So here it is: I choose not to have mealtime battles. I don’t make kids try a bite of everything all of the time, I don’t encourage them to take one more bite or clear their plate and I don’t tell them this is dinner and if you don’t eat it you will just be hungry until morning. Mostly because it just isn’t a battle I have the strength to fight. I think food, and food allergies, and tummy problems, and weight loss (mine) are all difficult enough to deal with, and I simply can’t add another layer of power struggles at the dinner table.
And I sometimes feel guilty. I hear other moms telling stories about making their preschooler sit at the lunch table for an hour and a half until all his peas are gone. I’ve never done that. I feel sort of weak and meager in comparison. But, I do have a method to my madness (sort of).
It is my hope my girls will learn to listen to their internal fuel meter and learn to eat in response to their hunger — genuinely. How could I possibly know that Posey needs to eat 5 more bites of rice? I’m not in her tummy — and while she might not really be done, and it might mean she’ll ask for a snack in an hour, that’s OK. She’s learning about hunger cues and managing her meals and it is a process, right? I’d rather she learn to trust her tummy.
I am sensitive to how their bodies react to certain foods, and want to respect their self-imposed preferences and limitations. In learning to listen to their own bodies, kids just might be smarter than we think. Maybe there is a reason Millie never really finishes her milk, even though it sounds good when she sits down to the table. Instead of teaching her the milk is there and you’ve got to drink, I’d rather take note of the pattern and take something from that. Maybe I’ll even be smart enough to suggest we just have water, but in the meantime I like the trial and error that they can pick up on themselves.
In Posey’s 3 years of severe food allergies, we’ve imposed quite a few restrictions. Isn’t it fair to give her just a little control, too? From taking a special cupcake to birthday parties to no colored koolaid or orange juice, we’ve monitored her food pretty strictly. I would imagine it is developmentally appropriate for her to, in turn, assert a little of her own dietary control. So if she likes carrots one day (and eats the entire bag of baby carrots straight from the fridge, and then refuses to eat them for an entire week — at all — maybe she’s just sick of them. Right? I mean, with foods it is rarely black and white — it is a lot of grey and I try just to roll with it.
For good measure, and a little bit of guilt-control, the girls do get a multivitamin everyday. I don’t know if people still debate whether or not this is necessary, but we do a vitamin everyday. It is probably better for my conscious than it even is for the girls, but if it helps me relax a little at mealtime it is worth it.
I hope I’m not the only mealtime wimp in mommyland! Please tell me I’m not! Can you share your mealtime philosophy and why it works for your family?