I'm the youngest of three children so I got to see first hand how parenting three kids the same way ended up resulting in three very different grown ups. Over the past Four years, this has helped moderate my mommy anxieties by reminding me that there is a little wiggle room in parenting. I'm never going to be a perfect parent, and that's still OK.
There is one area where I still sometimes feel that I failed. Michael and his eating habits. Andy and I both eat pretty well and are both fairly knowledgeable about how to eat healthy. So, we'll sit down to a nice meal that limits red meat, uses healthy oils instead, and has lots of veggies and fiber. We talk about limiting processed sugar and adding in nuts and such. Then, I turn around and give Michael a bowl of Dinosaur Egg Oatmeal for the 4th straight day and sigh. This is not how I wanted my child to eat.
Michael is still a very fussy eater. He drinks milk, eats cheese and yogurt, enjoys some pasta dishes, and will eat bread products with cream cheese or peanut butter on them. He does eat some fruit and a couple of veggies, but it's really nothing to brag about. At times he'll eat chicken nuggets or hot dogs, but those are really just junk food, so I don't push it simply so I can say he eats meat.
In general, I don't do food battles. I've never seen anyone successfully "break" a fussy eater in a way that didn't end up making things somehow worse. I'm not going to go into details, but of the seriously fussy eaters I've encountered, no one has walked out a winner.
One of those hard core fussy eaters was my sister. She's 40 now, and she is still just as fussy as she was at 4. I was there for a number of food battles, including the time I got so annoyed with them that I got up and ate her damn green beans for her. I heard my parents trying to be rational with her. I even had the pleasure of watching her throw up on a camp counselor who made her take a bite of a beat.
Have I ever mentioned that Michael reminds me of my sister? Especially when it come to food?
So, I normally take a no battle approach. The only rule I enforce is that if Michael doesn't eat something healthy, he doesn't get snacks. He's normally OK with that and will settle for a PB&J instead of cookies. Or, he just won't eat. He's healthy, so I don't stress about it.
However, when we were grocery shopping, Michael asked if I would buy him one of those horrible TV dinners that has Shrek on the front. It had pizza, corn and a desert. Michael eats all of those, so even though I hate to support that kind of crap, I bought it for him.
On Monday I asked what he wanted for dinner. He wanted to eat the pizza dinner.
I cooked it for him.
He ate the desert and then told me he doesn't like pizza any more and that he wasn't going to eat it or the corn. Let's just say that didn't go over too well with Andy and I.
I don't force Michael to eat, so there was no, "you must eat this or you get punished." Instead, I simply told him that if he didn't eat his dinner, he wouldn't get any snacks later on. Seems fair to me, but not to Michael. He did protested. I heated the food up for him again. He protested again. I excused him from the table. Then, I put the dinner in the fridge and waited for what I knew was coming.
And hour later, Michael grinned at me and asked for a snack. He really needs to get control of the grin since it always gives him away. Wait, on second thought, I think I prefer that.
Anyway, I grinned back. Then, I went to the fridge, pulled out his dinner, and reheated it for the second time. I grinned when I placed it in front of him. "Here you go sweetie."
That was the end of the grinning.
Michael did suck it up and eat what had to have been horribly chewy pizza by that point. When he was done, he got his snack and he seemed happy. I, on the other hand, was exhausted and disgusted by the whole thing.
And you know what the worst part is? I know that he's going to ask for that same dinner again one of these days, and I know that he's going to put up a fight when I say no. And it makes me tired just thinking about it.