One thing about parenting that I was not prepared for was the fact that someone, at any given moment, has An Opinion about how you are parenting your child. And not you as in “you all.” But YOU. At your computer with the cup of coffee (or wine; I’m not judging). ME. I have come across so many TIPS and SUGGESTIONS and COMMENTS and POINTED QUESTIONS and RAISED EYEBROWS and sakes alive, it’s exhausting.
Want to swaddle your baby? Well, let me link to an article about hip problems later in life. Want to extend breastfeeding? Well, I heard that it makes people turn into serial killers. Co-sleeping, toddler leashes, the color of paint you use on the walls, organic or non-organic milk and you guys, I could do nothing but sit here and list things that people opine on. To me.
Now I may or may not be like you, but I internalize all of this. I SAY that I’m confident in my choices and secure in my parenting approach and other people’s opinions about me don’t matter, but I’m a big fat liar.
Every time someone tells me (or I read a post, or a comment) how they would do something differently, I question myself.
One particular area this was impacting me (and my family) is food.
I have a picky eater. And everyone and their aunt has the perfect solution to fix your picky eater’s habits (hint: whatever you’re doing now is wrong).
He didn’t USED to be picky. As a baby and early toddler he ate everything with gusto. Pesto covered quinoa pasta with chickpeas? Yes, please. Roasted asparagus and lamb stew? Absolutely. Curry lentils and rice? He’ll have seconds. I was so smug. So obnoxiously smug. It’s because I gave him a lot of variety with baby food, I’d say when someone would ask me how I got my fifteen month old to eat salmon with olive tapenade.
No, Past Emily. It’s because you were lucky and babies have as refined a palate as a goat.
Toddlers, though, develop more tastebuds. And more opinions. And they stop eating anything green. Or red. Or not in the shape of a fishy cracker.
I started reading about how to Fix My Kid’s Eating Problem. I worried about getting him enough variety. I worried about making second meals (don’t do it! it teaches them that you’re a short order cook!) (do it! your child won’t get enough calories!). I tried bribing him and cajoling him and making games out of it and constantly worrying that I was Doing It Wrong. I was clearly ruining him for life and he’d be that kid in college who still only ate white rice and Cheerios.
This not only stressed me out, but it made mealtimes stressful for everyone. They became epic battle of the wills between me and a three year old (guess who ALWAYS won? it wasn’t me). Usually one or both of us left the table in tears.
So I quit.
I mean, not feeding him. That’s illegal and also mean.
But I quit worrying about it.
My approach now is this: I make a meal, I put it on the table family style, everyone serves themselves what they want, and I don’t even watch who puts what into their mouths. If it’s a dessert night, then everyone gets dessert after dinner. If it’s not, then no one does (until the kids are in bed and I eat a handful of Cadbury Mini Eggs).
Sometimes Xander asks for seconds, sometimes he actually eats a vegetable, sometimes he’ll lick the ketchup up with a spoon and call it a day.
Dinners, while not quiet or calm with two kids under 3, are much more enjoyable now. Xander knows that he only has to eat what he wants. I don’t feel like I need to be the Carrot Police. He’s growing. I think it’s really the best case scenario for us.