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Archive for the ‘Growth & Development’ Category


“I think it’s a preemptive strike for starting Kindergarten.”

My husband gave me a doubtful look. All three of us were snuggled on the bed, with the Boo nestled as close to me as he could get. He’d been tearily bemoaning this week’s summer camp experience: There are different teachers! Different kids! I really missed you Mama and then I was just really sad! He told me he was sad until they went out to the playground. That’s two solid hours of sadness. He told me he couldn’t stop crying and I cringed as I told him I still remember how scary that felt to me as a kid. 

His deluge of emotion took us by surprise because he’s going to summer camp at the preschool he’s attended for the past three years, and he has several close school buddies there with him. But then I thought, maybe he’s practicing for Kindergarten by going through all the same mechanisms he’ll need to cope with that sea change in a few months. Kind of like anticipatory grief, a recognized syndrome that I experienced when my dad died, slowly, following a massive stroke. 

The Boo is keenly aware that his school days are on the horizon — he enjoys looking at the calendar to see what’s already happened and what’s coming up, and his first day of school is already marked in red Sharpie. We’ve visited the school for his skills assessment (!) and we drive by to say hi to the building every now and then. 

When I told him they have a preview day so he can meet his teacher and find his classroom, he said, “Why would I want to do that?” When I asked if he wanted to shop for a first day of Kindergarten outfit, he shouted “No!” in an offended tone and then asked why I had suggested it. 

Thinking back, these are telling reactions, and classic kid strategy: If I hide my face, you can’t see me. If I refuse to acknowledge the idea of starting school, it won’t happen. I can’t hear you, LA LA LA! Kindergarten starts in roughly eight weeks, and there’s so much he doesn’t understand about it that it may as well be a trip to Mars. But summer camp is happening right now, providing a handy proving ground for What To Do When Things Change. 

My child’s strategies this week have consisted mostly of what I think of as the Velcro Goodbye. On Tuesday morning he begged to stay with me; I nearly had to drag him out of the car. In the classroom, he needed at least a dozen hugs and snuggles and kisses, asking for “one more” over and over through near-sobs. I wiped his tears away and then put a tissue in his pocket in case he needed it later. The whole process took about 15 minutes (whereas last week he turned to play 30 seconds after we walked in). I managed to hold it together while I was with him, but fell apart as soon as I walked out of the building and spent the rest of the day wandering around in a headachey daze.

Wednesday morning was better, but he was still teary and wanted me to stay in his classroom to cuddle with him and then give him umpteen hugs and then wipe his tears and then give him a tissue to put in his pocket. 

Thursday morning, I had to scurry back to the house for an appointment, so I prepared him for a shorter Velcro Goodbye. He wasn’t happy about it, but he did it. No tears, maybe five minutes of cuddling and five hugs (we counted them down together) and then he turned to play with another boy as I was leaving. 

All week, I’d been giving the Boo pep talks and telling him I know he can handle this challenge. I was honestly a little frustrated that my brainwashing wasn’t working. But now, because he did the grunt work of getting through it, he knows he can handle it.

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Last week as an old work buddy was doing me the tremendous favor of cutting apart the Boo’s school photos (seriously I would pay an extra five bucks for that because I canNOT cut a straight line) I said something misty about how much my kid has changed since September. My friend said something really smart in response: We all change all the time, but we don’t think we do. Well, that was the spirit of it. I don’t recall the precise words because Baby Ate My Brain. 

Anyway, it’s gotten me thinking about the changes I’ve undergone this school year, right along with my kid. 

He’s grown taller and gotten heavier, while I have grown wider. (Seriously, Mother Nature?!)

He’s gained confidence in his physical abilities by exploring the creek behind his school and pushing the playground to its limits. I’ve done the same by trying wacky fitness classes in order to write about them. 

He’s acquired a taste for Rush, ACDC and Ozzy Osbourne, and I’ve learned to tolerate them. 

He’s gained more sophisticated debate skills, and I’ve developed new parrying techniques that (mostly) don’t piss him off. 

He’s discovered the joys of extended day, and I’ve discovered I can get professional, paid writing done during those glorious additional kid-free hours. Or catch up on Call the Midwife (it takes hours for the Ugly Cry Face to dissipate).

He’s moved into the “I can do it/I know how/Let me try” phase, and I’ve learned to sit on my hands/say yes/not react to the appearance of a mess on the floor I JUST cleaned.

He’s learned how to write his name, and I’ve learned to decode his scrawl.

He’s made great strides in negotiating relationships with his peers, and I’ve learned how to negotiate Facebook troll attacks.

