I can’t even start writing this post without sighing in shame and discouragement.
Why is it so hard to feed a kid?
I know they all have their own wonderful, unique, and sometimes downright aggravating personalities (not like any of us adults at all, no, no), but when I find myself in a what-do-I-feed-my-picky-eater conundrum, I can’t help but think, YOU’RE the mom. YOU decide what goes in the shopping cart, and YOU decide what goes on the dinner plate or high chair tray.
So why do I give in so easily when he wants a treat?
Yes, I usually let my kids pick out one treat at the supermarket or Target, within reason — if it’s not a food item, for example, I’m not going to just shell out $60 for some trains or even $2 for some mystery plastic dinosaur straw. I do have boundaries. Yet when he wants his favorite junky crackers, or some kind of “cookie”-like sweet food (nowadays, for some reason, he is drawn to the colorful cereal boxes), I give in. And when I’m at the grocery store with them more than once a week — which happens more often when it’s so nice out like it is now — we end up with more than one treat for him in the house at a time, which bugs me not just because it means I’ve given in to his whining but also because we ALL end up picking at it. Cereal bars with cancer-causing caramel color, desserts that give me heartburn, Cheerios, Froot Loops, apple juice…I know I used to be a big proponent of everything in moderation, but that’s changed for me lately. And so I find myself feeling guilty for putting an item in my cart for him that I’ve just let him open in the store so he won’t have a complete meltdown and cause a scene.
Yeah, that’s pretty much what it comes down to. He gets all red in the face, goes blotchy on me, screams and cries…I’m that mom. He’s that kid.
How did we get here?
It makes me think I should always shop alone, but that’s unrealistic. It makes me think I should put my foot down more often, and then I’m immediately faced with the realization that then he will be that screaming kid in the supermarket. So finally, here I am, telling myself that I just need to stop caring if people stare, smirk, or get annoyed while my kid whines about Corn Pops and donuts. The tantrums aren’t going to stop any time soon, after all. He puts up a fight when he doesn’t want to nap, leave the park, get in the car, or take his shoes off. He cries when he discovers we aren’t going to grandma’s house or tumbling or any other place on the planet more fun than Jewel-Osco. He sounds like a little devil, I know, but what can I say? He’s entered the terrible-two stage a couple of months early, and I find that it sometimes comes down to picking my battles.
Part of me feels like I wish I were a tiger mom. Or someone with more time and money to plan more activities, engage in more outings, make more little buddy friends. Mommy guilt comes in all shapes and sizes, you see; it isn’t just for people who can’t breastfeed or have to go back to work. For me most often it comes in the cracker aisle, the entrance to Trader Joe’s, and the west wing of Target. As I caught Lisa Leake saying the other day, though, it is true that “kids — for the most part — will eat what parents/adults give them, so it’s up to us to offer decent choices.” He’s started liking string cheese again, which makes me happy. And the other day at church, he wanted “bears” more than any of the other (less healthy) options I had on hand — it seems he calls anything small and sweet a bear because they bear a resemblance to his sugar-free/dye-free gummy bear vitamins. And today, I’m proud to say, he was chanting “pizza, pizza” as he finished up the last piece of a whole-wheat pita toasted up in the oven with marinara and part-skim mozzarella.
I take the victories with the losses, and I pledge to make small changes every day to decrease the number of battles — because what I don’t want is a war. And although there’s also that little voice inside my head that wants to make sure he maintains his “curve” on the weight chart and doesn’t end up getting too skinny because he doesn’t like what I put in front of him, that’s probably just an excuse, too. There aren’t many starving children in my neighborhood, from what I can see. I don’t want to be a pushover. If a child doesn’t respect you at age 2 — whether about food choices or sitting still or what constitutes a “jacket” — it’s all downhill from there!