Why I Gave Up Mealtime Battles

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See that boy? The boy with the empty plate (save for some peas) and the brand new car napkin? He and his sister were driving me absolutely mad at mealtimes, and in fact, most of their meltdowns were occurring right at the table. I’ve had an epiphany this weekend, and it’s like I’ve got brand new kids.

I don’t think I’m the first parent to have mealtime battles with my kids, but I’m not sure how frequently other parents go through the same thing.

B battles me for:

-His bib (can only be the brown one)

-His napkin (can only be the car napkin)

-His plate color (the one above, purple – otherwise orange)

-His spoon (big spoon)

-Who put him in his chair (me) and WHEN I can do it (after he gets his straps set up)

-Washing his hands in the sink

And of course, this doesn’t factor in his food desires!

B currently doesn’t like:

-Meat of any sort

-Milk

-Basic fruits and vegetables he’s liked all his life until like, yesterday.

-Sweet things

-Pizza

C battles me for:

-Her spoon (little)

-Who puts her in her chair (Daddy)

-Who gets her food (she scoops her own cereal out on the weekends from the box)

-Her hair going in a ponytail so it’s not in her food

For her, the issues are more food related than anything else. She doesn’t like:

-Meat of any sort

-Cheese and peanut butter, except when she absolutely loves cheese and peanut butter

-Rice/Quinoa

-Tomato sauce (except on pizza)

She would eat everything unhealthy in the world, plus every vegetable and fruit that exists. But rice? NO.

So each and every night (and lunch on the weekends), I was battling. Again and again. Screaming from C with big crocodile tears while her brother laughed (“B, crying is NOT. FUNNY!!!!”), chair rocking, head rolling from B with occasional hitting. It’s been a disaster.

Most meals went in this fashion: I’d give them something they like, but then when they were finished, they’d meltdown because the only options left were things they didn’t like. OR, I’d make them something new thinking they would love it, but they won’t even taste it, won’t even try it, and then I’d have nothing for them for dinner but some veggies (and only their current favorites, of course). I found myself growing angry when I put C in her chair and she screamed because she wanted Daddy. When I’d give B his choices and he’d scream, “No, those are NOT the options!!!” My husband and I were stressed and frustrated every night.

Except this weekend.

This weekend, I tried something new. If I already knew what they like and prefer – that’s what I gave them.

B only likes the car napkin. Out of all those nice ones I made, he’ll only use that one. If it’s dirty, I was previously making him choose from the rest of the pile. He refused to do it.

But this weekend, I said, “Your car napkin is dirty. You can either have one I made you or a white paper napkin.” He chose white.

He didn’t want to wash his hands in the sink. He got the choice of the sink or a hand wipe. He chose wipe.

I WAITED for him to fix his straps the way he wanted – not hurrying him along or attempting to do it myself.

If he didn’t want milk, he didn’t have milk.

C likes the little spoon – and I knew that already. Why was I asking her what she wanted if I already knew? Little spoon is on the table at the start, and that issue is solved.

As for food? My kids have eaten GREAT this whole weekend. WHY?

Before, I would give them one thing they liked, and a few they might not have. B has stopped liking peppers and green beans (though they are two of his favorites – I think it’s a temporary boycott). Why was I continuing to put them on his plate?

Now, I’m giving them 95% of what I know they like. B likes salad, C doesn’t. C gets cucumber when B gets salad. B likes pasta with sauce or cheese, C likes it plain. So that’s what C gets.

Do I think some of their food choices are gross and weird? Yes. I can’t get them to try ketchup to save their life, so dipping meat is just out of the question. Why am I still trying??

I’ve given up.

I know what they like, and most of what I’m giving them is just that. No more hoping they’ll suddenly take a liking to meatloaf – it’s not happening. They still eat veggies, they still eat bread and pasta, they still eat cheese.

It feels spectacular. My stress level at lunch and dinner is just about gone. We’ve started enjoying each other’s company at the table, laughing and talking. I know what they like, and I’m done fighting it. They’re getting what they like (within reason), and a little tiny bit on their plates that they don’t like. If they try it, great. If they don’t – next time.

This is all temporary, right? So they say. I’m willing to wave the white flag and let them eat what they’ll eat. Happy twins = happy parents.

 

 

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I parented today.

 

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…and it sucked.

 

This morning, my 2.5 year old son came downstairs, ready for breakfast. But he was cranky. And for no reason, he pushed his sister.

In that moment, I must admit, my patience bar was charged to 100%. I slept well and later than typical. I hadn’t seen my twins since the night before and was willing and able to put my best face on (unlike at night, when my battery runs out and I’m running on empty). Therefore, I didn’t let this go – I chose it, not realizing what I might be getting myself into.

