Friday, May 11, 2012

Eat Your Dinner.

What's the point in yelling at a kid? What's the point in insisting a child eats ALL their dinner? What's the point in forcing a child to look 'neat and tidy' all day long?

I'll tell you something, something I'm not ashamed of. I don't yell very much. Well, okay, I certainly shout a lot from one room to the next, "Stop hitting please" and "Please stop yelling!" (I see the irony of that statement given my typical volume levels). I will snap some mornings, "Get your shoes on. NOW! It's time for school." "You have three minutes to get dressed. Then I am going to start taking away privileges." And so on, various other normal 7 am statements. But, if I have to be at work at 9 am, I generally try to leave the house no later than 8 am. That gives me a full hour to drop a baby off at daycare and drive 7 minutes to my workplace. I leave that early because I got in the habit when Bugs was little.

He took FOREVER to do any-damned-thing at all. I was furious one of 'those' mornings, and I was shouting at a 3 year old because he wanted to do up his seat belt himself. And I didn't feel like I had three minutes to let him do it. And I stopped and thought to myself. Three minutes? I'm screaming over a seat belt? That's wrong. Something is wrong with me.

And I decided that day, then and there, if I had to be some place at a certain time, I would figure out exactly how long I needed to get there. Then I would leave a half hour earlier than that. That way, if it takes the kids ten minutes to put coats on, fine. Ten minutes to walk to the car. Fine. Ten minutes to do up their seat belts alone. Fine.

It doesn't always work. Sometimes we do run late- and I do get stressed and snap at them. But once we're underway, and my blood pressure drops thirty points again, I apologize. Because they are just being kids. And they're good kids. And I'm only human (well, I'm an awesome human, but still just a human).

As to whether or not Brat eats her dinner. I. Don't. Care. She is the only one who can tell me how full, or 'unfull' her tummy is. I offer her a healthy meal, and she either eats it, or she doesn't. She has a normal appetite and eats when she is hungry, and not when she isn't. She has a normal, healthy body. Me forcing her to eat when she isn't hungry will teach her to ignore what her body tells her, and force food in, even when she doesn't want it. And I tried that approach once already. It's bullshit and it's stressful for the parent and the kid.

When Bugs was little, we followed what we were 'told' to do by the 'grown ups' and argued with him. Fought and fought and fought with him over his meals. To be fair, he was having more issues than just food, but since THAT was the only aspect of his life he felt he could control, he tried. He would refuse to eat anything homemade. And because his grandparents regularly took him to McDonald's (he had just 'lost' C, so no one wanted to tell him "No, that is not healthy"), or they made him KD, he would not eat anything healthy. Ever. He would intentionally throw up on the table if you tried to 'make' him eat- if you refused to buy him a 'hannaburger' he would vomit at you. That's all kinds of fun.

Eventually, we stopped trying to 'make' him eat at dinnertime. We started to tell him it could be his choice- but that if he didn't eat any of his dinner that night, it would go in the fridge and be his next day's meal. There would be no other substitution later for a "better" bedtime snack. If he got hungry, dinner would be re-served. Eventually, he stopped fighting against healthy food, and began to enjoy his meals. So, when we stopped trying to force, he made the decision- with a wee bit of coercion- to eat his healthy food first. Why didn't I think to let him do that sooner? To choose to eat healthy, by simply REFUSING to allow the fast food at all? Kids won't starve themselves. They'll eat when they get hungry. Just like I do.

My kids are also always messy. Brat's daycare teachers call her the "Disaster bird"- I went to pick her up the other day, she had half of her uniform undone, one leg out of a pair of tights (still wearing the other leg) and one boot on. I can't even discuss her hair. She likes it long, and loose. I can braid it, and spend half an hour fighting with her to get it smooth and flat. The minute she gets to school, she yanks the elastic out anyways. When she dresses herself, she layers like a homeless man trying to stay warm in February. But, she's happy, and she loves the way she looks. Why would I change that? Also, since I rarely brush my own hair, who the Hell am I to say she "must" brush hers?

So, how do my kids look to other people? I don't know. I don't care. My kids know that they are loved. We don't need to fight with them constantly over the small stuff (and thanks Dad), it's ALL small stuff. I will save my arguments for the teenage years, when I will need the energy even more than I need it now.

I could have freaked out last week because the 15 month old was playing with marbles; or yesterday when she picked up a 'throat sized' rock at the sitters- and put it directly into her mouth. I didn't. I trusted her to spit it out once she'd had it in there long enough to realize it didn't taste all that great.

What's the point in freaking out? I don't have the energy to do that. If she'd started choking- I am CPR certified, and have never once panicked under pressure yet. So, the fact that I haven't 'baby proofed' my home doesn't mean I don't worry- it means that I trust my children to listen, to learn, to respect and to stay safe (well, safe enough). And occasionally I do yell. I do shout. When it's warranted- not just because I want to be the boss. I AM the boss- but yelling isn't what gets me that respect- treating my kids with respect is what gets me that respect.

And yes, we tease, we bicker, we argue- but first and foremost is the love. And my kids have better senses of humour than most grown ups I know. So I KNOW I'm doing something right. Eat. That.

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