Maë vs Dinner

by Alicia on March 2, 2012

Dinner is a less-than-pleasant experience at our house these days. Four out of the five of us sit around the table like civilized homo-sapiens and use forks (some of the time) and manners (most of the time) and our inside voices. And then there’s Maëlle.

Oh, Maë.

We decided very early on with Kid #1 that we would offer a bevy of choices on a dinner plate…but what was served to one was served to all. And if you didn’t eat it, you didn’t eat. I am no short-order cook, I have no intention of making more than one meal at dinner. Hell, there are some nights we struggle to get that one meal in, I couldn’t possibly imagine making another. But some nights…this really does mean that someone doesn’t eat by choice. More often than not right now, that person is Maelle.

Instead of a peaceful dinner full of girly giggles and stories about school recess, we endure screaming (I’m not kidding here…full volume, top of her voice screams), tears, pushing away of plates, NO! (sometimes she just repeats this over & over & over…), and climbing up and down off the chair one bajillion times. We repeat the phrases “Please sit down and eat your dinner. Here try this. Just eat this one thing. Don’t push your plate. Stop screaming! You’re not getting a snack, don’t bother asking. Stop screaming! It’s not torture, it’s dinner. Go be by yourself if you’re going to scream like that. Stop screaming! Stop screaming! STOP SCREAMING!!” (if it reaches this point, we’re usually screaming at her to stop screaming. It’s delightful. I’m a wonderful parent. STFU.)
Recently we have discovered that she will heartily eat only these things: french fries, fish, Honeycomb cereal, Strawberry PopTarts…and three bites of whatever everyone else is eating until she decides that’s gross too. A girl cannot live on these things alone, right? 
At this point we are choosing to ignore it and let the phase pass. It’s not the greatest of all strategies, we realize, but it will have to do for now. Mae basically chose baby-led-weaning on her own and refused to be fed from a spoon very early on. This stance of hers has not changed and it makes not a lick of difference to her if you offer to physically help her eat. She refuses just the same. We have tried arranging the food in fun ways (a la Mannlymama #toddlerdinners style). We have tried slight modifications to her meal. We’ve tried letting her switch seats one billion times. We’ve tried sitting her on our laps. Sitting at her kid table. Eating alone. Talking to her. Pleading with her. Bribing her. NOTHING WORKS. 
Except when it does. Because she decides it so. 
I think this should be something I should have figured out two kids ago, but we honestly can’t remember ever having this much trouble with the other two. Truthfully, Maëlle is probably the most stubborn person in our house. She will be convinced of nothing. She will be distracted in no way. All things I want for her later in life…………a little later than 22 months, thankyouverymuch. 
So for now we struggle through dinner. Ryan & I have decided that it’s just not an option for us to make a special meal for her, we don’t want to serve her meal earlier or later than anyone else because we have always coveted the Family Meal Time. So, given all of the options we’ve exhausted we’re just going to stick it out. This is basically a griping post now then, isn’t it? Yay for getting this far only to be significantly let down! High five to you!
It’s a source of stress for me, so I want to put it out here. I don’t think she’s becoming malnourished, I don’t think she’s being unhealthy and I’m not worried about her not getting her proper nutrients. Not every day is a winner. Asserting independence sometimes takes a wonky turn you don’t expect. This is hers. (Please say this is hers and it’s not about to get worse…oh dear god…) I try not to read much Internet Advice, because let’s face it- most of those “experts” are people just like me tippity-typing away on their keyboards with rubbed off “w” keys and a bunch of bookmarked Wikipedia articles as “fact” and they don’t know a damn thing about any damn thing. Plus? They aren’t raising Maë. We are. We are the bosses. 
Just don’t tell Maë that.

!use caution when approaching!

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