The Narrator still has trouble at dinner time. If we’re not having one of the three things on his “Approved” list, he’ll be at the table for ages. If we’re having something new…he’ll sit there for weeks. Dinner time can literally take hours depending on how miserable he feels like being when it comes to dinner. When he’s told to ‘hurry up and eat’ – he will pouch the food in his cheek, and move his mandibles around making it look like he’s chewing. Ten minutes later, we’ll tell him to take another bite, and he’ll open his mouth to show that the LAST piece of food is still there, largely unmolested by his teeth.
This, of course- prompts me to flip out. Which upsets him. Which upsets the wife. Which gets me a reproachful stare. Which sets off an icy tone for the rest of the evening.
We’ve tried damn near everything. Being nice. Being hard. Rewarding. Punishing. Indifference. Begging. Nothing works. The more he’s pressed- the longer it takes.
The other night I decided that if he was still at the dinner table at 7PM…he was finished and would be marched straight to bed. 7PM came, and when I lowered the boom, I was promptly hauled away by my wife and given a talking to, where she mentioned that when I’m not home for dinner….there are no problems. Literally.
The key ingredient in his dinner issue….is me.
Because I don’t have any patience in the matter, I’ll set ‘rules’ which end up skirted for one reason or another, or I’ll create consequences, which don’t come to fruition because they have their legs cut out from under them by mommy, who outranks daddy…and if she says I’m being too harsh…I can’t argue. Not only is she ‘mommy’ but she does have a degree in this stuff too- so I don’t have a leg to stand on. All of this frustrates, confuses, and confounds the poor little kid, which slows his progress down.
Have you got any idea how hard it is to find out that the problem with your kid….is your parenting? Gut punch.
Conversely though- and this is the only thing that makes me want to sit in the bathtub and weep over being a failed parent for several hours….Mini-Me will only eat all of his dinner if I’m interacting with him. For some reason, my wife cannot get him to eat his dinner in total unless I’m there to make a game out of it or feed him, or somehow deal with him.
The Narrator though? As soon as daddy’s thrown into the mix…we’re talking two hours and several reheats before dinner is eaten in its entirety.
If I’m working nights, he eats fine- doesn’t matter what it is. My impatience with him on the matter is what makes it worse.
So, I need to distance myself from him at dinner. I’m not going to IGNORE him by any means- but from here out, I have to not be involved with the process of his eating dinner.
The worst part is when I try to defend my obviously flawed parenting tactics to my wife when she’s clearly right. That doesn’t help, but I can’t resist. The ability to say “Yeah, I failed. You’re right” may come to us all at some point, but rarely is it a default reaction. It takes time to get there.
Go up to a stranger and try to convince them that the sky is a constant shade of purple with silver stripes, and you’ll have a good idea how I feel when I try to defend myself in these matters. I know I’m wrong, and my brain is telling me “Shut up stupid” – but the mouth….the mouth refuses to make the admission that I’m the problem. At least not right away.
So my new dinner time strategy is to eat my food, convince Mini-Me to eat his, and that’s it. No more cajoling, pleading, yelling, or promising. The chips have to fall as they do when I’m not home, and I really need to be okay with the idea that the problem isn’t him…it’s me.
Parenting is hard. Admitting you’re doing it wrong? That’s no picnic either.