He started wearing glasses a few weeks after I started wearing stronger bifocals. 

You get the idea, but I’ve saved the best for last: At the beginning of the year, the Boo reported in horrified Junior Narc tones that some of his classmates used potty talk. Last week he told me, eyes a-twinkle, “I do potty talk at school now Mama!” Then he waited for a reaction. All I gave him was a bored, “Oh really?”

See, even a Mama-Come-Lately can learn new tricks. Happy Summer, everyone!

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I’ll have one of each, please.

We have had some successes on this week’s Voyage to the Land of Rainbow Foods, but since the Boo started wearing glasses on Thursday (!) I’ve dialed down the food efforts a bit. He’s got a lot on his plate, so to speak.

So I’ve had some time to think about my role in all this. And I’ve realized something: My expectations are getting in the way of our process.

For example. I have this vision in my head: I lovingly prepare a gorgeous pizza from scratch. I take it from the oven, let it cool to the perfect temperature, cut it into kid-size slices, and put one on a bright purple plate. I turn, place the plate in front of him, and he takes a bite. And smiles. And says, “Mama, I love this!” And then he eats it! The whole slice!

And then I snap out of it. Ain’t gonna happen. My fantasy is getting in the way of the reality in front of me, tripping up the food journey before it even starts. How can I help the Boo get anywhere if I’m anchored to something that doesn’t exist? Deep, I know, but sometimes parenting is like that. Things just come up.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about my feelings of failure around his eating habits, and how that affects how I am with him. I feel guilty. I feel like it’s entirely my fault. And to an extent, it is. I’m the one putting the food in front of him. I’ve known he needed some serious guidance, but picture a little kid on the floor kicking and screaming, “I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna!” That kid is me. Or was. 

And the reality is, picky eaters just… are. And it’s no one’s fault, it just… is. But when you feel bad about yourself as you approach the task of getting your kid to open his mind and mouth to new foods, it ain’t great for either of you. I was getting impatient. Angry, even. Why do I have to deal with this? Why won’t my kid just eat pizza and hot dogs like every other kid on the planet? What the hell kind of kid won’t eat cheese?

Mine. 

Time to get over my issues so I can help him with his. 
 

 

 

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  We are lucky to have a world-class symphony orchestra in town, and they are smart enough to have a kid’s series. Last Sunday, we took the Boo to see an hour-long Dr. Seuss-themed program, preceded by an “instrument playground” with lots of very patient people helping kids try whatever instrument they wanted to. Herewith, the highlights.

– You went to the Symphony for the first time, with Mama and Daddy and Grammie. You had been excited about it for weeks, and got upset one day when you thought we had forgotten about going.

– You were lukewarm about trying out instruments, but made a beeline for a flute — and made a sound on it pretty quickly. We all thought you’d be really into the percussion options. You were not.

– You were enthralled by the size and beauty of the hall itself, and spent a lot of time going in and out of it through different doors, then down hallways and back into it. It seemed like you were trying to get a handle on how it all fit together. You said “ooh!” every time you went in.

– You sat in Mama’s lap for a good hunk of the show, but also sat in your seat, and stood, and stood on the seat. To be fair, you had had an early nap and the show took place on the first day of the time change. 

– You listened intently and clapped when you were supposed to. We explained that the different colors of shirts the players were wearing represented different sections — strings, brass, etc. — and you thought that was pretty cool.

– You needed to get up to pee once, and then to poop once, two minutes before the end of the show. 

– You said, “They said join us next time, can we go join them, Mama?” This was the day after the concert, during a quiet play time.

– You went to the symphony for the first time, and you will be going back. Mama bought the tickets yesterday. 

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  Hello friends! First let me thank you all for your comments and stories of your own picky eaters. Knowing I’m not in this alone makes me feel like less of a failure. Why does it feel like a failure? Is it the weird information-intensive parenting culture we have in this country right now? Maybe I need a post on that…

Anyway. Last week we began a voyage, as I like to think of it, into the Land of Rainbow Foods. I decided to shove off using a bit of guilt as an oar. Specifically, my kid’s promise to his doctor to try new foods.

When we got home from the Boo’s 4-year checkup, it was still early enough for some cartoons. I usually plunk down a bowl of apple slices next to him when he watches TV (partly because I cannot abide crumbs). This time I put a few rainbow baby carrots in the bowl. The Boo brought one to me, protesting, and I reminded him of his promise. He went away, took a minuscule bite, and brought the carrot back to me. Then he did the same with the other two carrots in the bowl. The bites were so comedically small it was hard to tell they were there at all, but they were. And he had fulfilled his end of the deal.

