Thursday, June 05, 2014

Back and forth

Recently we made two small adjustments to our kids diets that have made a big difference. The first I have to give credit to my husband for: My son is not a big fan of food that is not chocolate and sweets. He will eat fruit sometimes but apart from raw carrots, edamame beans, and on occasion sweet corn, forget vegetables. As a result he was getting constipated and I really started worrying when I saw blood in his stool on a couple of occasions. But the child has my stubbornness and no matter how much I beg, plead or threaten, he stands firm in not wanting to eat certain things. And he doesn't like food with sauce on, so forget trying to sneak vegetables into a pasta sauce. He doesn't even have milk on his cereal. My daughter is more adventurous, will eat veg if asked, likes fruit but probably wasn't getting enough. So my husband suggested that when I collect them from school, a time when my son is ravenous, instead of taking a croissant or brioche or madeline (his usual favourites) along with a packet of Pom Bears, or one of those small party size boxes of smarties, I take fruit instead. I told him that our son would throw a shit fit if I turned up without a chunk of processed carbohydrates and he told me, "Yes, but he'll get over it." And by god, he was right. 

This week I have a picked him up armed with a lunchbox full of strawberries, black berries, apple, a banana and some brazil nuts. On the first day he started crying and when I explained I had nothing else he eventually ate the lot! Except the Brazil nuts, but it's a good start. My daughter, the same, although she didn't complain. Yesterday the same, he ate all of his fruit and as a treat I gave him some of those cheese twists they do at M&S which he loves, but he knew he'd only get those once he had eaten his fruit. When we got home he got hold of the raisins of his own volition and then ate carrot sticks and edamame beans while waiting for his dinner. 

I suppose reading this you think it makes perfect sense: if you simply remove the junk and only offer kids healthy stuff they will eventually develop a taste for it. But those of you that do have kids also know that they ask for certain things and already have their preferences, so it's tough being tough. Before I had children I used to see people prancing around their children saying things like: "Edwin, I promise you the sauce did not touch your pasta! (Edwin begins screaming and purses his lips shut and refuses.) OK, OK, I'll get you fresh pasta." And I thought: No way in hell am I going to be that indulgent - my children will eat what they are given. Forgetting of course that as a child I often sat at the table alone a good hour after everyone had finished and were happily enjoying Dallas in the lounge, while I stared at my cold vegetables that had succumbed to rigor mortis. My father was insistent that I remain at the table until I eat all of my food. I once paid my brother with saved up chocolate bars to sneak in and eat my food until my parents caught on. But I never gave in, and my parents eventually relented. It is a reminder that threatening children is often an ineffectual tool and you have to find another way. As a child, my poor father had to drink castor oil on occasion, so my kids having to eat lovely fresh fruit and veg is hardly a punishment. I remind myself.

And the good news it that the children have been going to the toilet, and without going into too much detail, it's as it should be. *And breathe out.*

The ice-cream man parks outside of my daughter's school and my son and daughter ask for an ice-cream pretty much every day. I've began to resent him somewhat, and then I remembered my friends and I pooling our change together to purchase an ice lolly from the skinny African guy with the torn trousers who used to park his bike outside our school while we waited for our parents to collect us. Anyway, I gave in to my kids a couple of times and then they started asking for one every single day, and so I instituted the 'Friday only rule.' Firstly because it's a lot of sugar to have every day, and secondly because it interferes with their dinnertime (especially my son who has usually had his after school snack by the time we arrive at my daughter's school). But a third, quite unexpected benefit has occurred: My children are learning, probably for the first time in their little lives, what it means to want something and to have to wait for it. This morning I heard them discussing the fact that tomorrow is Friday and what sort of ice-creams they are planning on having, in my daughter's case licking her lips as she described hers in detail. It was a wonderful thing to hear them actually anticipating something and appreciating that it was a treat rather than a given.

As a child my parents didn't have much money and there were four of us children. Apart from clothing and things for school, any toy or special request was only received on birthdays and Christmas, and even then it wouldn't always be exactly what I wanted or asked for (the entire Tinkerbell makeup range - a perfectly reasonable request). I am not saying we were better behaved more well adjusted children for it as opposed to say my wealthier friends who got things as and when, but we certainly didn't go to stores and start crying or kicking up a fuss if my parents didn't get us something each time we went out. The expectation simply wasn't there. In fact I remember the very first time, which means I must have been four or older, when my mother and I were in a clothing store and she said to me: You can choose a dress. And that memory has stuck with me because (a) Up to that point all of my clothes had been hand-me-downs, and (b) I was invited to choose and the choice was entirely up to me - an incredible luxury. To this day I remember that dress; a tan coloured sleeveless a-line with a camel and palm tree on it and slightly scooped neck with a little red belt. My mother looked at the price tag and remarked: "Well you've got expensive taste, I'll give you that much."

My children don't have to wait for birthdays and Christmas to receive things. I only have two, and am fortunate enough to be able to afford a few extra things. Also, my feeling is that very small children don't have a very good concept of time and for my son even waiting for Friday ice-cream day feels like an eternity. But what I tend to do if they ask for something is say they can have it if they get a good end of term report. In my son's case this is mainly behaviour related, and it's proved to be a good incentive. OK so every morning he wakes up and asks me if it is the end of term and can he have the hulk figurine he's currently lusting after, and I have to gently remind him it's still a few weeks to go. But it doesn't kill him, and he's beginning to understand that things don't just get handed to him and he has to earn them. I have been using this method with my daughter, very successfully, for a couple of years now and she has an impressive Schleich fairy and unicorn collection as a result.

If you read my previous post you will know that getting toys willy nilly does have some exceptions such as visits to Disney Land or something small at the airport to entertain them on a flight, although the latter is probably more so for my husband and my sanity as much as my children's entertainment.

And then there was the housekeeper's child, a slight 5-year-old girl, on my grandparents's farm whom I invited to join my sister and I to watch Princess Diana and Prince Charles's wedding on television. And she arrived with her toys which were a small collection of rocks and stones, before her mother told her she shouldn't be sitting inside of the house with us children and ushered her home. She was black and we were white you see, and the daughter of the maid. But at the time I didn't understand any of those cruel, obnoxious bullshit social rules that I would come to learn were an unfortunate part of my heritage, and was very upset that she had to leave. But thinking about those rocks and stones it occurred to me even at the time, that I was lucky to have a Cindy Doll even if it had belonged to my older sister before me and had an unfortunate hair style. 

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