Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Dinner-Challenged Individual

My daughter is definitely dinner-challenged. The majority of the evening meals she eats (well, sometimes eats, but we'll get to that later...) are serious attempts at judicial negotiation, almost bordering on coercion. Some might even call it bribery.

But, how do you balance the idea of making sure your child is eating a healthy well-balanced diet with holding onto your principles of serving a legitimate meal? Every day, I battle this. Do I give her exactly what she asks for, so that I make sure she eats? Or do I give her a little bit of the thing she asks for, and withhold the rest as a "reward" for eating the food I want her to eat? And how long do I let dinner drag on, while encouraging her to eat what's on her plate? We've gone some nights with dinner lasting almost an hour! Last night, we tried setting our kitchen timer, but it was NOT a big hit. The munchkin got so focused on worrying about the timer "dinging," that she couldn't eat. We told her to try and forget about it, but that's all she could think of. So, you guessed it -- dinner lasted 45 minutes again.

We seem to have a rotation of about 5 dinner choices -- scrambled eggs, a Boca burger, chicken nuggets, ravioli (or some other form of pasta), or fish sticks. She varies the accompaniments (cous cous, green beans, broccoli, applesauce, etc.), but the "main dishes" always seem to be on this narrow list. I often wonder if she'll grow up to be an adventurous eater -- something my parents could never claim about me. She does like unusal things -- olives, mushrooms, avocados, pickles -- but her overall diet seems to be about as un-adventurous as any other almost-four-year-old's. I'm not worried, I just wonder what impact it will have in the long run.

Often, all of the basically inconsequential dinnertime issues just pile up into one big round of frustration. Not for her, but for Mommy (and Daddy). Every night, we struggle with whether to "stick to our guns" and make a point, or be a little looser and let things slide a little. Sometimes she eats what we consider to be an acceptable amount of the approved menu items, but other times, she ends up eating just a few mouthfuls of food and a few sips of milk. I always think she'll be too hungry to fall sleep that night, but somehow she makes it until the morning. (And then, thankfuly, eats a nice big breakfast!)

But, no matter what happens during dinner, as soon as she's finished, the munchkin "pays the toll" to Mommy and Daddy. Each of us gets this toll (a quick kiss!) as she scoots off to her playroom to attend to some other much more important matter. After all, dressing up as the Princess from the Planet GreenPail, or putting together a Clifford puzzle in the middle of the living room floor is waaaaaaaay more exciting than eating dinner! Right?!?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Thoughts about family

We have just returned from visiting family in Florida. It was a wonderful trip, and it certainly gave our munchkin the opportunity to get to know some relatives a little better.

Living so far away geographically, we don't get to see them all that often, and as such, the munchkin was a bit shy when it came to these "new people." Yes, she's met them all before... And no, she is not normally shy... But, nonetheless, she was absolutely NOT interested in giving anyone a hug or a kiss. She was usually willing to blow kisses, but would not engage in any lips-on-cheek kissing, or any arms-around-neck hugging at all. We tried to encourage her, but to no avail. We ultimately didn't push it for fear of making too big a deal about it. I do hope that someday she overcomes this and is willing to hug and kiss like the best of 'em...

We got together with a lot of people while we were in Florida, but there was one person that we did not see. There is a rather acrimonious divorce going on in one branch of our family tree, and it was clear that we were not supposed to have contact with the divorcing spouse. No one said this to us in so many words, but it was obviously the (unspoken) rule of the family. This frustrates me, and I am not sure how to handle it. Here is a person who has been in our lives for many, many years, then all at once -- POOF! -- this person is no longer in the picture. Sure the name gets mentioned, but only with a negative tone and a minor look of hatred in the speaker's eyes.

While I support our family member wholeheartedly, it also makes me sad that the other spouse will no longer be part of our family gatherings. I really enjoyed spending time with this person and will miss them tremendously. I also wonder if I would be "condemned" a little if I did choose to keep in contact with this person. I will need to weigh the details of the situation, come to terms with it, and then make my own decision. All the while, trying to be understanding of a very awkward situation...

Families are one of the most wonderful and rewarding things in life... And also one of the most challenging and complicated. It's no wonder that we love them so much!