Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Adventures with a 4 year old: Vegetables? Temper Tantrums? Oh joy

I thought I'd devote a whole post to what's new with Henry :) My precious boy. He's getting so, so big. Very tall, very curious, very bright. He's a good, good boy, to be sure. He's going to be starting kindergarten in a month, and Mommy is feeling decidedly weepy about this. I saw a commercial for a car manufacturer the other day that I thought was ingenious, and relates to this very issue. A man is talking to this little girl, maybe 5 years old, who is sitting in the drivers seat of a car. He's telling her to be careful, not to talk on her cell phone while driving, to be home at a decent hour, etc. She keeps saying, "Yes, Daddy." Finally, when he looks into the car a final time, we see a grown young woman of 18 years. It was her the whole time, it's just that her father still sees her as his little girl. And I feel that even now with Hank. I look at him, and I still see the newborn cradled in my arms, nursing. It just doesn't seem time yet for him to be so big.

With him growing like a weed lately, my latest mission is Eating Control. The thing is, let's be honest. What do our toddlers and preschoolers eat? I mean, REALLY eat? As in the things that they consistently like and will actually chow down on. These are NOT the things that we would prefer them to eat, mind you. I present to you, the Young Child Food Pyramind:

Goldfish Crackers
Macaroni and Cheese
Chicken Nuggets (can be dinosaur shaped)
Gummy "fruit" Snacks
Possibly Fruit RollUps for a particularly daring entrant
Chef Boyardee Spaghetti'Os
French Fries
Ice Cream
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Cheese Sticks

With the exception of the last 2, I think we'll all agree that everything else on this list has a nutritional value of ZERO. And I know that innumerable parents will sympathize with me when I admit that too often I fall into the desperate trap of allowing my child to eat these foods. As we all know, there is nothing wrong with any of them in moderation. We just don't want this to be the main part of their diet. And if our little rascals had their way, they'd eat nothing else.

I'm starting to battle back. Especially in the summer, without central a/c and not wanting to heat up the kitchen with use of the oven, we default to "ad hoc" dinners. You know. Chicken or tuna salad, random sandwiches, cheese and fruit, that sort of thing. And if Henry doesn't like what we're having, which is the majority of the time, sigh, he'll want "somefing else." I will say that he loves fresh fruit. However, the child can pack chicken nuggets away like there's no tomorrow. And I'm now determined to put a stop to it.

I have no objection to 1 or 2 chicken nuggets, *so long as* he also has a bit of what we're eating. And I've learned an important lesson. You must WITHHOLD the desired item UNTIL the healthy food has already been consumed. Otherwise, the nuggets will disappear and quickly be followed by: "I'm fuuulll."

So far, this is going better than I thought it would. There was a bit of righteous indignation when I declared that he had to eat vegetables, but he has been complying, for the most part. I try to give him a reasonable portion, so that when the situation breaks down into the inevitable negotiation phase, I can simply declare that I didn't give him that much; if he wants the nugget, he has to eat everything else on his plate.

I'll say it plainly. My son is an Anti-Vegite. Otherwise known as a founding member of the League of Children Against Vegetable Eating, CAVE. Waving a stem of broccoli in his face makes him faint with terror. He *hates* vegetables. Mysteriously, he will eat them at school. Except broccoli, the horror. But everything else he eats there. But at home? The vegetable boycott comes out in full force. CAVE members unite.

We've been working on this for about a week, and it's getting gradually more successful. Last night, I foisted grilled chicken with carrots and corn onto his plate. Although they had been "contaminated" by sharing a skillet with broccoli, he agreed to try them.

"I don't yike the chicken. I ate a carrot, can I have somefing else now?"

Under much duress, he ate all but 2 carrots and a niblet of corn. We're getting there, sigh. But the child needs more vegetables. He's good about fruit, and I've even gotten him to branch out in that regard as well, adding berries to his repertoire. Tonight we're having a ground beef taco casserole, and I'm going to steam some green beans from our garden. He WILL eat a green bean, if I have anything to say about it. He claims to "wike beef," so clearly he's a carnivore like us. I only cook with lean ground beef or turkey. We'll see how it goes.

This morning, when I rushed into his room to kiss his snuggly face, we were presented with a 4 year old activity that comes up less frequently than it used to, but when it does, is mighty in its power: The 4 Year Old Temper Tantrum. This, my friends, is a force to behold. Whereas 2 year olds have, what? *daily* temper tantrums, 4 year olds have navigated away from the frequency, but the force is virulent. NOT a pretty sight. As I snuggled Hank this morning, he declared:

"Why was my sleep so short?" *scowl*

Given that he had slept for 12 hours, I knew this wasn't a good sign.

"Hank, Honey, why don't you go pee for the morning?"


Oh boy. I knew, just *knew* even based on that one statement, that this was going to be one of *those* mornings.

I coaxed him again, and he denied the need to pee about, oh, 20 more times. I left him in the bathroom, looking surly, and went to get dressed. I could hear him peeing. I called out directions for him to get dressed, but when I came out of our bedroom, Hank was standing in front of his room wearing nothing but a pajama top and a frown.

"Honey, why don't you go get dressed?"


This as well, went on for a number of denials. Then, true disaster struck.

"Is that the coffee maker? Did Daddy turn on the coffee maker without me?!"

"Well, yes, Hank, because you weren't listening and and are taking so long to get ready."


Oh dear. The sobbing continued throughout the dressing process, leading to a full fledged meltdown on the stairs as he kicked and flailed. When that happens, you just have to sort of stand back and let the power be unleashed. Not much can be done there until the settling down proces shows signs of life.

And eventually, it did. Much sniffling and nose blowing commenced. There were some more tears when Tom & Jerry was denied, but he had lost steam by that point. I got him to school in better spirits, to find another invitation to a Chuck E Cheese party waiting for us in his cubby.

Never a dull moment in the life of a parent, I tell you. And crazily enough, we keep wanting to do it again and again. God really has a sense of humor :)

1 comment:

  1. I'm totally nervous about the "I will only eat mac n' cheese" syndrome. So I've reading up on solutions like mad. The best one I've seen is to not have any of the other stuff around and say "this is what everyone else is having for dinner." And not give them any other options but what everyone else has. Course naturally as a parent I worry about starvation, but I figure as long as I stick to this plan early enough he can't argue his way out of it with "but last time."

    The other solution is to have homemade mac n' cheese where I sneak in veggies to make it more nutritious. I don't think I can do that with chicken nuggets, but I don't have chicken nuggets for dinners anyway and when I do it's the veggie ones.

    Other than making him eat the veggies first do you have any other suggestions? I really don't like the idea of forcing or coaxing HB to eat food. I'd rather him try it out on his own. Although I know this is only a theory and I'll have to see how it goes in practice.



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