Friday, June 20, 2008

The Battle of the Fussy Eater

Sigh... We had such fun plans for tonight, my girl and I. We've had the premiere of Disney's "Camp Rock" written on our calendar for at least a month. Movie night with popcorn and the Jonas Brothers -- what could be better?

We had a busy day with my girl off at school, my husband and I both home and running errands all over town in preparation for our family vacation this coming week. We got home late, with a minivan full of bags to unload and sort and put away. I began to make dinner - one of my hubby's favorites - pan-seared tilapia. When I made it about a month ago, both of the girls tried it -- my older daughter tried it begrudgingly, but then admitted, "Ok, I liked it!" So after a week of thrown together meals and take-out, I thought it would be nice to make a good dinner and I didn't anticipate any problems with this one.

Well! Who knew? My girl sees me getting dinner ready and she asks what I am making. I tell her, and she grimaces and I remind her that she tried it last time and liked it. Doesn't matter -- she is turning her nose up at it tonight. I decide, fine, I will make our stand-by, chicken nuggets, for the girls but they can each have a small bite of the fish. This is what my grandmother famously (in our family) called a "no thank you helping." You could dislike whatever you wanted to, but you had to at least take a small bite, just to try it. And actually, I have read recently that it is a good idea to keep introducing things to your child to try and get them out of the fussy-eating rut. Anyway, we sat down to dinner, and I was already being much easier going about dinner than I was in the mood to be -- it had been a long day, and it was a very involved meal to make, and I really have no desire to be a short order cook and make different meals for everyone. But, to keep the peace, out came the chicken nuggets. I put a small piece of fish on both girls plates, and my little one munched on everything on her plate without argument. Her older sister, moaned and groaned her way through dinner -- to the complete annoyance of both of her parents!

My husband, wonderful man and father that he is, is very tired lately, and he is more inclined to give up the fight (in irritation) so that we can move on with our lives. I, on the otherhand, am tired of giving in, especially when I don't feel that the request is unreasonable -- like taking one bite of the dinner that everyone else is eating. After much fussing and drama, my husband told my girl that if she did not eat the one bite, there would be no popcorn (part of the movie night). So, she sat for another 10 minutes (we were already 10 minutes into her huffing and puffing over the one bite of fish) with the food on her fork, held up toward her mouth, her nose plugged because she was complaining that the fish smelled funny (it really didn't) and finally, my husband had had it and he took the fork out of her hand and dumped the piece of fish in the garbage and told her "No movie - time for bed!" Of course, then the real drama starts -- her jumping up and saying, "No, I'll eat it!" but it's in the garbage -- no turning back from there! And he's telling her to get ready for bed and she's crying, and frankly, I was practically crying, because this was supposed to be such a fun night that she and I had looked forward to, and I never like to see my girl disappointed. She went upstairs and I said to him (when she was out of earshot, of course), "Why did you have to do that?" and he said, "I wasn't going to have her sit there ALL night with her nose plugged, whining about not wanting to take one little bite of her dinner!" I told him, "I feel bad -- the night's ruined, all over the fish! But really, she liked it last month -- I didn't think one bite was unreasonable!" And he reassured me that no, I was not being unreasonable. Still, I felt terrible.

I went up to her room a little while later and we talked and she was really pretty good about the whole thing. I explained that I was disappointed because it was such a simple request, and she could have easily done it and we could have been downstairs snuggling with a bowl of popcorn and watching her movie.

I taped the movie and on Tuesday night, after her last day of school and the night before our vacation, she and I will have our movie night together.

It's hard to be the parent of a fussy eater. I feel like it's a constant battle not just to introduce her to new foods, but to make sure that she is getting healthy, well-rounded meals. This is a child who will only eat grapes, apples, and bananas for fruit. That's it! And even that is iffy. The other morning I got her to have a banana with breakfast (I started this game about who gets the first bite of the banana -- we both think that's the best part!) and there was the teensy-tiniest little brown spot about 2/3's of the way down and she wanted to throw the whole thing out -- didn't want to touch it! I convinced her to at least at down to that point... Her idea of veggies are cucumbers and corn, which both have about zero nutritional value in them. I have tried a ton of different ways to get her to branch out and try different fruits and veggies -- it really is a tiring battle! Sometimes you have to pick your battles, and maybe tonight was not the best time for mine.

What ideas do you have for getting a fussy eater to try new things?

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