|I wrote the first part of this post in July and never posted it!|
When they're babies, there isn't so much actual being in charge of the baby. There's a lot of being in charge of what OTHER people do TO the baby, but not the baby itself. Because it doesn't do anything that can truly be controlled. A baby is the ultimate improbability drive. Illusions of control, abandon hope all ye that enter here.
You tell other people what they can and can't feed the baby, or put on the baby, or let the baby play with, or let the baby experience in some way. But you don't say to a baby, "Stop being a baby!" It's uncontrollable.
Children are a different story. Children are people with the ability to reason, to argue, and most importantly, to lose a fight.
Today, DD lost a fight.
Our Mary Poppins was here for dinner with the girls and I (M being at school), and she was refusing to eat her food. How dare I try to feed her spaghetti. With fake meatballs, no less. All she wanted to eat was Gerber's version of cheezy poofs.
When it became clear that SI didn't want her noodles either, I began the bargaining stage of any argument with a child. "Will you eat (something else relatively good for you and simple for me to fetch) instead of this?"
SI agreed readily. "More beets!" she says. Having had beets for dinner the previous night, and having a ready-made tupperware of leftovers in the fridge, I was more than happy to oblige. SI got her plate loaded up with beets, and happily started chowing down.
"How about you, DD? Do you want some beets?"
"No! Poofs!" She pointed at the canister of cheezy poofs.
"You can have a cheezy poof if you eat some of your fake meat ball. Can you take one bite?"
DD agreed, but apparently thought she could outsmart me. Her "one bite" of her fake meat ball (and for those of you who have never tried Linda Loma's "Tender Rounds," you should know that they are awesome and delicious) was actually a lick.
"I saw you, you need to take a bite. Can you put the fake meat ball in your mouth?"
She opened her mouth wide. put the forkful of fake meat inside, and then removed it with a look of mischievous triumph.
"No, you need to put it in your mouth and chew. Can you chew it up and swallow it?"
She repeated the previous ruse, this time following it up by taking a few cursory licks of the contents of her fork.
"No. You need to actually eat a bite. Eat a bite, DD."
The screaming began. I forced the bite into her mouth, and hysterics ensued.
I pulled her chair to the side of the table, got down at her level, and spoke very quietly.
"You need to eat something healthy," I told her. "You can't just have cheezy poofs for dinner. You don't have to have your meat ball, but you have to have something else. Remember, 'a dinosaur tries every new thing, at least one small bite.' Can you try one bite of something for mommy?"
The crying continued, but she nodded. I grabbed the smallest piece of beet off of SI's plate.
"Here is one small bite of beets. Can you try this for mommy?"
Without any hesitation, she took the piece of beet and put it directly into her mouth. She did not pull a face, she did not spit it out. She swallowed it almost instantly.
Our Mary Poppins and I both cheered and clapped our hands. DD was over the moon. She clapped, she smiled, she laughed, and then she said the words I had been longing to hear...
She ate five more pieces of beets before she remembered to demand her cheezy poofs. Which I happily gave her. She also got some green peas and a gummy vitamin for her trouble.
I felt like a freakin' rock star. I made my kid eat a vegetable. I made my picky eater eat something that she had no interest in, when she was tired and frustrated and irrationally childlike. And I feel amazing about it.
I revisit this today because we've been having food problems in my house. My mother has been here taking care of us while I've been somewhat unwell, and I have to say... grandparents suck at discipline. My children were clean and approximately fed, but the usual rules of the house were completely gone. The children sensed weakness, and as a result turned up the charm, smiled and giggled, and got absolutely everything they wanted. From unlimited milk in their oatmeal to treks through the torrential rain for donuts.
This morning, I managed to get my kids to eat oatmeal- WITHOUT the recent standard unlimited milk and brown sugar (a pinch at a time, but it still gave them the illusion of control). And I won without a real fight. I just stated the rules firmly, distracted the children, and...
Breakfast! For the third day in a row, my kids have actually eaten the breakfast that was set down in front of them, without incident.
There's something odd about having to sort of correct after your parents have been around. After all, they're your model of parenting. It's kind of baffling that somehow, with your kids, they could be so... so much worse at it.
But as my father reminded me, it's not their job to be good at parenting their grandkids. It's MY job. They get to just have as much fun as they want, and then go home. M and I have to stay here, and we have to be the disciplinarians. WE have to be the parents.
And today, we kind of rock at it. :)