Oh boy. Just look at Diego’s little face as he is about to dig in to his sweet Morning O’s and that juicy slice of orange. This is Diego’s look every time he is about to eat anything! And he loves the cereal and fruit!! The poor kid has a pajama/pizza party at school today and he is bent out of shape because he doesn’t eat pizza and he doesn’t want to be the only one who takes a lunch.
Jose and I are really surprised that Diego is a super-picky eater. Diego has been to ten different countries and has managed to find things to eat during our travels without having to resort to a restaurant that is an American franchise! We wouldn’t call ourselves foodies but Jose and I know how to enjoy a good meal. We love to chow down! And we don’t consider ourselves picky at all. There is always a diverse amount of food in our house and when we eat out, we never eat fast food (except Chipotle). We indulge in sushi, Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, and Indian food! We can’t understand why every time we have a meal with Diego (twice a day for me) everyone is unhappy, threats are made and the meal is pretty much ruined.
I can sit here and brag that Diego loves all fruits, peas, carrots and corn, brown rice, fish, meat and chicken. He loves tortillas (flour), Mexican sopitas, deli meat, all types of cheese and other dairy, whole wheat and natural peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And he loves, loves, chocolate chip cookies, Goldfish, Pirate’s Booty, cereal bars, gummy bears and M&M’s. Don’t offer the kid a slice of pizza or a cupcake or a slice of cake. Don’t offer any of the kid staples like macaroni and cheese, a grilled cheese sandwich, or pasta. This makes going to birthday parties pretty difficult. So you can say that he has a well balanced diet, he is healthy, we know what he likes, people even say that I’m lucky…so why is he so miserable every time he sits down to eat??? By the time I am done fighting with him, have counted a couple of strikes against him and my mood has been dampened by another meal-time battle, Santi, at 16 months, is finished with his portion, is screeching because he wants more or because he wants out of his high chair, and I have a whiner and a screamer in my hands. Forget trying to eat Betty. You can’t. Maybe when everyone is off to bed…again.
So after reading Raising Happiness by Dr. Christine Carter, I find that I am definitely not alone. Remember I wrote that long post a few days ago? Well, I tapped into it again and can see myself using this book for reference over and over again. Any-who, Dr. Carter suggests that I, the parent, not Diego, the child, start making some changes to improve this miserable part of our day. I have learned that changing my attitude when serving breakfast or dinner or when out at a friend’s or a restaurant, can help change the atmosphere created by our little unhappy diner. I have to create what Dr. Carter calls, “happiness habits.” So, since last week, I started calling Diego to the table like this, “Diego! Time to eat! Will you be coming to the table super happy?” With that phrase I am reminding him that I don’t want to fight and that I want a positive attitude. As he walks into the kitchen, I crack a silly joke (I’m not good with jokes, but I try). He smiles and with those little words, he is sitting a little bit happier. Then he glances at his food…remember, things he likes to eat, no pizza here, he starts to make a little fuss and I quickly ask if he wants to hear some music…distraction. I hit the Pandora on my iPhone and I feel my body starting to tighten, I hold my breath and I quickly encourage him to start eating. It doesn’t fail that withing minutes, Diego is practically lying down on the table, whining, and trying to negotiate with me what he is going to eat or not. My mood changes and the yelling begins.
I focus again on other things Dr. Carter states, be empathetic Betty, rationalize with him in a meaningful way, “Diego, all that protein is going to make you super fast at soccer”, and imply that he has a choice rather than using controlling language. “It’s your fault you won’t have anything to eat at the party because you won’t try the pizza”, doesn’t work. Saying, “you can try the pizza at school today but if you don’t want to, I can pack a lunch for you. You have a choice.” I have to also believe that meal-time disasters are going to end soon, that if we all stay positive and stress out less, things will change. But it’s tough isn’t it? I once heard that fighting over/about food is awful, we as parents shouldn’t do it with our children. But it’s hard! I don’t want Diego waking up in the middle of the night saying he is hungry!!! I also believe that it is a huge cultural thing for Mexican kids to learn to eat politely, finish everything on the plate and smile while doing it! So I will continue to work on myself, work on choosing the right words and work on being happy myself during this time in our home.
I dropped him off to school happily. In the car, I reminded him that the pajama party was going to be fun no matter what anyone decided to eat. I reminded him that trying the pizza would be great but having a good time with his friends at lunch would be better. I also told him that eating something from his lunch would be better than not eating anything at all…that he had choices. He went in smiling. Let’s hope for the same outcome when he gets out today.
Are you having the same issues? Why is eating so hard for kids? Whatever you decide to do for food this weekend, I hope it is fun and delicious!! Happy Friday everyone!