Monday, April 9, 2012

Short-Order Cook

With the birth of our daughter, Lauren, we became first time parents.  As first time parents we made lots of mistakes and learned lots of lessons.  Seeing as how that was over 7 years ago, and both of our children are happy and healthy, I think we're doing an ok job.

Lauren was an exceptionally easy baby/toddler/little girl, and still to this day she doesn't stress us out too much.  But one "phase" she did go through, which I believe to be very common with kids, is a picky-eater phase.  There was a time, when she was eating solid foods pretty well, that she would only eat certain things.  She went through a phase where I swear the only thing keeping her alive was crackers.  Then there was the hot dog phase.  And finally, the chicken nuggets phase.  Just about the time that I considered saying something to her doctor about it, she would get over that particular phase and move on to something else.

Now, being a relatively new mom, I got a little tired of unsolicited advice, so when my child was going through something that I knew wouldn't kill her, I didn't say much about it to anyone.  Looking back, that was stupid.

I remember having a conversation with one of the smartest moms I know (my sister!).  I happened to offhandedly mention that I was tired of Lauren's phase she was in at that time, probably the chicken nugget phase.  My sister, who has always been great about not judging my parenting skills, managed to slip in a comment that didn't offend me, it actually made a light bulb go on in my head.  She said something to the effect that her kids have had to learn that she is NOT a short-order cook and if they don't eat what she has made for supper, they go to bed hungry.  Wow.  Now that was awe-inspiring!

I remember putting that theory to the test not long after that conversation.  Lauren was probably about 3 at the time and most likely made some disparaging comments, or bawled about what was for supper.  So instead of making her something that she would eat, I calmly put her to bed.  Lesson learned in ONE night.  She has never had to go to bed hungry again, and I can cook ONE meal each night.

Enter little brother Braden.

He has never been an easy child.  And he is a bit of a picky eater.  Over the years I have done a pretty good job of making meals that everyone likes, or that contain at least one healthy element that everyone likes.  Braden has heard the story a couple of times about when his sister had to go to bed hungry.  We have used it as motivation for eating his meal.  It has worked every time.

Braden's problem is different.  He will take one look at the meal that I, or my husband, have prepared and deem it gross, or "bisgusting" and tell us that he is not going to eat it.  But more times than not, he ends up eating enough of the meal that we are happy.  Tonight started out feeling a LOT like the night we sent Lauren to bed hungry.

I tried a new recipe (very rarely is this a good idea with small children).  Both of my kids made the "disgusting" face just looking at it. Lauren was easy to convince to eat it after I explained that all that was in it was chicken, veggies, and stuffing.  Braden still refused to eat it.  So, we recounted the story about Lauren getting sent to bed hungry.  He still refused to eat it.  We took the "ignore" approach.  Meaning, we ignored his whining and just ate our meal.  When he realized that no one cared that he wasn't eating, he poked a piece of chicken and put it in his mouth.  Then he says:

"Huh....Mom!  You're right!  This IS good!"

Seriously!?  And THAT was worth the 30 minute fit and refusing to eat?  Good grief.

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