One of the most commonly repeated pieces of advice on parenting is “You have to pick your battles.” The original quote is actually “choose your battles wisely.” Oh, if only I had the wisdom to know.
I think this is true of course. I try, of course. I do let things go sometimes, except I have a toddler fast approaching two years on this screwed up beautiful painful dark evil wonderful healing psycho bi-polar planet and for her, battling me is a deep instinctual urge. Most days it feels like she chooses every single battle. She will fight whether I engage or not.
At the moment it feels like I am cursed to battle her over food. After many years spent creating and then battling my own food issues, I am now doomed to deal with someone else’s and it’s not her fault but, she’s totally irrational about them. I mean, I can’t blame her I guess. So was I for a long time.
Where as I once longed for permission to eat anything I wanted, my daughter now longs for permission to eat only a list of pre-approved foods, which feels like it gets smaller all the time.
For the longest time she would eat pretty much any kind of pasta and she used to love lasagna. I gave her some tonight and she wouldn’t even taste it. As soon as she laid eyes on it she began loudly and obnoxiously rejecting it, shouting, “I don’t like it! I don’t want to! I don’t like!” and pushing the bowl away. Then she grabbed a little fistful and smeared it all over the table, then grabbed the spoon and flung it to the floor, then ran her cheesy saucy hands through her hair.
I halfheartedly went through the motions of trying to convince her to eat it, but I knew it wouldn’t work and it didn’t. I’ve asked people for new ideas on how to get her to eat and everyone responded with stuff I’d already tried over and over again.
As a baby she tried everything and regularly ate vegetables and other healthy foods. At school she eats everything they serve. I am enraged with jealousy. Her problem doesn’t appear to be the food. It appears to be me.
I felt insanely defeated. I let her have some blackberries and yogurt just to get something in her belly. She then demanded a bowl of goldfish crackers. I gave them to her. She ate two and demanded I clean her up and let her get down. I was too exhausted to fight her. Dinner time is the worst.
Then we were sitting on the couch and she asked to watch Mickey Mouse. This child is obsessed with Mickey Mouse. She’s his biggest fan. Given the choice between watching Mickey Mouse and doing just about anything else, she will always choose Mickey. She has a little toy Mickey she MUST sleep with at night or all is lost. Her favorite book right now that she has to read 45 times a day is a Mickey Mouse Christmas book.
But this is one of the areas where I have the total upper hand. I control the remote. I am the only one who knows how to use it right now, and I get the say in what goes on. I’m fine with Mickey and his friends, but I would really like her to get back into Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which I like a lot better, and she used to love before Mickey took over our lives.
So I said to her, “Nope, sorry. No Mickey because you didn’t try your lasagna.”
“How bout… Doc Stuppins?”
Doc McStuffins is her second most favorite show ever.
“Nope, sorry, no Doc McStuffins. You didn’t eat any lasagna. How about some Daniel Tiger?”
“No Daniel Tiger! I don’t want to!”
“Well, how bout nothing then?”
“How bout… Daniel Tiger?”
I cannot tell you how good it felt to get her to ask for Daniel Tiger, even out of desperation for some screen time, lol. It was an episode she hadn’t seen yet and she followed the story really well, afterward pretending to do the same things the kids on the show were doing. Then she asked for another Daniel Tiger! I know it’s stupid, but I really needed that.
When we were reading books before bed, we went through this one that’s basically like a book of opposites with dinosaur illustrations. Every page I ask her which is which. If it’s happy and sad I say, “which ones are happy?” and she’ll point. I ask her why and she sometimes has a good answer. My favorite page of this though is the page that says, “Dinosaurs Cute and Dinosaurs Not.” It has an illustration of two different sets of dinosaurs. The “cute” ones are thin and attractive with a little bow and the other ones are big and bumpy and awkward. I have never told her which ones are “cute,” but every night I ask her which ones are cute. She always points at the “not” cute ones with the awkward lumps. I have no idea if she even understands the word, but it makes my heart swell with so much love for her every time. I love that she’s choosing the weirdos so much. I love that to her the awkward dinosaurs are cute. I will never ever correct her on this.
That is a battle I get to win every night for now.