No one said being a parent would be easy. In fact when I told people I was looking forward to it some even laughed and called me naive and told me I had no idea what was coming. Yes it would have it’s brilliant bits but nothing could prepare you for the incoming devastation. Well, I wouldn’t say it was quite that bad – yes there have been moments of utter despair when I thought I would collapse from exhaustion but actually there have been so many more good moments than bad. What I didn’t expect, that nobody warned me about, that I really could have done with a heads up about was the level of anxiety and the amount of worry we have as parents. I have never known anything like it. Will they sleep? Are they sleeping too much? Am I doing the right thing? Are they happy? Are they too hot? Am I a good mother? Plus a million other worries that whiz round a parents head every single waking (and often sleeping) moment of the day. Right now, I am facing what I think has been one of the worst so far. My daughter isn’t eating and I am worried she is going to accidentally starve herself, but how do you get a toddler to eat?
You might think I am exaggerating and being dramatic or on the other hand you might be thinking the same as me. The truth is that currently my daughter is surviving on a yogurt or two a day, a little bit of apple and on the odd occasion some white bread or brioche. So no, she won’t starve but to me it feels like she will. I am juicing fruit and vegetables for her to have as drinks in a vain attempt to get some nutrients into quickly growing body.
I know children go through stages on not wanting food or only eating certain foods and the fact that she has been poorly the last two or three weeks with this damn cold/flu virus thing that just won’t quit has not helped but this just seems so extreme. She’s gone from a little girl who ate a fair breakfast, wasn’t overly interested in lunch and then always tucked in at tea time to barely nothing. Before the critics and trolls jump in, no just because I am a larger person (who FYI is trying to do something about that) does not mean I am force feeding or trying to get more into my daughter than necessary. I am not asking her to clear her dinner plate – all I’m asking is that she take a bite!
Tonight we had tears, I thought in my infinite parenting wisdom that perhaps she was playing up. So, I presented her with her dinner of potatoes, sausage and spaghetti hoops (all of which she loves) to receive a smile and for her to instantly shove a piece of potato in her mouth and say “Yum!” I thought that we had possibly, finally made some headway – nope! After that first bite, she pushed the plate away and told me she was all done and she’d like he yogurt now. I decided to stand firm. I told her she needed to eat more dinner first. There was a whinge, a tear and then she got her plate and ate another piece of potato. Then all hell broke loose. In her mind of course, she had done exactly what mummy had asked – she had eaten more and I wasn’t giving her the yogurt she asked for. I was telling her she had to eat even more. Full on tears fell. Cries of ” Yog Yog pllllleeeaassseee Mama” could be heard and eventually I took her plate and retrieved a yogurt.
Several things crossed my mind as I scraped her plate into the bin with tears running down my face. The first was that I had given in so what if she thought that from now on she never had to eat dinner because Mummy would always bring her a yogurt?! Had I done the wrong thing giving in? Another thought was that at least she was eating something and wouldn’t be going to bed hungry or on an empty stomach. But was a couple of little yogurts really enough for that? At least she ate every last morsel of them and actually a little while later shared an apple with Daddy too.
It is so hard to know what the right thing to do is in this type (or often any type) of situation. Nonna had a bit of a Google and looked at the opinions of child experts and psychologists who all said the same thing. “DON’T force your child to eat something!” They said that if a child doesn’t want something, even if it’s the same something they always want, to not make a big deal of it and try again later or another day. To go with the flow when it comes to children eating, otherwise they could end up developing much worse food issues later in life. Great, so if my daughter has an eating disorder when she’s older, I’ll be able to trace blame all the way back to that moment this evening when I tried to do what I thought I should do in getting her to eat. I didn’t shout, I didn’t tell her off, I tried to stay positive and encourage her to eat what I had put in front of her and it hadn’t worked.
No, my daughter won’t starve. A few months ago when she was ill, I took her to the doctors and mentioned that she wasn’t eating and he had told me that it didn’t matter. As long as she was drinking, that was what was important. But how long can that really be true? How long can they really and truly refuse food before it has some sort of affect whether that be on their energy levels or their health? Another statement made by the experts is that children have the best relationship with food. They will eat and drink when they are hungry and won’t when they are not. It is us as adults who have the bad relationship with food and it is our thoughts and feelings on food that we are trying to put on our little ones that we should be careful of. That doesn’t make it any easier though does it? I know I have a bad relationship with food which I am trying to fix and I am also, in my head, trying to encourage my little one to have a good relationship with food too. However for now, I guess all I can do is go with the flow and hope that when she is ready and hungry she’ll take even one bite of her dinner!