Saturday, September 29, 2012

We may only have tonight

I wanted this weekend to be Big and Special, as it's T's last couple of days with us all to herself.  Instead it started out with the Great Oatmeal Standoff of 2012 which left more than one of us in tears and all of us a little out of sorts for a good portion of the day.

It was the same drama that plays itself out in every household at some point.  Parent serves a meal, kid refuses to eat it.  Kid makes a request (in this case, extra maple syrup), promising to eat it, then doesn't.  Power struggle ensues.  No one wants to "lose".

This hasn't happened before.  T is pretty easygoing about food - we give her a couple of choices and she picks one.  But today she pitched a fit, spit it out, and got everyone all riled up.  We found ourselves in a situation where we couldn't back down, or at least that's how it felt at the time.

After both of us took a long nap, I figured a way to disengage without giving in would be to present the oatmeal again at lunch, with something else to eat chosen by us.  (In our case, a hot dog.) No more choices would be offered today (we typically let her choose most things - what to wear, activities, etc.).  When she turned down our choices, we told her that if she ate the oatmeal like she promised in the morning, then she could make her own choices.  Apparently this wasn't worth it.  (I have to give her credit for her stubbornness, er commitment to her principles.) 

The oatmeal reappeared at dinner, along with shrimp, which she really likes.  She finally agreed to eat the oatmeal in order to get more shrimp so we alternated bites of oatmeal and shrimp.  She proceeded to eat the entire bowl of oatmeal without incident, much to my surprise.  She got her choices back - what to wear to bed, what to watch before bed, etc.  And even earned a star for her potty-training chart.  (She's 2 half-days away from getting a toy she's wanted for a couple of weeks.)

I don't feel very good about how this went down.  In general, it makes me very uneasy to "force" a particular food on someone.  I'm not willing to be a short order cook, for sure - we let her choose one of two or three options, typically, so that she'll eat something, but if she doesn't want it, she can choose to eat it or not eat it. There are no other options until the next meal or snacktime.  But I don't feel the need to "exert my authoritay" on her, certainly not on something this inconsequential.  But age 3 is a bit...difficult.

We got into the power struggle, and couldn't get out.  I was tired having barely slept last night (thank you heartburn and snoring).  She was tired from her messed up sleep schedule for 2 weeks, despite our best efforts to get her back on track.  TJ was annoyed about the spitting, my grouchiness, and the tantrum.  We found ourselves "stuck".

I'm still not sure what the right course of action would have been - maybe not even getting her to *try* the oatmeal would have preempted the spitting and tantrum.  Or perhaps this was an unavoidable train wreck given everyone's lack of sleep.

Sigh.  But like the old adage about never going to bed with unresolved issues in a relationship, I feel like we worked this out as best we could.  And tomorrow is another day.


  1. That stinks. Sometimes you get into a struggle and there's just no way out.

    With my kids, now that they're older, I will just tell them to go get something they can get on their own, usually string cheese. I've got a super-picky eater, and he regularly gets a quesadilla or pb&j instead of dinner. He *still* whines and complains and carries on when I'm enforcing our "one bite rule." (still! like I'm killing him!) When Emmett was younger, I thought about making him write down what he'd asked for for breakfast because he'd change it on me so often and then claim that he hadn't!

    These issues are definitely in the "fumble around until you find something that works" space of parenting, and every kid really is different. Tomorrow will be better!

    1. Interesting that you have the one bite rule. I was wondering about whether we should do that. (That's what prompted the spitting this morning, incidentally, and what sent us over the edge, I think.)

      We do have a rule that if she asks us for something, or more of something, she has to take at least one bite before deciding she doesn't want it. Since she initiated the request, she needs to follow through, even if she ends up changing her mind.

      Now I'm just thinking about how much fun it'll be to work this out with Baby X' as well. :)

    2. I didn't have a "one bite" rule for a loooong time, but Luke is so amazingly picky and eats such a limited number of foods, I wanted to have a way to try to find more things he might like. Also, I read an article somewhere about "training" their palate to like more foods requiring zillions of exposures, which we can't get because he just won't try new things unless I force him. Seriously - when he was a toddler he refused to try *ice cream* for over a year, and it took us about a year to convince him to try chocolate cream pie. (He loved both from the first taste, duh.) If she's generally adventurous with food, I'd skip the one-bite rule in general (though if she asked for something specifically and then rejected it I can understand the frustration - they *kill* me when they do that).

      I consider it a major victory that he recently agreed to eat mac&cheese with ground turkey in it. He likes mac&cheese and he eats turkey burgers, but had completely refused mac&cheese with turkey in it. I convinced him that even though it wasn't his favorite, it was ok, and sometimes we have to eat things that aren't our favorite because they're good for our body to grow.

  2. I have no clue about what to do with the power struggle. I applaud your very rational and well executed plan after breakfast. My little one is so stubborn there is absolutely nothing I could force on her, and she almost never will even eat something from our hands. Everything has to be self fed. At any hint of a struggle, she just shuts down, so I have given up the struggle. Either she eats or she doesn't. Avinash is okay generally, but we have started using TV as a motivator some nights, which I hate. I second that sigh :)

    1. Yeah, TV is a huge motivator here too because we use it so sparingly. I feel like my entire day is a negotiation of sorts - "if you do this, *then* we can do x". It seems like such a game of coercion. :(

      But in general, I'm sure that kids won't starve themselves, and our pediatrician said to look at their diet over a *6* week period before freaking out that it's not "balanced". 6 weeks is an eternity in toddler-land...

  3. I'm no help my youngest is 11 and my oldest is 18 there is not much in the battle of food anymore. The only rule we have is eat what you put on your plate, lol. If you don't think you are going to eat it then I wouldn't put it on your plate.

  4. oh dear.. I don't envy you. been there, done that and it was not pretty. you're doing awesome though.. the balance is there. not giving in, but also not backing out from your decision. *hugs* hang in there.

  5. I'm right there with you in the threes. It's difficult and at times maddening. For us the struggle isn't with food, but with getting his diaper on. I'd just leave him if we didn't have carpet everywhere. The bad thing is how upset I let the whole situation get me. Sigh.

  6. I think this is pretty normal, and I wouldn't worry about it too much. You handled it better than I would have, I'm sure. I think you might run into more if these kinds of situations after X' arrives, but that's normal too. :) Things get better, but just be prepared for some acting out and behavior that you might not have seen from T before as she adjusts to having a sibling. But soon, they'll be playing together and you'll have plenty of opportunities to use that new DSLR! Good luck tomorrow!!

  7. I heard on the radio the other day that the "not going to sleep angry" thing about relationships is possibly a myth. They said that it's better to try to remember why you love each other, say it if you can, then sleep on it and wake up to a new day refreshed (haha I know it's hard to feel refreshed when you get no/bad sleep!!) It made sense; I think we all deal with conflict/anger differently. For me I want to talk it out right away, while my hub would rather stew and think and then talk later. When you have different coping styles... fun ensues. Not sure what a toddler's coping style is, maybe freak out for hours, then forget about it? :)

    Hope it goes well tomorrow Mama!

    1. Yeah, in our house we have different coping styles as well so we don't really do the "don't go to bed angry". But for me, I can't sleep well with unresolved STUFF so I try to get to some kind of solution I can live with, even if the other person is still stewing.

      I'm sure the toddler does not put that much thought into it ;)


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