Greg did some grocery shopping tonight while I put Elliot to bed, and when he came home he asked me how bedtime went. My response was “smooth as silk” because, well, it was. Which was nice because we’ve had a few struggles over the past few days.
It started Friday night when Elliot refused to sit at the table to eat dinner. This isn’t a new thing, but it was particularly stressful for Greg and I because we were on our way out to meet friends for dinner, and neither of us wanted to leave a crying Elliot with Gramma. He eventually did come to the table. Usually this resistance is an infrequent occurrence so we were a bit surprised when he did the same thing on Saturday night and then again on Sunday morning.
In all three cases he eventually did come to the table and eat, but it’s a stressful time. We don’t want to force the issue because we don’t want any battles over food. I’ve read time and time again that toddlers will eat if they are hungry enough. I’m way more concerned with how we are handling it than with him missing a meal. It’s not like he’s starving to death.
So what we’ve been doing is to just let him know the meal is ready, and if it’s obvious that he doesn’t want to eat, we basically leave him be. But Greg and I sit down and eat, and we don’t engage him while he’s playing (unfortunately this ploy doesn’t work all that well with him because he’s remarkably good at playing by himself). But each time, he’s eventually come to the table. I’m not sure how I feel about this because it feels a bit like he’s coming to the table on his terms, not ours, but I really don’t want to force him to sit down (and it’s pretty much physically impossible to do this without hurting him).
I actually did an internet search to see if I could find any ideas, and there was lots of information about toddlers refusing to eat, but nothing specifically about toddlers refusing to come sit at the table. It’s not a refusal to eat issue — as soon as he decides he’s ready to sit, he eats. But one common thread was to keep things low key — don’t make a big deal out of it. So in that respect, I think our approach is good.
The other thing we’re trying to do is to make a more obvious transition into mealtime. We do warn him, and have been doing that for months, but I think he needs more. Last night and tonight we washed his hands before dinner, and that seemed to work. Although he might have been quite happy to come and eat without the washing of hands. Who knows.
The other struggles we had were Sunday morning getting him dressed. He had a complete meltdown while Greg was trying to get his pants on. He eventually calmed down and Greg finished dressing him, but not before a few tears of frustration were shed by me.
Then this morning he didn’t want to get his shoes on, so we forced it. We basically held him down and put them on. I felt terrible. Perhaps this wasn’t a battle we should have fought. Getting into the car without his shoes on wouldn’t have been the end of the world. But then I worry about letting him have too much control. A co-worker suggested giving him a choice of what shoes to wear, which would be a good idea if we had more than one pair that fit him! I did do that with his clothing this morning, and I dressed him no problem.
I know this is just the start of things to come, and Greg and I will muddle our way through it like many, many parents before us, but after over a year of Mr. Easy-going Child, it’s a bit of a shocker to both of us to see his independence coming out. And there have been a few short words between Greg and I as well, as our stress level increases and we question our parenting decisions.
Of course then there’s tonight…seamless transition to dinner, into jammies easily, no problems giving up his sippy cup of milk after books were read, brushing teeth was a dream…smooth as silk, and I feel like a super-mum. At least we have the ups with the downs.