Monday, July 13, 2009

Food fights

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I sometimes dread weekends when I have stay home with my daughter, like the last one when my husband worked all weekend so I was stuck at home alone with her. It’s not like I don’t like spending time with her, I do, really. My only free time would be when she takes her naps in the morning, which is when I’ll cook the day’s lunch cum dinner, and the afternoon nap, which is when I’ll take a shower, perform my prayers, and finally, take a breather and take a nap myself, or watch a movie as I fold the laundry.

As my daughter just despises being alone, it’s quite difficult to do some housework with her tailing me around and wailing for something she wants to put in her mouth but I won’t let her i.e. talcum powder, my J.Lo sample body lotion, pens, wet wipes, pieces of biscuits she ate this morning, coins if we weren’t careful. The thing is, she knew we wouldn’t let her put stuff in her mouth. Sometimes I catch her in the act and quickly she hides behind the laundry basket, as if I couldn’t see her. And when I take it away from her, she’ll yell herself hoarse like I just tortured her, the baddest mom on the planet. Oooh… this daughter of mine is quite a handful, I tell you.

And that’s not even the main reason why I dread weekends alone with my precious little one. The number one reason is that I simply don’t know what to feed her! No, let me rephrase that. I don’t know WHAT she likes to eat. Every Saturday morning, I’ll flip through the pages of recipe books and magazines that feature food for toddlers and kids to find something that I think she’ll like, but then she’ll eat about three or four spoonfuls, and then pronouncing loudly with a affirmative headshake, “Nanak” which I think means “No thanks, mom, I think I’ve had enough now.” I think I’ve cooked up a pretty decent meal, which in the beginning, she wants to eat so enthusiastically, I would literally hold my breath to see how much she would eat. Not much, it turned out to be. It’s weird how she really likes some food for one day, and then totally hates it the next day. I mean, if you like chicken, you won’t mind eating it often, don’t you?

Then I start to wonder, is my cooking really THAT bad? My husband and brother find them eatable, so what’s the problem here? Her caregivers at her nursery keeps saying that she eats a lot, drinks a lot of milk, pooping twice, sometimes 3 times a day. Every time I pick her up from her nursery, I could really feel her weight from all that food she ate, her little round tummy protruding her t-shirts comfortably well. Then it hit me; she likes company. She always wants a bite of what we’re eating, be it curry, fish, spicy fried chicken or fruits, and she seems to eat more when we’re eating together. So now I try to feed her whatever we eat, as long as it’s not too spicy and not too oily. But her wacky eating behaviours still drive me crazy sometimes. Especially when she purposely drops her food onto the floor (after I just vacuumed the house) or she puts her tongue out and lets her food drip down her chin.

Then of course, I read up some info about toddler nutrition and fussy eaters from the Master of All Sources of Information, the Internet. To my relief, it seems my daughter’s eating habits are perfectly normal for toddlers around the world. The main thing to do for moms is, to stay calm and relax. Easier said than done. Okay, here’s a summary of main points to remember:

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  • Refusing foods is actually an important sign of growing up, as it is the first ways of how toddlers assert their independence. So even though it may drive you up the wall, it’s a healthy developmental milestone for your child.
  • If your child is old enough, try to involve him in food decisions. Provide him with a healthy range of options of foods. Chances are, he’ll be more likely to eat food that he chose for himself.
  • Whenever possible, try to eat together as a family to encourage your child to eat, which is the case with my daughter. She loves company! This is why, I think, she eats more at her nursery. The more, the merrier.
  • Prepare some finger foods so your child can eat some food by themselves, such as pieces of fruit, vegetables, fish, chicken or potatoes, crackers with cheese or little sausages. Mix them up in a variety of colours to make the meal interesting like, carrots, peas, fish, potatoes and pieces of papaya on a yellow plate. But be ready to brace yourself if your child flips it over to the floor.
  • If they spit out their food or protest, don’t punish or yell, but try to smile and take away their food and wait for the next mealtime. This is a real challenge for me, especially when she purposely throws her food onto the floor. But I’ll try and paste a smile on my face next time.
  • Try, try and try again. Just like my daughter’s whims, children’s likes and dislikes change all the time. She might not like it the first time, but she might like them the 15th time. So don’t lose heart too quickly.
  • Just like us adults, there some things that children just do not want to eat. I don’t eat seafood, bean sprouts and tofu, despite my husband’s saying they are delicious, so who am I to complain? So give in gracefully, and nobody’s left in tears.

If all else fails, just take her plate and chow down the food yourself. At least it doesn’t go to waste.

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