Friday, January 20, 2012

Green Bean Stand-Off

Such a cliche! And I don't usually go in for the heavy handed ultimatum approach. But last night at the dinner table, a particularly ornery little man made for a more determined Momma. The outcome was always going to be a lose lose, but when you're in it you can't see the wood for the trees. And it makes perfect sense; of course he'll eat them eventually, surely... right?

Of course NOT. I've watched many a food battle with friends and relatives kids and known at the time exactly what they should have done differently, but in my own home, around our very own table, I make even bigger blunders with my own kid. It's bound to happen right. Kids hate their vegetables, or at least they HATE being told to eat their vegetables.

I've learned to covertly place yummy veggies in our kids play area and he will munch away if he's hungry no fuss no nonsense. But it's not the same at the dinner table. There's more direct attention and focus on eating and what a perfect opportunity for the little guy to exercise his control.

We don't have any problem with sweet potato, or corn on the cob. It's mainly the offensive green varieties that get shunned. I like to go with the approach; if you don't want it leave it. I don't want to hear whining or complaining. And because he gets the goods throughout the day I don't see a need to push him to eat if he doesn't want to at the dinner table. Inevitably he leaves the greens on his plate, every night. But it makes for happy family eating time, which has always held far more import to me. However; recently, there's been a little niggling concern at the back of my mind, urging me to work harder with him. So instead of offering a full and varied plate straight up, last night I staged his meal. Green Beans were first up, Bangers and mash were to follow.

Other factors were in play. He was pretty hungry as we'd waited for Daddy to get home from after school Thai Chi class. And they'd developed really snotty noses the previous night so torrents of mucas were bungee-ing from both nostrils every time he sneezed. Momma was also over hungry and exhausted. The boys had had varied and super short naps leaving no Momma time (hence no blog yesterday). I was definitely not in the mood for the battle I took on. But the way I see it I didn't have a choice. The little rascal took one look at his offending dinner plate with 3 measly green beans and pushed it angrily across the table. Calmly, but reprovingly his plate was returned to him. Thwarted in his first stance, he picked them up and threw them back into the central loading bowl. It was on.

I told him he didn't have to eat them but that meant that his food was all done. This was both signed and said. He yelled ''food done'', tantrum style. So I took him down from his booster and he ran crying to the sofa. What's a Momma to do? The guilt has already set in. I know just how hungry he is, but I've laid down my terms. I must hold the line or he'll never take me at my word.

He watches as the mash potato and sausage is brought to the table and he appeals to Daddy. Daddy picks him up and explains to him again Mommy's terms and you just know he understands when he cries out at the injustice of it all. He agrees to try again. And so up again in his booster seat, he trys tac 2. All 3 beans are stuffed into his mouth at once and looking like a hamster he holds his hand out for the sausage.

I've seen this happen once before with cucumber, and I know that once sausage is in hand the beans will be spit out onto his plate. So I use the wait sign and see if he'll swallow. He doesn't. Instead he sobs and gulps and starts to choke on the blasted beans. Dinner is turning into a disaster. I try to stay calm. I help him spit them out, but I don't back down. In hindsight perhaps this was mean. He'd tried them after all? Surely he earned a sausage Momma?  But again I don't see it this way. I am blinded by the fact that no beans have actually been ingested and so again I persist and again he is excused from the table wailing ''food done!''.

Perhaps that should have been the end of it. We should have finished our meal happily and revisited his hunger a little later on. We always make time for supper after bath so there was little chance of him going to bed hungry. The thing was, I had made apple crumble for dessert, and the plan had always been for Daddy to go out to the store after dinner with our now starving boy and pick ice-cream. The ice-cream was just as much for Daddy as anyone else, so the plan remained. But the poor eating performance meant that no way was the laddo getting any ice-cream, hence he wasn't going to get to go with Daddy.

But what a perfect opportunity for some bribery! I cringe as I write this. I hate bribing them. I've tried it before, it always fails. Perhaps they're still a little too young to make the connection. Our eldest has a bit of a one track mind when it comes to ice-cream, cake, cookies or candy. And once one of those taboo words are spoken it's impossible to get anything else into that mouth. He'll wait it out. He'll sign insistently and look at you with the most heartbreaking expression.

I tell him where Daddy is going, but I say clearly that he has to eat a little of everything from his dinner plate first if he wants to get some ice cream and pie (he doesn't know the word crumble). It looks like it's going to work at first as he eagerly has me lift him into his booster and he starts to slowly munch at a green bean. It takes him a while to chew and swallow it down. It really looks like he's not a big fan, so I decide that in future I will offer them, but I won't push him to eat them anymore. I give him a piece of sausage and he says ''tank you Mama'' and my heart breaks a little bit at just how adorable he is.

Then I try to get him to eat some mash and gravy. H doesn't want to try. The mood starts to change again. I really don't want this to end badly. I gently try to offer him another bite and the little monster yells "NO!'' swipes at me, hitting my hand and knocking the food out of it. Arrrggh. What's a Momma to do? Does he earn the ice cream?

He doesn't. And the rest of dinner is too painful for words. Daddy gets home with baby and we three eat our Crumble and Ice Cream, while our poor kid goes off to sulk in his room with his toys. Hindsight is 2020, and we shouldn't have had dessert in front of him when he wasn't included. I feel pretty bad about that. And I really didn't enjoy my crumble and ice-cream. The second bowl tasted even more bitter than the first. Before I finish my seconds, I take him a piece of sugar sweetened apple as a peace offering. But he takes one look at it and starts stamping his little feet and yelling angrily. So that was that.

The worst mealtime ever was thankfully over. I'm not sure if we've taken a step in the right direction or fifteen steps backwards. When supper time comes around, a couple of hours later, he turns his nose up at his usual cottage cheese and cucumber number, which is nearly always a winner. Definitely a step backwards. And later on, after falling into a not so restful sleep, he wets the bed an hour or so into the night. Now these things happen. And they sometimes happen at the best of times. But of course I attribute it all to him being traumatized by Momma's Green Bean dinner stance, and I go to bed feeling like I'm not such a crash hot Momma after all.

We have a moment in the middle of the night when he comes to find me and he wants holding. So we get up together, watch The Leap Frog Alphabet show, and eat yogurt. Then we play a game that we didn't get to play before bedtime and he's happy and full of heart warming giggles, ''Silly Momma!'' he says.

Yes, I think, "Silly Momma'' indeed!

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