Monday, April 14, 2008

Two Under Two and Food

This topic isn't necessarily specific to the issue of having two kids under two, but it seems to keep coming up and I really believe that I must address it. I'm pretty sure I can bring it around to the two under two issue, here...

If you're pregnant, and your right-around-one year old has been happily cruising around, eating his body weight in food every day like some sort of deranged hummingbird, are you in for a surprise when the baby comes! Because, you see, nature has a sense of humor. Nature is not to be messed with. It will get you. In fact, nature is probably trying to kill you right now... but in the meantime it wants to have a good laugh at your expense.

Enter the new baby. Your old baby is going to go through a host of rapid lifestyle changes, which will include (but not be limited to) not being the center of the universe anymore. Right around the same time, his little metabolism is going to take a serious nosedive, and he will stop eating.

If you are like me, and if you keep coming back I assume that you are at least a little bit like me, otherwise you wouldn't "get" me at all... you will blame yourself for this new development and become convinced that you have ruined his little life by having another baby, and that he has gone all Gandhi on you and will hunger-strike himself to death.

I know. I have been there. And let me tell you, Sister, all those post-partum hormones don't do you a bit of good when it comes to the guilt.

Which brings me back around to my actual point, which is so crucial to all parental happiness everywhere that I don't feel the slightest bit silly about putting it in bold text:

People, we need to Let It Go when it comes to our kids and food.

"Amy," I hear you say, "that's easy for you to say. Mary Grace thinks that tomatoes are a snack food."

Yes, I am blessed with two good eaters, but I'll tell you this. I think if you have a picky eater, you need to Let It Go Even More when it comes to your picky kid and food.

Let me back up and qualify this with the following self-reflective explanations. I have thought long and hard about food because I have a totally unhealthy relationship with it, myself. This unhealthy relationship has absolutely nothing to do with anything that my mother, father, or any other well meaning relative has ever said or done to me, so just relax. However, I am a really good cook, I come from a really long line of really good cooks, and I like food. A lot. And food likes me. And we are very fat and happy together.

I like fattening things, too, like chocolate and butter and cream cheese and every other cheese. I would vote for Ben and Jerry if they ran for president. I have had creme brulee that was more moan inducing than, well, this is a family blog, but you get the idea. If I were any more passionate about food, I'd be Italian.

BJ will nod and laugh when he reads this - I show people that I love them by feeding them. There is something very primal and satisfying, for me, about preparing a meal for my family and watching them enjoy it. The first Christmas gift I ever gave BJ had a strong chocolate and coffee theme. I cooked for him for our first Valentine's day (Hawaiian chicken). One of our best early dates was the picnic we took to Columbian Park (chicken and ranch pasta salad). Who else remembers meals that they ate 11 years ago?

Food figures prominently in all my memories of family and happiness and love and togetherness and closeness (deviled eggs, shrimp with cocktail sauce, grandma's coffee, heart-attack potatoes, Kathy's crescent rolls, peanut butter cookies, Welsh cookies, orange bowknots...). I can not imagine a family get together without food (and, more recently, wine, which makes family get togethers even more fun than they used to be).

Because I love my kids an awful lot, my natural tendency is to feed them an awful lot. This is fine when they're in the hummingbird phases, but it's not so good when they're in the photosynthesizing phases that all kids go through - the ones where they can happily live on Ovaltine and sunshine for three months, and still maintain their growth chart percentiles.

Therefore, I knew early on that I was going to have to rope it in, when it comes to food, if I didn't want to have to roll my kids to preschool. I remember discussing it with BJ before we even had kids - I think he was mad at me for giving Max too many scraps, and he said, "Our kids are going to be enormous if you feed them like this..."

He was right. I can't throw pieces of bacon under the table for the kids at breakfast. And since Purina doesn't make Human Baby Chow (yet), I needed to figure out a way to have a healthy relationship with food for my kids.

MG and C are clearly healthy, so I think I've done a very good job, so far, even though I tend to say, "Want a cookie?" more often than I probably should.

Here's what I have learned, and that is important when it comes to Letting It Go. 1) Toddlers generally eat one "good" meal a day, and they graze the rest of the day. 2) Even though they may have entire days where they refuse to eat anything but (fill in the blank), left to their own devices, toddlers will actually self-select a reasonably healthy diet over the course of a week or so.

I have compiled a list of Dos and Don'ts for toddler eating, which I will present to you now. Picture me as Moses, coming down from the mountain...

1. Thou shalt not force thy child to eat.
2. Thou shalt provide nutritious food for thine offspring.
3. Thou shalt not require that thy child clean his plate.
4. Thou shalt request that thy child try one bite of each offering (because it takes like 700 exposures before kids realize that they like some things... I'm still at 632 for a few things, myself, like Brussels sprouts... Ugh!)
5. Thou shalt not make a federal case of it if thy child refuses to try one bite.
6. Thou shalt allow thy child to have a peanut butter sandwich if he pronounces thy dinner "yucky."
7. Thou shalt not take it personally, even if thou hast slavethed all day.
8. Thou shalt serve one thing at every meal that thou knowest thy child will eat.
9. Thou shalt remember that no child has ever starvethed himself to death.
10. Thou shalt Let It Go.

Supernanny can go jump. That authoritarian little limey has some serious power issues going on. I think she only became a Nanny so that she would be the tallest person in the room, personally. And is there a University of Nanny anywhere? I don't think so. If you want to raise a mutant army of little robots who can't think for themselves and talk funny, be my guest. If you want your kids to speak to you after they leave the house, tell Supernanny to bugger off, and follow my advice. After all, I went to college and studied child development, applied behavioral analysis, etc. etc. etc. I am Supermommy, hear me roar.

And seriously... Little Gandhi is not going to starve himself in protest of his new sibling. He's fine. It's just a coincidence. Let It Go.


Heather said...

Photosynthesis! It's so true. You crack me up. I only hope she's eating something at daycare, because all she wants here is kabeyee yogoo and kakakat (strawberry yogurt and chocolate).

mytotalchaos said...

Thank you for this post. I needed to hear it from someone. I am obsessive about my oldest son's eating habits. Some days/weeks/months I don't know how he survives and continues to have so much energy! I have tried everything to no avail. I need to "Let It Go" and trust his instincts (for the most part at least). Thanks! :)