I can’t keep up with her. Her changing tastes, opinions, and dislikes. One day, carrot soup is the tastiest thing ever and then next she hardly manages to choke a bite down without gagging. Lunch the previous day had been peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with pickles on the side and today? It was scorned and Ella declared she wanted her belly to grumble because the food was icky.
It’s been a frustrating couple of months, trying to find the balance between not being a short order cook and finding food she would eat. Because the idea that she wouldn’t starve herself is not true. She’s rather go all day without eating (and having behavior issues due to hunger and blood sugar) than eat something she didn’t like. We’ve been able to implement the rule of taking one polite of everything on her plate and then after that, she can have a peanut butter sandwich. Even with this successfully in place, with Aaron modeling it by taking bites of peaches and cucumber without making faces, I felt like I was missing the whole point. Why was she acting this way? Yes, it is age appropriate but how can I help her overcome this? Forcing her to take a single bite of food wasn’t going to change anything in the long run.
Finally, I clued into the idea of having her help prepare the food. She’s almost three and can follow direction well with close supervision. So one night last week, I handed her a butter knife and peach slices for her to chop up. She helped me dip chicken into an egg wash and roll them in bread crumbs. After picking out which bundle of broccoli to cook, she washed it in the sink for me. Her all time favorite part was dumping in butter and seasonings into the mixer while the mashed potatoes were being whipped up.
With a flourish (yes, my not yet three year old flourishes), she presented her full plate of food to Aaron. “See, Daddy? See!” she exclaimed with excitement and nearly knocked her plate over with frantic waving. The pride of accomplishment was clear on her face and while she didn’t eat a lot, it was without a battle and she tasted everything with exclamations of delight.
I don’t have the ability to have her help me with every dinner every night since this revelation, but I do strive to include her in ways that she can help. Putting carrot slices on everyone’s plates, washing produce, and pouring dry rice into a pot are all ways that she’s participated in food preparation.
Finding the bigger picture was vital to this solution and I hope it continues to grow as she grows. Right now, food preparation is helping her expand her taste palette and creating a more peaceful meal time. In the future, I hope this will foster a love of cooking and preparing food. A person has to eat and if you can enjoy preparing the food you eat, it makes food prep so much easier.
Find more stories about finding the bigger picture over at Sarah’s today.