Why has food turned into a battlefield in our house?
Mealtimes have been deteriorating slowly. While Cameron was sick they got worse, with Cameron eating very little, but I can understand that appetites disappear when you’re sick sometimes. But this weekend he’s feeling better, and it’s not reflected in his mealtime behaviour.
Since Thursday noon he’s barely consumed the quantity he normally eats in one day. Breakfasts aren’t too bad, and lunch he’ll eat a few bites. But suppers?
Tonight at supper I served pork, zucchini, and potato. Just a few bites of each were on his plate. The zucchini was because last night he said he wanted that instead of the broccoli. “I don’t liiiiike it,” was his response for everything. He ate the potato. He said he wanted melon, but the rule I’ve set is that if he doesn’t eat his supper as given to him (within reason), then that’s it.
He played. He cried. He screamed. Finally he shoved his plate across the table – something he knows he is NOT supposed to do. “That’s rude,” I told him, and returned his plate to where it belongs. He pushed it again. I warned him, and replaced it. He did it again. He was screaming by this point, lifted up his hands, paused a heartbeat and yelled, “YOU FUCKING HEAD!” Yup, that name again.
Instant time out. I’m tired of him playing through time out on the chair in my room, so I took a cue from a new friend and made him stand facing the wall. The longest time out of his life so far – four minutes. It’s normally two, max three. Time up, I went to him and asked him to tell me why he was in time out. He replied, “Why I am in time out.” And so went the conversation. I told him several times … no go, he would not cooperate. Back in time out. Time out lasted roughly twenty minutes all told, of solid screaming and Mommy-ing. In the end I ‘won’, and he repeated after me what he had done that landed him in time out, and said sorry.
Back to the table. Back to, “I don’t liiiiike it!” I gave up, and reminded him that this was it, nothing else tonight.
I know that around this age a child’s appetite drops off. I know that it’s a horrendous chore for a little one to sit at the table and eat without anything to play with … except that he plays with his food, the fork, Nimoo, the chair, his feet. I know that a child wants to eat what he wants to eat, and anything else is horrible glop.
I also know that last night and tonight I presented Cameron with one element of supper that was new and uncommon. Pork. We don’t eat a lot of meat here. But to then refuse broccoli? Zucchini? Pick at potato?
My library of suppers in the freezer is still going strong, and I replace meals as the supply disappears. Some items have been put aside for now or for lunches – the stew was not a hit, nor was the chicken. But really, all Cameron seems to want is soup and chicken strips, soup and fish sticks, lasagna, spaghetti, and pizza. Nutritious, yes. But I WANT VARIETY. I want to have a ‘real’ meal now and then, meat, starch, veggies. I want to have a supper where we both sit down and eat, and talk. I want to eat grown-up meals now and then. This desire is leading to frustration on my part, and putting pressure on Cameron, which backfires nastily.
I want him to enjoy food, for supper to be ‘family time’, for him to grow up with a wide variety of foods. But instead, supper time is turning into fight time, a battle of wills, threats, bargains, and whining.
So now what? Give up? I flat-out refuse to cook two entirely separate suppers.
No … here’s my plan.
1. Cameron has a book called, “Teddy’s Supper,” where baby Teddy helps his Mommy prepare a supper. Our next ‘grown-up’ supper we will read that book, he’ll help me, and we’ll have pretty much the same supper as Teddy has: fish, carrots, peas, potatoes, yogurt. Now, it’ll be different fish (I don’t relish frying whole fish as I hate dealing with bones), and the peas will be frozen, but he might still get the idea.
2. Grown-up suppers once a week.
3. I need to chill a bit. If he eats, great. If not, oh well. The rule will be he must at least sit at the table for supper, no toys at the table.