When children eat

When I was little (good grief, here he goes again. must be wednesday.). When I was little, I was skinny. So was my sister. We didn't eat much. We didn't eat enough. Not because there wasn't food. There was plenty offered to us. But, for some reason, we wouldn't eat it. And, I know my Mom cooked good tasting food, so why we were this way remains a mystery. Our pediatrician said "they'll eat when they're hungry". But, our parents said we had to eat at mealtime.

So, according to family lore, my Mom went to the pediatrician and said "Give me a prescription for the yuckiest, thickest, worst tasting vitamins you can." And, he did. And, they came in a huge brown pharmacy bottle, that was as big as a man's shoe and was kept in the fridge, where the black, thick vitamins would get even thicker because of the cold.

Every meal, my sister and I had a choice. We could eat the meal...or we could take a big tablespoon of the vitamins.

As far as I can remember, only four tablespoons of those vitamins were ever administered.

At some point, my sister found peanut butter and was allowed to eat that and I found the wonder of good, thick, brown gravy and biscuits. Later, I went from a size slim to a size husky. Now I know how those two things are related.

A few years later, we were at my Aunt and Uncle's farm, where my Uncle Roy raised cows. Not a lot of cows, just a few in a pasture behind the house. Out in one of his pens was a huge red square tub with a lid on it. The lid had a wheel fitted into it for the cows to lick and they would lick the wheel and it would turn in the tub and be coated with thick, black vitamins that smelled exactly like those vitamins that we were given the choice to take.

Occasionally, I get to remind my Mom that when we were little, she gave us cow vitamins to make us eat and we all have a good laugh.

Times have changed and people have changed and I do not advocate cow vitamins to get children to eat. And, apparently my Mother has changed because one of the things she wrote to me recently was about my little neice and how they "can't get her to" eat.

Okay, so any sentence that begins with "we can't get a 6 year old to ________" (fill in the blank) just cracks me the heck up. Not because I think it's funny. I don't. I think it's very sad for a child to be in charge. That's too much responsibility for a child to be saddled with and from my own parenting experience with Sydney, I can tell you that I believe she is much happier now that she doesn't have to bear that burden anymore.

When she came to us, she was used to being in charge. She had been taught what it took to be in charge and we were not prepared. We thought we were prepared. We thought taking in a kid that was past diapers and formula and crying at being dropped at school was going to be a piece of cake. All we'd have to worry about was school. But, if you've followed my blog for long, you know that we got a real lesson in parenting after she got here. We didn't know how to be parents. We expected The Brady Bunch and we got Dennis the Menace, except the antics weren't funny. And, as much as being with us gave Sydney space to learn how to be a child, it also forced us to learn how to be parents. And, it taught us to be a better couple. As we learned how to talk to her, we learned how to talk to one another.

So, why do I laugh when I hear that adults can't get children to do things? Because some of our experiences with Sydney were hilarious. For one, Sydney was not taught to eat good. She grew up on pizza, McDonald's, sodas and junk. We don't eat like that and while she was more than willing to give that up (she vows she will never eat McD's again), she was not willing to eat like we eat. She did not eat from the food group Green. But, we do eat from the food group green. And, in order to eat with us, she had to change.

One night, she refused to eat broccoli. Now, broccoli is one of my favorite green vegetables and her not eating it was not an option. So, I did the old "you can't get up from the table until you eat your broccoli." And, she sat there. Arms crossed. Angry look.

I did the dishes and Rob and I watched TV and she sat there. When bedtime came, I brushed my teeth and got a book and a glass of water and came back to table and sat down. I had settled in for the long siege and she knew it. She hesitated for a few minutes and then she ate that cold broccoli and just watching her and knowing how bad that must be, made me gag a bit. But I didn't stop her. She ate every bite of it, went to the shower and then to bed. We didn't make a big deal about it. We don't need to celebrate our victories with her because that means celebrating her losses and there's no need for that.

Later, after many servings, she told me she liked broccoli.

Since that night, she's eaten a lot of different green vegetables and we had a similar scene over zucchini, but it only lasted about 5 minutes, and she complains about cabbage, but only me buying it, never me cooking it. And, when I decided that one night a week, the family was going to have a vegetarian dinner, she didn't bat an eye.

So, what pointers would I share if I stuck my nose in other people's business? If you're going to take a stand, take it on a Friday night so you don't have to surrender for school the next day. If more than one person is raising a child; and let's face it, few children are raised by just one person; they all have to agree to a unified front. No one can cave and no one can push because they become the weakest link. And...

Never give up. Never surrender.

Children have enough to worry about. Running a family is just too much.

Take care. Have a great Way Back Wednesday.



lw said...

When I was nine, I was horribly ill with asthma and the flu at the same time. My folks tried to help by bathing me in isopropyl alcohol. After I got well, I wouldn't eat. I got thinner and thinner. Finally, our doctor tried a trick-- he gave me medicine to "pick up my appetite" which turned out to be malt soup extract (it tasted pretty good.) I was tricked into thinking that I should hungry, and it worked.

Patti Bee said...

I agree with your statement about "we can't get out 6 year old to ____". I too think it's sad when a child is in charge. I home schooled my children all the way through high school and one thing people would say to me was "oh I could never get my child to sit down and do a page of math" (or whatever subject) My reply was always if you can't get them to do a page of school work for you how in the world do you think you'll be able to get them to come home by curfew when they're teenagers? Parents have more power than they realize and children are much happier when they know who's in charge. Great post.

Shay said...

You and Rob are very wise and have so much more parenting insight that even you realise. I work with parents every day who tell me "I cant get my child to do ____" and if they were all half as determined as you I'd be out of a job!

Loved this post !

Andra Gayle said...

good job! Could you come spend a few days in my classroom and whip those kids in to shape for me?

Judy said...

I think we had the same vitamins in our house! Big brown bottle that stayed in the fridge. I never minded the taste so much but my brothers couldn't stand it.

It always amazes me how parents relinquish their authority to their toddlers and then wonder when they are teenagers why they have no respect for them.

Behaviors are taught and caught.

Good post!