The dinner table at our house, just like at my parents, has become the dusty barren street of an old western movie. Nearly every night, there is an epic stand off between parent and child over whether or not the child will eat his food. Most nights, he does not and goes to bed, crying and hungry. His father occasionally yells and sets a timer and tells him to eat before the timer goes off. His mother buckles him into his booster seat and makes him sit for hours before she looses her temper and attempts to force feed him. Both tactics end up with a child in tears.
Tonight, I was on my own. Austin has a game night at work he attends every other week. Usually on those nights we just eat out of the fridge so that means Asher can have pretty much whatever he wants, which is usually cereal. Tonight, for some unknown reason, I decided to cook. Meatloaf.
My meatloaf is good. I know, everyone thinks theirs is good, so that doesn't mean much. Mine is like a hamburger in meatloaf form. It's got potatoes in it and a ketchup mustard sauce that's really yummy. Everyone I've ever made it for, even non-meatloaf people, love it. In the past, Asher has eaten this well.
Of course, he wasn't 3 the last time we ate this. Three is a hard age, I'm discovering. I've been told this, but man. I hate it.
I put dinner on the table at 5.30. Elijah ate his 1/3 of the meatloaf in no time flat (I make mini meatloaf so we eat an entire one in one sitting). I ate mine in slightly longer. Austin's got put in the fridge for when he returned. Asher's tiny portion sat untouched on his plate, pushed to the center of the table as he staunchly refused to even let a morsel of it touch his lips and tongue. Elijah got cleaned up, because of course there was meatloaf in his hair and all over his face and hands and in his eyes, then set loose to run amok while I cleaned up and "supervised" Asher's eating.
Elijah and I opened and shared some gummy Lifesavers. Asher begged for one and I told him if he ate a single bite of meatloaf he'd get two. Nothing.
Elijah and I watched some tv (I can see Asher from the living room). Asher begged to come watch. I said he had to eat a bite of meatloaf first. Nothing.
Elijah followed me around the house while I tended to things, picking up a few items, filling out paperwork, laundry, filing paperwork, etc. Asher started to doze off at his seat so I got a washcloth, wet it with cold water and stuck it down his shirt. He giggled and wiggled around but refused to eat.
I went upstairs to look for something and was up there for probably half an hour. He got up about three times between 5.30 and 8 to go potty or to throw up. Throw up and pee what, I have no clue. Mostly it was an excuse to get up and I realize that.
Around 8, I lost my patience. I had earlier speared a piece of potato and smeared ketchup sauce all over it and told him it was just like a tater tot, his favorite food in the whole world, and now, I was done waiting for him to try to eat it on his own. I forced it into his mouth then held his mouth closed and tilted his head back. It's soft and small so I'm not worried about him choking. He fought and twisted away, so I pinched his nose shut and covered his mouth with my other hand. He twisted so hard he nearly fell out of his chair and my ring scraped his face and cut him a little. He's apparently got a sensitive gag reflex because he dry heaved and then coughed up the piece of potato that he hadn't swallowed. I picked it up off the floor, threw it in the trash, wiped his face and set him back in his chair. I told him he had ten minutes and we'd try it again. He screamed and cried for ten minutes, then we tried again with a smaller piece of potato. This time, we both ended up on the floor and he was red faced with tears streaming down his face. He swallowed that one on accident but refused to show me. I set him back in his chair.
I went back into the dining room to finish up what I was doing and to calm down. I was angry. I have a short temper as it is, so a kid being so openly defiant makes me want to yank him by the hair and shake the daylights out of him. Even if he wasn't mine I'd feel that way. But since he's mine, I want to do it even more. He used to be so sweet and obedient and eat EVERYTHING and now he's a little twit who I sometimes want to punch in the face.
After some thought, I offered him the option of drinking milk instead of eating more meatloaf or waiting for his dad to get home. This was 8.30. He's now been sitting at the table not eating for 3 hours. So I offered him milk. He said yes. He usually says yes to milk then drinks about a third of it. Tonight I refilled his cup three times. Granted, I only filled it about a third full, but that's still about 8 ounces of milk that he drank willingly and completely. While he drank I sat at the table with him and we talked. I was worried my force feeding him would scar him and make him not trust me, but he seemed ok. He told me he knew I love him and he loves me too.
I hate going through this every. single. night. Sometimes, it doesn't seem worth it. He eats things with protein like peanut butter crackers, spaghetti, and mac and cheese. I know there's not a lot of protein, but there's some. He needs to protein and the calories so if I can get him to eat something with those I feel somewhat accomplished as a parent. I keep hoping that I can bargain with him some but he refuses to bargain. I keep hoping he'll grow out of it, but we're going on 6 months with only backwards momentum. He eats fewer things now than he did last summer.
Yes, family, I get the irony. I know this is probably my punishment for doing just this to my parents for years. At least Asher hasn't gotten to the point where he's sitting with it in his mouth or spitting it out when I turn my back or scraping it into the trash or garbage disposal. I was pretty creative with my food disposal so hopefully, he won't come up with anything new too soon.
So here's a question: is it better to make him sit at the table and stare at the food or to let him get up and go to bed early? I'm not giving him something else later, his dinner is typically the only food he is offered once it's been offered. He has to wait until the morning for something else. Neither option seems to work so I'm leaning towards just sending him to bed with no food, which I hate because we have so much food in the house no one should ever be hungry. It's stupid, if you think about it.
A couple hours into the standoff. He started crying and screaming I needed to let him say cheese for the picture after this was taken. That went on for about 10 minutes before he finally gave up.