Tuesday, August 10, 2010

When Kids Choose NOT to Eat...

We arrived last night in Indiana after 2 days of driving from Boston. We decided to have dinner before ending our journey, and we had some of the best Middle Eastern food I've had in ages. I didn't know whether the kids would be game for this type of food, but I'm of the mind that kids generally will eat when they are hungry. The service was super fast, and my kids were hungry enough to try all sorts of things besides the tasty pita. Caleb discovered baba ghanouj, and Ellie enjoyed some of my lentil soup. We ordered a falafel plate for them, and they both liked the crunchy flavorful balls of chickpeas. I felt very proud that they tried new things and enjoyed them. They ate really well and behaved well too. By the way, anyone traveling through northwest Indiana should check this place out: Aladdin Pita Fine Middle Eastern Cuisine.

Then came this morning.

Grandpa and Grandma's house is very exciting. There are people who will pay attention to them ALL.THE.TIME. There are new toys (new to them). Who has time for food?

My kids played for at least 1-2 hours before eating anything. Caleb probably played even longer as he woke up at 5:30am (the foul words I think of that hour are not appropriate here). While the grandparents were showering and such, I managed to get both kids to eat some yogurt. Not enough to fill them up, but maybe enough until everyone was ready for a fuller breakfast. The kids ate fruit and picked at cereal during the so-called breakfast.

We eventually head out to a playground. It was hot, humid, and downright icky air quality, but the kids ran themselves out. When I couldn't bear the heat and humidity any longer, we head to the grocery store to pick up a few more things for our week here. I met up with Aaron at the cheese counter and discovered that Caleb was DONE. Done, you ask, what does that mean?

Aaron had acquired samples of cheese for the kids. Caleb was unable to accept the sample from Aaron. Aaron would offer, and Caleb would stomp and sulk. Eventually he took the cheese. Then he said he needed something to put it on, so he sat on the floor of the store and put his cheese down on its tissue paper on the floor. Ew. I instructed him to stand. He whined and again tried to find a place to put the cheese down. I suggested his mouth as a good place for it. He yelled at me. Eventually he ate the cheese. We made it to the checkout. He started picking up junk food in the checkout. I told him we were not buying it. WHY???!?!?!?!? I considered not answering him based on his whiny screaming, but I told him that the junk food wasn't on the list and we would eat lunch at Grandma's house. He sat grumpily on the floor again. Grandma asked if he wanted to walk with her to pick up her prescription. He mumbled incoherently. We think he said yes. As he went to walk with her, the junk food distracted him again. Then he realized he wasn't walking with Grandma and our checkout experience sounded like this:


I explained that he would see her again soon, that she just went to get her prescription.

"Buh-buh---but I wanted to be WITH HER!!!!!"

I explained he missed that when he picked up the junk food that I said we weren't buying. I mentioned that I knew he was tired and hungry to which he angrily yelled "NO I'M NOT!!"

I told Aaron I was escorting Master Caleb from the store and that we would see them all at the car. I carried 38 pound Caleb to the car in the 90 degree, 99% humidity weather. No, we were not in the first row.

As he screamed in the blessedly air-conditioned car, I considered what caused this meltdown. It's not like he wants to scream and rage at us. Here's what Aaron and I came up with:
  1. Not enough sleep. Caleb was up until at least 10 and woke around 5-5:30.
  2. Not enough food/water. We didn't give the kids any food at the playground, and they didn't eat enough breakfast (and probably a bad balance of foods)
  3. Temperament. Transitions are challenging for Caleb. Caleb is very persistent and fixates quickly/easily on ideas and plans. When the basics of food and rest are covered, we usually navigate transitions and disappointments reasonably well. Thanks to #1 and #2, this disappointment was an epic fail.
So how did we get out of this mess? For starters, we didn't drive until Caleb could get his screaming under control. This took a few minutes in the car (maybe 5-10). Then food became top priority as soon as we walked in the door at the grandparents' house. I made the current favorite sandwiches for both kids (PB&J - my kids are classic, though a bit boring) and added lots of veggies. Caleb got cukes, tomatoes and olives. Ellie got cukes until she promised not to spit out the olives. I was shocked to see her eat the olives. Maybe she prefers black to kalamata olives? Never complain when they eat vegetables. OK, olives technically are a fruit as are the dates I gave them too. :) I never saw Caleb eat, but his plate was empty and he seemed calmer.

A very wise parent once said to me, "There are at least three things you cannot force a child to do: sleep, use the toilet, or eat." We parents often wish we could make our kids do some combination of those three activities. I wish I could have made Caleb eat an adequate breakfast this morning and/or sleep more last night. It was not in his grand plans, and we all paid a price. What I hope he can take from this experience is that sometimes he needs to eat and that not eating can make him really cranky. After all, don't we all need to eat so we feel good?

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