I believe they refer to this as baby steps. It’s also interesting to note that he did exactly what I asked, no more, no less. I believe they call that meeting expectations.

Meanwhile, I’ve been putting new or different foods on his plate, especially at snack time, with limited success. And I’ve eased off on the “you promised Dr. E” thing because frankly it feels weird to say that all the time. I want him to try new foods because he’s curious about what’s out there in the food universe, not because of a directive some middle-aged guy he sees once or twice a year.

Meanwhile, we had something of a breakthrough. The Boo and I were making chocolate snack balls the other day (mostly dates and oats and nuts*), which was a treat for him because a) food processor! and b) he gets to pour stuff in and push buttons. I had asked him to dump in the cashews, and out of the corner of my eye I saw him put one in his mouth. And chew it. And swallow it. I asked how he liked it, and he said, “It was yucky, Mama.”

Apparently I should have left well enough alone. But I learned, or rather remembered, something important about my kid: He doesn’t like an audience. Ask him to sing a song he knows and he’ll say he forgot how. Walk away and you’ll hear him singing it to himself five minutes later.

I reminded my husband of this tendency one night at dinner when we were both cajoling the Boo to try some roasted veggies I’d put on his plate. And as soon as the parental Eye of Sauron was off him, he tried the quinoa-farro salad I’d put on there. And declared it yummy.

I believe they call that “progress.”

 

*I adapted my recipe from this one at the excellent Minimalist Baker. All amounts approximate: 1 1/2 cups of oats, 12-14 medjool dates (I like the nice gooey ones from the produce section at Trader Joe’s, make sure to remove the pits), 1/2 cup cashews, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, cinnamon to taste, maybe 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut, and 3-4 ounces good quality melted bittersweet chocolate. Whiz until pulverized, form into balls, store in fridge, don’t eat too many or your gut will yell at you. Sometimes it’s not sticky enough and I add some coconut oil, maple syrup, honey or a few more dates.

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Not shown: Cheerios, apples and chocolate milk.

As I reported in a previous post, the Boo recently gagged on half a teaspoon of tomato sauce. Which I had cajoled him into trying. I really thought he’d like it, or at least think it was okay, and then I really thought he was going to puke. It was astounding, and sobering, and it brought a big truth home to me: This kid needs to expand his food horizons. And I need to steer that ship. 

I don’t particularly want to steer the ship, and the reason is simple: I hate conflict. Being agreeable and saying yes as much as I can are two of my central parenting values. (Unless I’m short on sleep and then I’m… grumpy.) But clearly being agreeable is not serving me well in terms of raising a healthy eater. 

And here’s the funny thing: I don’t shy away from conflict when I’m limiting screen time or nudging the Boo to do things I know he can do but doesn’t want to. So I don’t really have that excuse. And now I’ve committed to more conflict in the name of my kid’s health. But, me being me, I’m going to minimize the conflict, and do what I can to make it fun. And I’m going to tell you all about it here. Which will also keep me accountable, because I’m not sure I could deal with publicly confessing to total failure. 

I’ve already begun on the conflict-limiting aspect by enlisting our pediatrician. At the Boo’s four-year checkup, when he asked if we had questions or issues, I brought up the Beige Diet (see photo above). The conversation went something like this:

Me: Blah blah terribly selective blah blah it’s at least partly my fault. 

Doc: So does he eat fruit?

Me: Yes, he loves apples.

Doc: What about bananas?

Me and hubs simultaneously: Sometimes. 

Doc: Giant Eye Roll, internal Oy Vey. 

We went on in that vein for a while, and the doctor gave Boo stern instructions to try new foods. Several times. Boo agreed, nodding solemnly. That agreement is what I’ve been leaning on to minimize conflict. 

Tune in next week to find out how that’s working out. 

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Mama, I’m peeing in my diaper!

Are you? That’s very interesting, thanks for sharing that with me. 
Mama, I’m scared. 

I promise you won’t fall in. 

Don’t look at the poop! It’s a private poop. 

Okay, I won’t look at it. 

Mama, I peed on the potty and now I want a gummy bear. 

Wash your hands first. 

I want to poop in a diaper! I want to poop in a diaper! I want to poop in a diaper!

No, honey, you’re a big boy now. 

Are you so proud of me, Mama?

I’m so proud of my big boy!

I don’t want pants! I don’t need pants!

We put on pants when company is coming, honey. 

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