Sunday, January 03, 2010

Best Practices

I come from a long, proud line of fat people. The kind of family where being the right weight makes you suspect for disease, ie, "You're looking very thin. Are you feeling okay?" Believe me, I'd rather have that problem than the opposite, like some of my friends' families, where you are constantly checked for inch-pinching. But here's the challenge of coming from a foodophilic, chubba family: having a child who can take or leave food depending on whether she's hungry. A child who says, "No thanks" to going out for ice cream but who will eat two servings of mandarin oranges. I mean, can you imagine it?! Eating only when you're hungry!? Stopping when you're full?! Choosing fruit over ice cream? Who DOES this?!

This is the environment in which we operate. Trying to put calories into a 30 pound 5 year-old. A healthy, vigorous, muscular, active, completely normal 5 year-old...who happens to be a peanut, and who happens to be immune to any and all requests, pleadings or demands to Eat More Food. She simply will not eat when she perceives she is full, with the added difficulty level being, as our pediatrician says, "How much food can you put in a kid that size at one time anyway?" Precisely. And yet I am biologically and anthropologically, as a mother, programmed to Feed My Child. My sole concern on any given day is Feeding My Child. I feel like I have failed if I have failed to Feed My Child.

We have done all the recommended stuff: smaller portions, no dealmaking, letting her help cook, letting her choose options, removing eating from the list of control issues (to the point where it got ridiculous the other way, ie, a peanut butter cup was eaten before school one day....) to no avail. She eats, then she stops, then she's done. So two nights ago I rediscovered my old Dr. Spock book from when she was a baby, with a full chapter therein for "feeding issues." And god bless ol' Spock of pointy head rather than pointy ears, he has a whole section on skinny kids who won't eat high-calorie foods. Seeing it was instantly reassuring, because if he's written about it, that means someone else has a kid like mine, which means we're not alone.

So here's where we get to the "best" part of this post. His advice? Feed them ridiculously small amounts of food that they like and shut the fuck up about it already. Well, not in exactly those words, but you get the point: it's not a disease, it's not a behavioral problem. Some kids love to swim, love to play soccer, love to eat. Some kids don't. And thems that don't don't need you ruining what appetite they may have in the moment by constantly badgering them about it or being "on" them to police that they finish the entire slice of whatever. He even says that if you have to walk away and not watch, then by all means walk away. But do keep your mouth shut.

So we tried it yesterday for the first time. Friends, seriously. Two tablespoons of mac and cheese in a tiny bowl. Like, what I fed her at 2 years old. One drinkable yogurt. I was ready to cry, it was so little food. But I managed the gargantuan task of S'ing TFU--and guess what? She ate every last bite and asked for another serving. BBDD was all, "Yay!" in his head, but I was still, "Oh so that's THREE tablespoons of food in my 5 year old. Why don't I just call the cops myself for malnourishing her?" But I managed to quell the almighty urge to hold forth on nutrition with her, and it worked. She felt like dinner was on her terms--and most importantly--enjoyable.

Fast forward to this morning: the BBDD gave her what looked like a quarter of an egg scrambled, half a sausage and half a slice of turkey bacon, to which I added one yogurt because I struggle to follow directions; oh yes I struggle. One enjoyable breakfast time later and it was GONE. Oh--with another yogurt and a bowl of cereal (no milk of course) as well...both at her request.

So--on this, the third post of my Best Series, I want to give it up for Dr. Spock. He's retro, he's no Deepak, and he doesn't think much of your LeapPad, but you know what? He knows from kids and he works, even from beyond the grave. HOLLA!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (children's book heroine) also adressed this issue in just the same way! Smaller and smaller plates of food, ending up with just one bean (or macaroni, in your case) and a thimbleful of milk. Priceless - and yes, it worked also. She threw in some physical activity to stimulate the appetite, but that doesn't seem to be a problem with your bouncing bambina. :)