Last week, I was in a cafe with my youngest daughter who is now almost 4, and my sister. We’d ordered lunch and my sister and I were chatting when I suddenly realised that my daughter had picked up the bottle of tomato ketchup from the middle of the table and had proceeded to lick the dry, congealed sauce from around the partially closed lid. ‘Ewww, yuck! stop doing that!’ I’d squawked, grabbing the bottle and eyeing my child with disgust. I was speechless for a moment, wondering how to handle this. I gave my sister a look that revealed my utter discombobulation and she returned it with a stifled snigger. Thankfully the waitress then arrived with my daughter’s ham and cheese toasty, we all got distracted and I decided to gloss over it.
But it got me thinking about how frequently I find myself having to say such things as; ‘Stop licking the car’ or ‘Why are you eating your sleeve?’ And as a professional child care practitioner in a previous life, I can remember plenty of incidents in the past when I have witnessed little ones happily chowing down on something inedible and totally gross, without a flicker of disgust on their faces.
A few favourites that I have witnessed a small child do:
- lick the underside of a muddy welly.
- take a chomp out of a cuttlefish bone found on the beach.
- lick a mound of moss from a castle wall.
- eat a handful of playdoh.
- lick the snot hanging down from their nostrils.
- eat a bogey (I’d like to add that my kids don’t actually do this as far as I’m aware!).
- lick my face/arm/leg.
I’m sure every parent reading this could add at least 5 more things to the list. Feel free to share yours! 🙂
What I would like to know is; how come the desire to explore the world in this way doesn’t extend to food such as fresh fruit and vegetables or just, you know, dinner?
Why is it that snot gets tongue swiped from the top lip without hesitation but a delicious fish pie would be elbow swiped off the table by the same outraged toddler (and later swiped in to the food waste bin by a broken parent)?
Why does a cuttlefish bone get preference over a tasty chicken fajita wrap?
Why is couscous evil, when sand is an acceptable snack?
Any parent of a fussy eater will understand the frustrations of trying to encourage their child to try new foods. And how the pressure of the 5 a day rule looms over our heads like a giant hand ready to slap us round the back of the head at the end of the day if the figures don’t add up.
A friend of mine has confessed that she likes to aim for 9, yes 9! portions of fruit or veg per day for her 3 year old, just so she feels she has it covered. If I can get 3 portions in to my youngest in a day, it feels like a win – and one of those is usually tinned baked beans! *Wincing* Here comes the giant hand again..
A few months back, we met up with the same friend and her daughter for a play in the park. My two were complaining of being hungry so I dished out a packet of mini cheddars to each of them, which i’d stuffed in my bag before leaving the house. Feeling uber prepared and totally smug about my epic organisational skills, I turned to see my friend arriving to meet us. What was that her daughter was holding and eating? Is that? Could it be? A whole red pepper!!? There she was, just chomping through as per an apple, pips and all. Happily! Willingly! She looked all fresh and healthy with a lovely juicy pink stain around her mouth. As I glanced back at my beautiful girls stuffing processed cheesy biscuits in to their perfect little mouths, I sharply felt the thwack of the hand of shame across the back of my head. How could I abuse them in this way? What a terrible mother I am! Must try harder, must try harder. Arrrggghhh!
I feel the need to point out at this stage that my children do eat fairly well, I (nearly) always cook from scratch and I limit their chocolate and sweets intake. But they don’t always both like the same variety of things – what one WILL eat, the other will not.
Neither will eat red pepper. Fact.
(*whispers*..And I do tend to opt for crackers over fruit when it comes to snack time)
Oh the guilt!
My youngest recently tried and liked dried apricots – I nearly wept with delight when she asked for more! Hurrah! We have now added that to the list. Yes we actually have a list, devised with the children, for my own sanity and to remind the girls. Because if any of the things on their plate are on the list, there is zero tolerance to any fussing about them.
As you can see, the list is constantly being edited, with grapes being crossed off and raspberries replaced by bananas. I’ve no idea why or how peas are still on there!?
Note: The apricots have to be scrutinised for the correct amount of squishy-ness before being accepted by said child. Any that don’t pass quality control will be handed back or discarded over child’s shoulder.
They don’t go for home made smoothies so I can’t sneak fruit and veg in that way and only one likes soup (which is my other veggie smuggling trick)
(Can I say ‘veggie smuggling’ without that sounding totally inappropriate? – you know what I mean!!)
On days when I can’t be arsed to:
1. Think of something to prepare and cook that they’ll both enjoy
2. Engage in a puppetry performance with their favourite toys (Hello Kitty LOVES broccoli btw)
3. Resort to bribery in the form of a pudding, a star on the chart, a trip to disneyland… (I was desperate ok!)
4. Negotiating that the tiniest amount should be eaten or there will be nothing else until morning – and then accepting half of that as the final deal – of which half of that actually gets eaten..
I will simply reach for the fish fingers and waffles, bracing myself as I do so, for the giant hand of shame is poised above my head.
My husband and I are food loving types and always have been and it would be wonderful to be able to share that with our daughters too but how can that work when congealed sauce from a filthy lid, touched by many greasy, dirty fingers, is more appealing than… a grape?
When asked what to do about fussy eaters, child care professionals tend to say; ‘Just give them what they WILL eat.’ Maybe I need to think outside the box;
Starter – Bowl of warm snot with freshly picked bogey croutons
Main – Fillet of cuttlefish wrapped in streaky bacon, served with a sand and playdoh salad.
Dessert – Whatever you bloody want, I don’t care anymore.
Or maybe I should try smearing some mashed butternut squash across the car window, in the hope that it might be unsuspectingly licked off? That would count as a portion of veg, right?