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Posts Tagged ‘preschoolers’

  All parents have child care tasks they detest. Mine is brushing and flossing my kid’s teeth. I would seriously, honestly, rather wipe my kid’s butt ten times a day. And this week, I had an actual bona fide fight with my kid about the aformentioned and detested task.

The Boo has always been a bit silly about getting his teeth brushed, asking me to play the part of his dentist and demanding hugs when it’s my turn to brush. So I allow lots of time to get through the routine of letting him start, then hitting all the hidden spots before we take the same tack with flossing. It takes a while, but we get the job done and have a bit of fun along the way.

But this week was different. Maybe because he was home sick for two days, maybe because of the full moon, or maybe because he’s growing up a bit. Whatever the reason, he suddenly amped up the fake hug tactic, and it bugged me. I just wanted to get the job done and move on, but he wanted to make a never-ending story out of it. In frustration, I pushed him away mid-hug, and he pushed back. I made a speech in a loud voice, and he stuck his fingers in his ears. I yelled, and he yelled. Finally, I left the bathroom.

Eventually I got him to cooperate, but things were no better that night. After I blew him kisses and closed his door, words from a very wise parenting coach came back to me: You can’t have a tug of war if one person drops the rope.

The next morning, I dropped the rope – by telling him the truth.

Me: “Honey, can I tell you a secret?”

Boo, eyes wide: “Sure!”

Me: “I don’t like brushing your teeth. It’s not fun for me. I do it because it helps keep your teeth clean so you don’t have to get so much scraping done at the dentist. I don’t like the hugs you give me before I brush your teeth because they’re not real hugs. I prefer to have a real hug when we’re done.”

He was still listening, so I went on.

Me: “I’m done fighting with you about brushing your teeth. If you want me to help you, that’s great. But if you don’t want me to help you, that’s fine too. And that might mean more scraping and maybe a cavity.But it’s your choice. You get to decide.”

He thought about it, opened his mouth for flossing, and then started up the old games. I threw the flosser in the trash and walked out, saying I understood his choice. He protested and said he wanted me to floss, really, please floss.

I didn’t floss his teeth that morning. I reminded him of the choices again that night, and after reminding me that a cavity might be one of the consequences of not brushing, he opened his mouth like a baby bird. A baby bird that’s making his own choices.

And then the next day we were back to square one, or maybe square one and a half. So now I’m singing him a “mystery song” every time it’s my turn to brush or floss. It’s working, for now, and when it no longer works I’ll change my tactics again and cross my fingers. 

This, my friends, is life with a four-year-old. 

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 Boo, cradling stuffed animals: I had two babies!Me: Congratulations! What’s this one’s name?

Boo: Zinc lozenge. 

Me: What do you call the other one? 

Boo: Green dot.

Me: …
Later…

Boo: Zinc lozenge likes to play baseball.

Me: Oh, great!

Boo: Now he’s tired so I have to sit on him to keep him warm. 

Me: …

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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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 You are four years old.

You recently started painting at home on a regular basis after you asked for, and got, a set of tempera paints. The first thing you did was pour them into a plate to see how they mixed. Following a conversation about the definition of “wasting,” you are painting on paper plates, repurposed paper products, and yes, paper. 

You can write your name. You talk yourself through each pencil stroke and start over if you don’t get the result you want. It’s clearly a big effort that you enjoy and are proud of. Two days before your birthday, you wrote your name on your cousin’s birthday card — without talking yourself through it. 

Your favorite toy is Snap Circuits, and has been since Christmas. It is the first thing that has held your interest for longer than a week, and the first thing since take-apart cars that you both seek out and spend significant amount of time playing with. 

You know how to (safely!) plug in and unplug electrical cords. With supervision, to be clear.

You grew an inch, gained a pound and went up a shoe size between September and December. Then you gained half a pound in the first three weeks of 2016. Mama predicts you will need new shoes again well before summer. 

You are increasingly interested in letters, words and reading. You especially like to put magnetic letters into long, silly lines for Mama to pronounce. 

You no longer take a nap, but you do have a daily, diaper-free rest time during which you listen to the Sound of Music soundtrack. Occasionally you fall asleep, and then Mama wakes you up so that you don’t stay awake until 10 p.m.

You began calling Mama “Ma” about a month ago, which cracks her up. You don’t understand why, and sometimes you get upset when she laughs about it.

You gagged after trying a half teaspoon of pasta sauce. As in, Mama thought you were going to hurl. 

You can dress and undress yourself, though you sometimes plea for help, as when a sleeve refuses to cooperate and “hurts” you. You struggle with your jacket and mittens — unless there is fresh snow waiting for you, in which case you have yourself ready in thirty seconds flat. 

You (mostly) clear your place after meals and (mostly) ask to be excused (thank you, preschool!). You are exceedingly fidgety at suppertime, but the adult-size chair is at least partly to blame.

You are fascinated by Grammie’s sewing machine, the dishwasher, the portable heater, and anything else that has buttons, moving parts, switches, and/or allows you a peek inside.

You went through a phase of asking for stories about flex wire at bedtime. As in, a roll of electrical wire that waits in the garage for someone to come get it to fix something (a baby monitor, a ceiling fan, etc.).

You beg to go to the Science Center on a regular basis.

You can easily be motivated by the promise of marshmallows, chocolate biscuits, or chocolate chips.

You love dense, complex books with detailed illustrations, like Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House and Katy and the Big Snow, and How Things Work. 

You remain fascinated by plants and seeds, and have taken on the job of watering a few plants in the house. Mama explained that the “plants” on the deck don’t need watering because they’re dead, and now you’re excited about planting seeds next month.

You said “I want to eat cake” when Mama asked what you wanted to do for your birthday. When pressed, you said you wanted a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and coconut on top.

You helped Mama make your birthday cake and frosting. When it came time to put coconut on top, we had a chat about a party guest who doesn’t like coconut, and decided to offer it on the side instead.

You had a small family party at home. You carefully selected the piece of cake you wanted, and then Mama dropped it on the table right in front of you, prompting you to clap your hands to your face, Home Alone style. Once Mama was able to stop laughing long enough to get the cake on your plate, you dug in face first. 

You received a second set of Snap Circuits for your birthday, and your reaction was to say, “Oh my! oh my!” over and over. 

You are four years old, and you still slide down the stairs on your bottom. 

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