There are a lot of challenges when raising a tiny human. Sleep, what kind of stimulation you should give them, and food are all major elements to the thought process of how you deal with your days.
Some days, everything comes together. A great lunch. A great snack. Nice nap. Eating lunch like a champ. Another good snack. Then, a beautifully-executed dinner, followed by going peacefully to bed. All of the above peppered with the right amount of mental and physical stimulation.
If what I just described is our “holy grail” that we try to attain, then I am Indiana Jones in the movie Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade every day, struggling against all odds in order to get the above to happen. Most of it, as you can see, relies on the little guy eating well throughout the day. Often the little guy is like the part in the same movie where there is an old soldier in a place with goblets, all of which could be the holy grail. When the bad guys drink from the wrong cups he says, “he chose poorly.” Similarly, when the little guy will not eat his food, and says to me that for this meal, “you chose poorly”, (ok he doesn’t actually say that, but it’s in his eyes), it is no fun.
I don’t die or melt when this happen like it does in the movie, but there is no less stress for me as a stay at home parent than seeing the little guy not eat well. I don’t know why it is such a big deal to me that he is eating well, but I think it stems back to a basic thing. Sleep. The logic has always gone, since he was a baby, that if he ate well thru the day, he would sleep thru the night. And to be honest, this is mostly true. On the days he eats well, he tends to sleep thru the night without waking up. If he does not eat well, I might be in there a few times a night with a bottle to help fill him up. And if you think it’s bad dealing with a screaming human who suddenly has meltdowns at any moment (a toddler), then imagine doing that without some solid uninterrupted sleep day after day. It’s not easy, and especially not easy to do so in a way that allows you to pleasantly interact with others. Additionally, and more importantly, the little guy needs good solid sleep for his brain development to be at it’s best, so I want him to get that sleep for his sake, too.
So, every time I am having a meal with him, starting with breakfast, I am stressed. Genuine heart-rate increasing stress that makes me feel on edge. I hate meal times, I hate the battle that comes along with it, and I hate the feeling of dissatisfaction that goes along with the little guy not eating, because I know it will mean an unsatisfied little guy who will have more freakouts and will need more snacks more often as the day progresses, or if it is dinner, the chances are it will be a restless night. It is a fantastic feeling to see him eating well, and such a relief on my heart, but it is almost overshadowed by worries about the next meal.
All of this is of course not his fault and I don’t really hold it against him when things are not going well with a meal, but it is still difficult to see someone refuse to eat when you know that they need it and would be happier if they did. You cannot force them to eat and we are trying to follow an approach where we let him decide if he eats what is in front of him, and how much he eats so that he maintains a healthy attitude about food. But, what he likes one day or minute will be treated like it is trash or poison the next minute or day – just to keep me as the parent on my toes 😉
I guess I will have to let this go at some point, it surely is not healthy to worry about it. But that’s where I am at right now, and without a doubt there are others out there who feel or have felt the same way. Parenting is like being in one big therapy group – there’s always someone who understands, and everyone has been in your shoes one way or another 😉