Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Slowest Fork In the West

"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.


  1. Good Mornin....
    Great Post.... I have the same problem with my daughter. I could have written this post LOL. It's super frustrating. She's a snacker as well....

    Good luck with your little "slow poke"

  2. wow....we aren't the only ones!! I felt like you were writing about us!! The worst for us is that our girl, Kayleigh (who is 4) is pretty darn picky these days.
    Good luck!

  3. My boys are the complete opposite! Either they refuse to eat their food at all, or they chow it down so fast I'm afraid they are going to swallow their tongues!
    Good luck :)

  4. Oh wow, I can not relate AT ALL. My girls are so high-energy that they need to eat all day long. And they do. I hand them an apple (a big one!) and they are done in about 5 minutes, and begging for more. I hand them a massive plate of cheese and crackers, and in only 2 minutes, their plates are clean and they are begging for more.

    Think on the brightside... Sweet Pea probably has an awesome digestive system after chewing every single bite so slowly!!

  5. OMG Marisa, cows chew their food less than she does! And she chews and hums :)

    What you said about the high energy is the puzzling part. She is extremely active and even at that she eats next to nothing. She get so caught up in the activity that food is on the bottom of her "to do" list. Merrick is more like your girls...he moves and eats...and eats while he's on the move. He eats more in one meal than she does all day sometimes...and still HE'S only in the 10th-15th percentile in weight too!

  6. Hang in there she will eat when she is hungry and she will outgrow this phase...My daughter was a pokey eater and would only eat certain things..one week she wouldn't eat potatoes, one week no veggies and one week not meat..This kept up for almost a year but soon grew out of that..Her Younger brother was just the flip side..we use to call him Vacuum lips..One minute his plate had food on it and the next it was clean...They both grew to adults and suffer not ill affect from either of their habits...So Hang in there....Is't motherhood wonderfull...


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