After removing him from the situation, he proceeded to hit the dog hard, and then hit me. As I continued to put him back in the living room, I added that he needed to say he was sorry to his sister, to the dog, and to me. Yes, I know that’s a lot of apologies. But it felt right at the time and I went with it.

For the next 45 minutes he stayed in that living room. He wailed, he screamed, he shouted, “I want to HIT! I want to THROW THINGS!” His sister had her entire breakfast and he still wouldn’t apologize. Every few minutes I checked in on him – “Are you ready to say you’re sorry to C for pushing her?” “NO I’M NOT READY! I just want to eat!” I knew I couldn’t back down, and my patience was surprisingly still intact, even through the sobbing, “Let me out, Mommy!”

I held firm. Finally, almost an hour in, over the baby gate blocking him from us, he mumbled, “Sorry, Mommy.” “Sorry for what?” I asked. “Sorry for hitting you.” And he gave me a hug. Fabulous. 1 down, 2 apologies to go.

He wouldn’t apologize to the others even after I told him how proud I was that he did the right thing and apologized to me, and that he could be eating breakfast right now. Stubborn, stubborn. But finally – finally, he did it. He apologized to C, he apologized to the dog. Success!

Unfortunately, the meltdown didn’t end there. It was time now to pick out his bib and the one he wanted was dirty. I sat with him in the den, surrounded by other bibs he could choose and after screaming and throwing himself on the floor, he laid on a dog bed and calmed himself. 10-15 minutes more passed. And finally, he chose a bib.

He was ready for breakfast now, an hour and 15 minutes later. He pulled back his chair, and…..couldn’t get the straps “right”. Didn’t want to climb in himself. Didn’t want me to put him in. Didn’t want Daddy to put him in. Wanted to eat cereal and milk on the floor. (Answer: no.) More screaming, sobbing, and the threat of a hit.

And then – he let me put him in his chair. Except there wasn’t enough cereal for his liking. He typically puts it in the bowl himself but this time he wanted me to do it. Until I did it. Then he wanted me NOT to do it. So I dumped it on the table (no milk, yet). More screaming. Attempts at hitting. I ignored him and his hand hit the table, hard.

Finally, I said, “Would you like a piece of pear?” Yes, he did. Two bites of pear in, the switch flipped – all better. He ate, and he ate, and he ate.

The rest of the day has been fine.

I’ve learned a few lessons after this morning.

1)My son is sensitive to his food and sleep needs. I suppose he got that one from me. When he’s tired or hungry, he can be a bear. I knew that he just needed to eat, and that once he did he would be much better, but I couldn’t let him get away with hitting and pushing. I chose to allow this to continue instead of backing down, which I don’t always do.

2)I can be a good mom. Look, after spending 7 hours a day with 24 5th graders, I come home exhausted, with the patience bar mighty low. Too low. I frequently put the twins to bed and think, “I sucked at mom-ing tonight.” Lacking patience isn’t the kind of parent (or teacher) I want to be, yet it frequently is. The allure of a Sunday with my family, of sleeping an hour later, and being with my children in the morning as opposed to just the evening made all the difference.

And I have to admit – it felt good, when it was finally over, knowing I did the right things. That I didn’t back down, that I remained calm. That B did, eventually, do what he needed to do when I wasn’t sure he ever would.

3)Lastly, parenting is hard. Parenting, I’ve realized, isn’t the goodnight hugs, the “I love you, Mommy”‘s , the sensory bins, the playdough spaghetti, the book reading. Those are the perks that come with having children, the caretaking, the loving. The best parts, for sure.

No, parenting is the worst part of having children. Making decisions and not knowing if they are the right ones. Getting in an uncomfortable, crappy situation with your children and finding your way out. Finding patience when there’s none. I suppose it’ll continue for many, many years. Curfew fights, refusing to let them take the car out into the snow (pulled that one from my own history book), dating, drinking, doing well in school. Oh, and toddler meltdowns. These are hard issues that require a lot from us, and this, now, is what I believe parenting really is.

Today, I made it. Today, I parented.

 

The Insanity of Mealtime

Why Mealtime is the WORST Time of Day

Even a cupcake can’t bring a smile.

I hate meals with my toddlers. It’s my least favorite time of day, all three times that it happens. In fact, if I were rich enough to hire someone, I would pay good money for someone to sit at the table with my 2 year olds and deal with the chaos.

