Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pride Before a Fall

When I first became a parent, feeding was easy. My daughter was breastfed so I knew that my milk provided everything that she needed to grow and thrive. I didn't have to worry about vitamins and minerals or a balanced diet. Perhaps that is a gift from God because it is one less thing to worry about in our sleep deprived state. Of course in 3rd world countries it is a tremendous blessing because clean drinking water is often a problem.

As my daughter progressed to solid foods I prided myself on her varied diet. She loved all the food groups and would eat well even into her toddler years. She continues to be a good eater, willing to try new things and preferring healthy snacks to junk. I assumed that eating was a result of good parenting or bad parenting. I was a great parent, therefore, my child ate a healthy diet.

I should have known that pride goeth before a fall. My second daughter was a challenge from the start. She loved breast milk but after almost 3 years, I was finished with the whole process. She had overstayed her welcome on my privacy and I was ready to reclaim my breasts. I continued nursing mostly because I loved the closeness but also because she was a hesitant eater. She launched everything that I put into her mouth. She didn't really like anything and meals became a struggle.

I only had to look at my picky husband to realize this was a genetic defect that she had inherited from him alone. As moms, we are so wrapped up in feeding and nurturing our children that when we have a child that rejects our motherly intentions, it feels as if we are failing at motherhood. Then there is the struggle of discipline versus abuse. We feel we are falling down on the job when our defiant toddler refuses the dinner we so lovingly made. Sending them to bed hungry falls into the category of abuse, or does it? If we look at discipline in any other context, we side with the parent.

No you cannot run out into the street because I love you and don't want you to get hurt. We see the logic in that statement but how about if we look at food in the same light. No you are not going to eat chicken nuggets and mac and cheese every night because I love you and want you to be healthy. We have given our girls the option to go hungry. They can eat what is on the table, or they can go hungry. Once we accepted that it is our role as parents to teach them healthy eating habits, the stress and worry subsided. We cannot force them to eat but we can provide healthy foods.

As my youngest nears her 10th birthday, I see tremendous change. She no longer goes to bed hungry. She is willing to try new things on occasion. Even though her sensitivity to foods continues, it no longer causes disruptions. I have found ways to feed her fruits and vegetables that she willingly accepts. Whole wheat pumpkin muffins, zucchini bread, and roasted sweet potatoes top her list of yummy foods. Allowing her to help cook has also broadened her list of acceptable foods.

For dinner tonight...Sloppy Joes (with some shredded carrots and red peppers for added benefit)


  1. We are working on this with our picky toddler! Yesterday, I told my husband she would ONLY be offered veggies, all day, nothing else (he wanted to offer her crackers and cheese when she wouldn't eat). And what do you know - she ate her veggies.
    Her pickiness, alas, was inheritied from me. Oh, my poor mother - I am starting to understand how I tortured her at the dinner table!
    Thanks for this post - I have to talk myself into not feeling guilty for not offering my kid food she will eat instead of healthy options.

  2. Just remember, toddler eating habits can be odd! Aim for a balanced diet over the course of a week. You can also offer very small portions of everything and when she finishes it all (or at least tries everything on her plate), she can have more of something she likes. That way she gets a variety and still has some control. I know there are things that I do not like. Kids can have things they don't like too. The trick is balancing that with a healthy diet. One of my friends told her son he had to take a "no thank you" bite of everything on the table!