Tuesday, September 29, 2009
"Howdy pardners, I'm Pokey Jane! Glad y'all dropped by for a spell. Pull up a chair while I finish my supper...it'll take me a just a few seconds...make that minutes...make that an hour or so..."
Welcome to my dilemma du jour. You see, my daughter really is the Slowest Fork in the West. Never have I seen anyone take so long to finish dinner. Well, not since her grandmother (my mom). Why does it take her so long? For one, she just can't seem to sit still or stay quiet long enough to sneak in a bite. She fidgets, she sings, she talks, she plays pretend, she pushes her food around the plate, she gives you a run down of the entire day, and she speculates on the activities for the next day. We do everything we can to get her to concentrate on the meal...which works for about two bites...then she's jabbering on about something new. I know a lot of the time she's not exactly thrilled about what's on her plate. She's not exactly a picky eater, especially as three year olds go, but she's definitely gotten a little more finicky than she was when she was younger...and definitely more than say, her brother, who will inhale just about anything in under 60 seconds. Dinner is by far the most painful meal to get through, but I'll be honest, most meals...and snacks are consumed at a snail's pace. The other morning it took her 45 minutes to eat 1/2 a cup of Cheerios. No kidding...I timed it. About 20 minutes into it I asked her if she was done, but she insisted she was still hungry and wanted to finish...and she did. At snack time I can give her one of those mini boxes of raisins and it takes her half an hour to finish that.
What are we doing to motivate her to eat? About every 5 minutes we're reminding her "SweetPea, you need to eat your dinner". At one point, we were letting her walk away from the table after eating about a quarter of the meal on her plate because she said she was all done, but that backfired when she started complaining about being hungry after about 30 minutes. When we put our foot down and told her "too bad, you should have eaten your dinner", she started waking up between 2 and 3 AM complaining about being hungry. ARGH! So we tried a different angle...we found something that she likes...namely, tapioca Snack Packs. If she wants a Snack Pack for dessert, she needs to finish her meal...which got us to where we are now. She's finally eating her whole dinner...only she takes between 45 minutes to an hour to do it.
Here's my biggest struggle with the whole thing...I want her to have a positive relationship with eating and food. I want her to understand that we eat together as a family at mealtime, but that she shouldn't feel like she needs to clear her plate if she's genuinely not that hungry. I don't want her to eat just for the sake of eating. I hear kids at her age can tend to be grazers, which is fine, but I also don't want her endlessly munching all day long...or spoiling normal mealtimes. I've discussed the issue with her pediatrician, who tells me what a tricky game eating is at this age. She agrees with me about letting SweetPea eat when she's hungry, but trying to enforce set mealtimes too. She agrees that it isn't good to teach kids they have to eat past the point where they are no longer hungry. She also tells me that at her age, SweetPea will eat just to survive and will often be too distracted to stop long enough to eat. Forget that compared to the other kids on the playground and in her preschool class she looks like a waif...like if you sneeze too close to her that she'll blow away...the doctor says, when she is hungry...really hungry...she will eat.
Now that the weather is turning cooler (which here in Texas means it's in the 80's instead of the 100's), The Man has been taking Pokey Jane for walks with him in the evening. She looks forward to spending time with Daddy. To motivate her to eat her meals faster, we tell her she has only so much time to finish (yes, I realize she still doesn't really have a sense of time)...and if she doesn't finish within that time, she doesn't get to go on the walk. Has it worked? Well, she hasn't been out for a walk in two days. SIGH...yep...we still have some work ahead of us.