Here are a few reasons why I hate mealtime (and subsequently have few pictures of it, because it’s that bad):

The picky eating. I mean, let’s just call it like it is. I never understood how toddlers could be picky eaters until recently. My toddlers ate a wide variety of foods, and the only ones they didn’t eat they just flat out didn’t like. I can reason with that, there’s a lot of foods I don’t like either. But I didn’t realize that picky eating was an epidemic, an illness of sorts.

My daughter is the picky eater right now. Foods she ALWAYS ATE, she won’t touch. Quesadillas, any rice dish, basic sandwiches. Foods I could always count on for a meal. Won’t touch it. Not only that, but if forced to take a bite, she’ll gag like crazy and act like she just ate poison, when in fact she hasn’t even swallowed the bite yet. It has severely put a dent in the list of meals she will eat. And since I have two toddlers, I generally don’t want to make them separate meals. Hence, her brother hasn’t been eating those meals either.

C is going through a “plain” stage. She wants plain bread, plain pasta, plain crackers. Plain veggies and fruits. Won’t try a dip to save her life.

The whining. This one goes to my daughter as well. I try to always set her up for success, giving her at least one thing on her plate that she likes. But she can’t just eat a plate of snap peas for dinner on repeat. “But I don’t LIKE pasta,” she’ll whine, “I want something else.” Or, “This pasta is not perfect, I need something else that I like.”

The fit-throwing. My son doesn’t whine – he throws fits. He gets EXTREMELY UPSET if food on his spoon or fork drops, especially if it falls on the floor. And if a dog gets it before I pick it up and give it back to him (ahem), all hell breaks loose. He gets so frustrated with each bite that doesn’t go perfectly into his mouth, while C just bare-hands whatever it is and shoves it in. He needs some coping strategies on what to do if elbow pasta falls from his spoon! C doesn’t help – “We don’t THROW things, B! That’s not GOOD MANNERS!”

The RIDICULOUS REQUESTS. And I mean ridiculous. Coming from two toddlers at the same time, I get up from the table about 587 times a meal.

C: “My water is cold. I don’t LIKE cold water, I want warm water!” “I want to shut the ketchup bottle!” “I want to see your water!” “My spoon is too cold, Daddy – make it warm!” (Daddy blows on it in his hands) “Noooo not like that Daddy, that’s not perfect!” “I don’t want a little spoon, I want a big spoon! Not THAT spoon, a different spoon!” (She tries something she hates, bursts into tears and acts like her tongue is covered in burning acid). (“Take a drink, honey.”, and B laughs at her.) “CRYING IS NOT FUNNY!” she screams to him. “YES, IT IS FUNNY,” he replies.

B: “Don’t put me in my chair, Mommy!!!” (I say, “Who is putting you in your chair, Daddy or Mommy?”) “Mommy.” (I reach over.) “NOOO don’t put me in my chair!” “Don’t do my buckles.” “Don’t help me with my buckles.” “My bib hurts!” (the back of his neck) “Don’t wash my stickies!” “I don’t LIKE green beans.” (“B, you love green beans.”) “No, this one has a string so I don’t LIKE them.” “Mommy,” (as he gags), “take this string off. I don’t LIKE strings.” “I don’t WANT A NAPKIN!” (Throws it on the floor. Two minutes later…) “I need a napkin!”

And finally, my own irrational fear of choking. It’s real and it’s running wild as the kids get older. WHY does my daughter take such giant bites? I know it’s precisely to toture me. I mean barely able to speak, her mouth is full to the brim. She grabs fistfulls of small things – cut veggies, peas, chick peas, and I have to look away. And of course, as there’s two of them, they’re constantly talking and laughing throughout the meal. Making each other laugh while chewing – my worst nightmare. Between the both of them, someone coughs a bit everyday. And coughing is not choking, I know this. But it doesn’t help my heart from stopping and having a mild panic attack every. single. time. I know I have an issue but I don’t understand how parents DON’T have this same issue (including my husband). Do you all feel so confident that you’ll be able to save your child’s life by doing the heimlich successfully? Isn’t there any fear of failing on this front?

So yeah, I cut up those damn grapes. Into like, eighths. Raw carrots are sliced fine as well. Clementines – each slice into thirds. And lollipops – they don’t even get lollipops, because what if the cheaply made piece of garbage pops off the stick as they’re eating it?? They will choke on it, there’s no doubt in my mind. Maybe you all can talk me off this ledge, but man, I’m getting out of control with this one.

Yes, meals suck in this house. When you come over for a visit and witness a meal, you’re sure to be running for the door when it’s over. After I’ve reheated my plate up for the fourth time, sometimes it’s just easier to wait until the kids have gone to bed to eat it. Meals never used to be this unpleasant, and I’ll take any suggestions you have to turn it around!