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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Changing myself to get my toddler to eat

This morning as Annika devoured her cold cereal I thought about how a few weeks ago she would have just dumped it on her tray, or even worse, the floor.

But this morning she ate it. All of it. I sat and watched her as I slowly ate my own cereal. She peeled her orange (btw, she is 20 months, yeah, she peeled a friggin' orange!) and ate a couple of slices. She drank her water.

For those of you who don't have children, or have children, but they are not picky eaters, you may be wondering just why the hell I am writing a post about eating cereal and an orange.

But for those of you who are moms of toddlers and/or have kids who are/were picky eaters, you KNOW what I am talking about! Can I get a what what, wave your hands around in the air like you just don't care! Woo hoo!

So, yeah, Annika has been eating pretty decent amounts of food over the past few weeks. (Can you hear me knocking on wood and tossing some salt over my shoulder while wishing on a star?)

So what have I done differently?

Well, it could be a simple coincidence, but the longer I am a mom and the longer I write about mommying, I realize that coincidences aren't as common as I used to think they were.

So, (big, deep breath here), what's changed? Usually what's changed is me. Not her.

I slowed down. I sat with her and we laughed and talked. I ate my food slowly and let her see it going into my mouth. I decided to stop pushing her to eat so much. And she started eating.

Let me back up for a minute so you can get the full picture.

When we first started feeding Annika regular food she was about four months old. We fed her little bits of banana here and there for a couple of months, maybe some avocado. I tried making homemade apple sauce, but she didn't like it.

Then six months hit and we upped the food intake. She seemed to love it even though she often got more of it on herself than in her mouth. We had fun at the table. We'd laugh and sing songs. She'd eat. We still nursed just as often as she wanted.

I don't remember when the finickiness started, but I'm thinking it was sometime around a year old, which was in May.

I didn't worry too much about it because she was still nursing solid meal amounts and I wasn't planning on night weaning so she was getting nutrients around the clock.

Sometime in the fall I started getting pretty tired of the avid nursling that was getting bigger and bigger and yet, she was eating less and less. I was feeling angry and resentful of sitting still so much to nurse her throughout the day. We got so little done. She refused to eat. Food ended up on the floor more and more, which offended my sense of frugality. I was tired of cleaning it up. This whole eating mess was making me more and more irritable.

Even though my theory on food is that kids should be given lots of choices and not limited or controlled with food, I found myself giving her ultimatums that made my brain cringe. When she refused her dinner and asked to nurse I would tell her that she could nurse, but only after she ate her food. I hated doing it. But on the other hand, I wasn't feeding with love OR respect, so dang it, something needed to change. At least half of our nursing sessions I found myself staring off in to space or staring at the clock. Inside, I was rushing her even if I thought I wasn't showing it on the outside.

So what made me sit up and take notice?

The really obvious mimicking has begun. I know that she's been copying me from the beginning of her life. But lately I've noticed how much she copies me. Like how she rubs moisturizer on her lips when I am doing it or rubs her body while I am putting on lotion, or nurses her babies or puts a bag over her shoulder, slings her baby on her hip and tells me bye bye as she heads toward the door.

She's learning from me every second.

I noticed that I've been rushing her when we eat because that's what I do.

We are often in a hurry in the morning when we are getting ready to leave for errands or playgroups or whatever, so I found myself giving her a bowl of cereal and fruit and then hopping in the shower instead of sitting down with her. I'd come back to find the cereal on the floor and the fruit abandoned in favor of crayons or my cell phone.

So I decided to change it up. Now, I sit with her while we eat. I slowly place my food in my mouth when she is watching me. I eat what she eats mostly. I have slowed down.

Or maybe it's because of a growth spurt. What the hell do I know?

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