blew him a raspberry on his neck in return. More giggles.
With every item of clothing that was removed for the bath, there were more raspberries and giggles. He had fun in the bath. I didn’t look at the clock. I didn’t rush him. Time to get dressed, time for more raspberries.
Then it was time for dinner…
I chose fun, but remembered our mealtime boundaries.
He wanted to swap cups and drink from my glass. “Sure, as long as you remembered our rules about drinking from a glass, no fingers or food in the water, and be gentle with the glass.” I enjoyed sipping water from his cup and telling him how tasty it was. I chose fun, but I reminded him of the boundaries.
He wanted bunny to join us at the table during dinner. “Sure, as long as bunny stays clean.” Bunny was sad there was no carrots for dinner, but he told Mr A he thought dinner smelt nice. I chose fun, but reminded him of the boundaries.
He wanted to use his hands to mix his curry and rice. “Sure, as long as you try and keep the food on your plate and placemat.” We talked about what it felt like on his fingers. I chose fun, but reminded him of the boundaries.
He wanted me to feed him. “Sure, but Mummy’s feeding herself first”. I enjoyed gobbling up my dinner with enthusiasm. I chose fun, but reminded him of the boundaries.
Mr A started to feed himself some rice and curry and enjoyed mixing the two together. As usual, he ignored the broccoli. Again, he asked “Mummy feed me?” and on a whim, with some fun in the air, I offered him a bite of the big broccoli piece that was on my fork. And he accepted.
Mr A just took a big bite of my broccoli and ate it! For 2 and half years he has only had small nibbles and only ate it when it was chopped into mixed foods. I didn’t react and continued eating. Mr A continued eating his rice and curry. I finished my dinner and Mr A asked, “Mummy feed me?”. I said, “Sure, and on the spoon, I am putting some broccoli, rice and curry all mixed together”. Mr A giggled and said it was carrot, not broccoli. I chose fun. We called the broccoli different names. He ate it and asked for more. He picked up large pieces of broccoli and took bites and ate it. I didn’t react to his eating, and carried on with the fun.
I need to remember that just because Mr A chose to eat broccoli tonight, I can’t expect it to happen every time it’s presented. That’s ok.
I need to remember to continue to trust him to grow and learn with his eating. By following the Division of Responsibility Mr A is learning life long skills to help him be a healthy and happy eater.
I need to remember to be patient. We often hear that it can take up to 10 times for a child to learn to like some foods. In my experience? For some children and for some foods, it can take many more. I have his childhood to help him explore and learn about the many, many different foods that are out there. He is not going to learn to eat them overnight.
And finally, I need to remember to try to have fun, even on those tough nights.
On the night where I was tired and we were running late. On the night when I stopped trying to rush him and chose fun, he chose to eat broccoli.
Mr A led the way. I chose to respond with fun, but with occasional boundaries. He didn’t feel the need to constantly test the boundaries. The stand offs and the negotiations ceased. Perhaps he was too busy having fun?
Written by Nicole Wu (Mum, Speech Pathologist and Co-founder of Learn to Eat. Love to Eat). Nicole is passionate about preventing and treating fussy eating in children and creating healthy eating habits for families.
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