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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Size 9, Now available

I don't really think it's ever been a secret how much I adore my precious baby girl. I swoon over her sweet smile, sparkling eyes and infectious giggles. My heart melts over her manners, her friendliness and her general sense of joy and pure spirit. With that said, I am about to expose our worst battle and the cause of my stress each and every day. Elaina not eating.

It may seem like a insignificant topic to most, especially those who have never dealt with the most picky of eaters. And really, it goes deeper than her just not eating. Just for advanced notice, I'll be mentioning some of her bathroom habits here as well.

The root of all of my stress is that for the past year, Elaina will only want to eat one food item for about 90 days and then burn out on that specific food altogether. And then what? Uh, that's when I ask myself what the heck comes next? I don't know and she certainly doesn't know. Her list of burnout foods include scrambled eggs, chicken nuggets, meat (of any kind) and grilled cheese. For the longest time, she would plead to eat these for these for lunch and dinner and now, she can barely tolerate them. And then, it's up to me to coax, con and beg her to try something new that will serve as her standard favorite for the next 90 days. Unlike any other sane person who will look forward to trying something new and tasty beyond the same old, same old.

At one point, when my frustration peeked, I told her that when she turned 3 she would be eating what we eat with no exceptions made. Well. We saw how well that went. With my parents here to celebrate and help to reinforce, Elaina's birthday happened early this year and thus, she is already 3. It will just take 2 weeks longer for her to turn 4 next year.

Since my parents' visit, we have been giving Elaina incentives for her to eat and try something new. The bottom line is that she had to eat to earn a birthday present. Because that is what 3 year old's do. Seriously, it took the child 3 days to earn her birthday cake. 4 days to earn her first reward present for going poop on the potty without struggling. (TMI details ahead.) 5 days to earn her first present for trying a new food. (Good God, she tried chicken noodle soup and it didn't kill her!) 9 days to earn her 2nd present for eating chicken nuggets. (Can you believe she's still alive?) So here we are, 10 days out and she still has 3 more presents to earn by trying something new. Do we feel accomplished? I'd say NOT.

Now, just so you don't think that we're a couple of nut jobs all caught up in fighting the never ending battle of a picky eater, let me tell you how much more involved the issue really is.
***Warning: TMI bathroom talk ahead***
When Elaina chooses to eat her standard diet of mostly carbs, with minimal nutrition value, she gets a little backed up. *Ahem. * And the problem with that is when she feels the urge to go, she struggles to hold it back and gets herself even more clogged. Basically, she doesn't want to relieve herself because she knows it's going to hurt and it is going to hurt her because she'll end up holding it for days. And there, if she would eat right and get her plumbing working more efficiently, she wouldn't have this problem in the first place. And her mother wouldn't want to bang her own head against the wall.

The stressful part for me is when we're sitting at the dinner table, trying to enjoy a nice meal, Elaina always ruins it for all of us. She has become a pro of lame excuses. Her current roll call of reasons not to eat include:
** my (tummy) (foot) (finger) hurts
** I'm (tired) (scared) (cold) (on a break) <<--- (a break? she's 3!)
** I don't like this food
** Something's stinky
** I'm not older yet
** I want some (cheese) (cereal) (fishies) <<---(goldfish crackers)
** I don't want (to sit in this seat) (this plate)

I kid you not, she can present each of these at will, for each and every meal. Every day. See that wall? BANG HEAD.

So there you have it. My stress. Worse than that, I don't know a solution. I know, I KNOW, plenty of people say, "She'll eat when she's hungry." But dear God, they're not the ones who have to face the battle in the meantime and listen to the excuses and the whining and the begging for something with zero nutrition and full clogging ability. And they're not the ones who have 3 precious evening hours in the work week to spend with their beloved children and have one of those hours ruined by the whiney table guest and feel like she's not only ruined our meal, but taken away our time from Lincoln who so loves to eat.

Hey look, I thought I was almost done but dear Lord, look! I still have more to gripe about!

When dealing with Elaina's age group and a rather sensitive subject matter concerning food issues, I realize that I am also walking a fine line. By no means do I want food to become a control issue, while at the same time, it can't be viewed as a reward or a punishment. We're currently laying the groundwork for shaping her eating habits and learning about discipline. I don't want to overlap the two, setting the stage for eating disorders in the future. And yes, I do worry that far ahead. And no, you can't tell me otherwise. Don't even try. However, we do want to establish a consequence of not eating. More than just telling her that her belly is going to hurt because she didn't eat. We send her to time out when she decides to play at the table by using her food to smear into the table, beginning to play with her clothes or chair and when she is just down right defiant. And there, an hour has just disappeared from my evening and the poor attitude is sure to follow. I hate that.

If you can believe this, I think I finally got enough of this off of my chest. I have been so worn out this week. I like to think that there's room for improvement and that it will get better, but until then, what do I do? Other than "She'll eat when she's hungry," (because you know I don't want to hear that) does anyone else have anything more to offer? Can I send her to any one's house for eating boot-camp and you send me home an eater? Am I terrible parent for letting all of this get to me to the extent that it does? I feel like I'm sinking on a cruise ship during the midnight buffet. And no one is eating their way out!!

So, go ahead and walk in my size 9 shoes for just one day. I need a break.

3 Welcome Comments:

Tracy said...

I find myself telling my (almost)5 year old that if she just listened to me, her life would be so easy. I guess that is what my mom thought too!

Anonymous said...

While you are choosing your battles, make a list of all the kid friendly foods you know. Get her to eat that food. Then you will be able to say next time that you serve that particular food, that she eat it and liked it. Maybe you won't have to fight so hard then for round two. Grandma H.

Kelsey said...

I think Elaina and Harper would either get along well or kill each other -- they both tend to be, um, "set" in their ways. I feel like I have a lot to say about the food thing, thoughts, not necessarily advice, but perhaps I should email?