Daily Archives: 11:43 am

War of the Wills

I have a hardheaded child. (Who would have every guess that I would have a hardheaded child, right)? He likes to tip toe around the edge of what he knows is unacceptable behavior. He makes up his mind about something and will not be swayed. He has very selective hearing and he’s also very loud. We actually had his hearing checked because of those two things. It’s fine. He’s just – you guessed it – hardheaded. And that hardheadedness has put me to the test more than a few times. But here’s the thing: I stick to my guns. I might not get a lot of things right when it comes to this parenting gig but if I give an ultimatum then you sure as hang better believe I’m going to follow through.

We’ve been struggling at meal times with him for a long time. He doesn’t want to eat what’s served. At our house, you eat what the rest of us are eating or you don’t eat at all. So far, every child has eventually eaten something. Until last night. I think I tempted fate when I talked to a friend about the same problem with her little boy. Last night the children helped me pick green beans from the garden. They helped me cook up the rice and chicken and other veggies. The logic was that if they helped make dinner, they’d eat it. And that’s been a pretty good tactic for a while now. My six and eight year olds have gotten to the point where they help me meal plan some weeks and can do a decent amount of simple cooking on their own. But no parenting plan is fail-proof. He didn’t want to eat. He didn’t even try the food but it was deemed ‘gross’. (No amount of logic will persuade a 4 year old, so I didn’t even try to reason through that).

But after everyone else was finished eating I made banana “ice cream” with mixed berries. Everyone was welcome to have some once they’d eaten enough. The big two got two scoops each. The baby quickly finished her dinner when she saw the bigs eating ice cream and she got two scoops. And Asa just sat there staring at his bowl, whimpering like a puppy. I know that some people don’t like some foods. I’m okay with that fact. I don’t like seafood. I’ll very likely gag if I’m made to eat it, so I get that. But you can’t not like every food except sugar. And if I know that a particular child really hates a certain food, I won’t make them eat it. I think that’s fairly reasonable. But Asa had gotten to the point that every meal was an endless stream of reminders to take another bite and him gagging and sometimes even throwing up because he didn’t ‘like it’. But last night we hit a whole new level. The other kids ate up their two scoops and wanted more. Asa wasn’t anywhere near being done (read: he hadn’t taken a single bite). So I gave the others the last scoops. All. Gone. Cue crazy screaming and weeping and gnashing of teeth. Also cue bedtime. I gave him the opportunity to stop flipping out and eat or go to bed. He slinked away from the table and crawled into bed. (I didn’t really expect that to happen, for the record).

After we’d done the dishes, I went to his room and cuddled up next to him. We talked about the situation and there were big, hiccuping sobs from him and maybe a few tears welling up in my eyes. His prayers were sprinkled with those after-sob sniffs. I’ll admit it. I was feeling pretty guilty at this point. I gave him one last chance to eat his dinner still sitting on the dining room table. He said no and rolled over, ready for sleep.

This could easily be a post about why kids sometimes don’t eat and about how I don’t get overly picky about what they eat meal-to-meal (as long as we get in a decent amount of fruits and veggies within the week or two). I could talk about making sure you do what you said you were going to do, which is harder than it seems sometimes. I could talk about Mommy guilt from sending your child to bed without dinner (because OH, BOY was there some). But what I really want to talk about is this: One of the hardest parts of parenting is watching your child ignore your advice and make a choice that you know will lead to heartache and/or tears. The older they get, the harder and more complicated it gets. And that stinks. It really does. It stinks when they are at the playground and ignore your warnings that they shouldn’t go any higher and then they fall. It stinks when they go to bed without dinner. It stinks when they don’t turn in the assignment that you reminded them to get done. Or when they fall in love with the wrong kind of person and you see what’s coming but they don’t. But in all that stink, there are lots of lessons. I hope that I’m teaching them natural consequences of their choices. I hope I’m giving them enough freedom to explore cause and effect without getting really hurt. That’s a really hard line to balance on.

That boy….he may very well be the one who pushes my buttons the most and runs me all the way out to my wit’s end. But he also has the biggest heart and the sweetest smile and the most perfect eyes ever, so there’s that. I mean just look at this kid!