Thursday, March 25, 2010

children are tiny, crazy irrational people: dinner theater

A reminder not to try to rationalize with the irrational, or why negotiating around food doesn't work and makes people crazy.

Scene: dinner. roast chicken on table, microwaved frozen peas, squash (roasted with the chicken with butter, brown sugar, salt) egg noodles with some reduction from the chicken...

Mom, Dad and 4 yo M are at the table. M, who has been home sick with little appetite for 5 days (who has been allowed to get away with all kinds of attitude to keep the peace) looks at squash (a former favorite)

M: Ew. It's gross, I hate squash.
Mom: You don't have to eat it or like it, but you need to be polite. Say, "No thank you." There are lots of other things.
Mom: (taking lots of peas) You guys don't want any peas, do you?
Dad: Yes, we do. Take a few scoops and pass them on please.
M: I'm hungry, there aren't enough peas! I hate squash!
Mom: We can make more peas. Dad, what was the best part of your day?

Mom is at end of rope, no longer engaging the explanation. M takes chicken, and more chicken. Asks where the eyes are, if the blood tastes good. Eats lots of peas, some noodles. Starts scooping squash onto her plate. Has clearly recovered her appetite. (Yay! Back to school tomorrow! thinks Mom)

M: singing, "I love squash, I love squash!"
spills water and cries, "You always make me clean this up!"

Dad: I will help you, please pick your fork up off the ground.
Mom: takes another swig of beer... and curtain falls

Imagine if I had tried to convince her that she loved squash and was being unreasonable. More or less fighting? Would she have eaten the squash or not?

Another example of the irrational games: Morning Star sausage patty this morning. M was having trouble cutting it, so Dad helped. She got upset because she wanted strips, not smaller pieces and pitched a mini-fit. We said we were trying our best. So half was in strips, half in pieces. Then she proceeded to cut the strips in half. Dad asks, "Why did you do that? You got upset when I cut it up?" M says, "It was too big for my mouth."
Remember, tiny crazy people, and they want to suck you into the insanity. Sometime the pull is so strong it's hard to resist, but the more you can stay neutral and out of the fray, the better you will do.

A note on feeding the sick child: We've been so out of our routine with M being sick. All bets are off. They can't tell if they are hungry or full. I try to follow her lead. I relax on the division of responsibility and ask her more what she wants to eat. I let her chose and I let her nibble and graze when she's under the weather. Her appetite returned and now we'll get back to the old ways. Structured meals and snacks, no grazing, and I chose what to serve, she choses if and how much to eat.

Just wanted to let you know it wasn't ALWAYS peace and joy at my family table :)
Any crazy theater you want to share?


  1. Oh my! Too funny! I have heard you say before that sometimes it is helpful to think of children as tiny, crazy people and it has helped me immensely. Kudos for not getting sucked in. M was certainly putting you to the test.

    C has started throwing food at the table. With S, I would push his chair back from the table for a minute and ignore him. It made a big impact and it ended the behavior relatively quickly. We could bring him back to the table and continue. C... well... pushing her back from the table just makes her mad and she comes back behaving worse! The only way to get through to her is to immediately put her down from the table end her meal. Good thing we follow the DOR and have snacks. Otherwise I don't think I would be able to do it and we would have a serious problem on our hands.

  2. The story about the squash reminds me of me as a child. Even to this day, I'll get burned out on a food and not want it for a few days, but as a child wasn't good at articulating that.

    My mom would try and make eggs for me, and I would tell her "I hate eggs", when the day before I had eaten a whole pile of eggs. It drove her nuts.

  3. I will forever treasure the description one Dad offered of his children: partially formed proto-humans.

    Our theatre was audience-participation theatre, at a Church lunch where ice cream is always served. Ruth wanted ice cream. She always has ice cream. Ice cream is standard at this meal.

    Mom: oh, look, noodles and cheese for lunch, you like noodles and cheese.
    Ruth: I am not hungry for noodles and cheese. I am hungry for ice cream.
    Mom: Noodles and cheese have lots of good things in them that help your body grow big and strong.
    Ruth: Ice cream gives me energy to play and grow.
    Mom: Yes, yes it does. Should we have some ice cream, and then you will have lots of energy to eat your noodles and cheese?
    Ruth: Yes! Yes!
    Audience: she can't have ice cream before lunch.
    Mom: why not? don't they have ice cream this week?
    Audience: but.. sputter... sputter... LUNCH MUST BE FIIIIIIIRRRRRRRSSSSSST
    Ruth: yay! yummy ice cream!
    Mom: Yumm! What a good lunch. Thankyou everybody who made lunch today.
    Ruth: Yumm! What a good lunch. Thank you everybody who made lunch today.
    Audience: But you caaaaan't have ice cream fiiiiiiiirst.
    Mom: bye bye now, everybody.

  4. Clio, I like how you mention that you can be flexible in how you deal with feeding challenges within the framework of the division of responsibility. Kids are so different, and different things work for different kids. Kids also go through phases! I'll just start saying to D how great M is and how much fun, and somehow she senses this and has a few weeks of snarkiness...
    Miku, thanks for cooroborating! Somehow parents find all of this particularly irksome at the table. A dad recently said to me, "I don't know why, because it doesn't get to me if we're getting into it over other things, but the fights and whining at the table make me insane!" That's why I fgocus so much on getting the fighting out of the feeding relationship.
    Cleric at Large, LOVE your theater piece! The audience is tricky to deal with. I get people making comment ALL THE TIME. It is hard to feed well in our current culture of abnormal feeding. I worry that with all the obesity hysteria, strangers will feel empowered to butt in more and make more unwanted and unhelpful comments. With family I often just say, "Please follow my lead with this" as many times as needed. With strangers I politely try to just cut them off! Good luck!