Sunday, February 03, 2008

Food Rules

Saturday, an amazing woman from my ward brought over a cute baby outfit and a casserole. A casserole!! My baby's 2 months old and she still realized I would love a dinner. So I scrapped my own dinner plans and heated the casserole, per her instructions.

There are a couple of picky eaters at my house (Emma and Anson), but I don't want to name names so I'll just hint that they're 8 and 7 and plenty old enough to be mature about being fussy. I put a tiny portion of casserole (about 1/4 of an adult size serving) on each of the kids plates. It was a burrito casserole comprised of bean and cheese burritos and smothered in a yummy meat sauce.

Anson asked how much of it he was required to eat, I told him half and he dug in. Emma opted to eat her squash and zucchini first, then try the dish. Unfortunately, when Anson was done he announced, "I can't believe I just ate that..." At which point I cut him off and declared he was dangerously close to a penalty. But even him saying that much put Emma over the edge and she was going to die rather than eat a bite of that burrito.

Side note: I have a few rules about food and my kids. Rule #1, You don't have to finish. Rule #2, You have to try new food. Rule #3, if you want seconds of anything you must finish your vegetables first. Rule #4, if you say that a food is yucky, gross or in any way malign the food you will be required to finish all of it that is on your plate. Rule #5, If you continue to complain about a food after receiving Rule #4's penalty, you will be served more of that food, which you will also have to finish. (No one has actually ever experienced Rule #5.)

After Emma finished her veggies, I asked her to take a bite of the casserole. I searched for a good spot that had beans, tortilla and meat sauce with none of the yucky cheese and asked Emma to take a bite. When my back was turned she announced that she had done it. This seems suspicious and upon further examination of her plate I discovered that she had smeared the bite around, but not eaten it.

As I picked up her fork to reconstitute the bite, Emma freaked out. Freaked Out! Tears and everything. "OK," I said, "you have reacted enough that you now have to eat the whole thing." After I let that sink in a moment I couldn't help but say, "Now I bet you wish that you had just eaten what I'd asked." She nodded tearfully, but her mind was racing.

Before long she began to form a Plan B and thought she'd test it out.

E: How long do I have to sit here?
M: Until you eat the whole serving.
E: What if bedtime comes?
M: You'll have to go to bed late.
E: What if I sit here all night?
M: I guess you'll be tired.
E: What if I'm still sitting here in the morning?
M: You'll have to eat it then. If you wait that long you might even miss church. That would be a bummer.
E: (crying) What if I sit here forever?!?
M: That would be a very long time. I think you'll eat it before forever.

This may have been the longest meal known to man. She later admitted that she thought she could wait it out, that eventually I'd relent and she wouldn't have to eat it. She was wrong. What finally got her eating was when I got ice cream out for the rest of the family, but didn't dish her any because she hadn't finished her dinner yet.

"I can have ice cream when I'm done, right?" she said with an element of panic in her voice, now fearful that she had something else to regret.

"Of course," I said, "just as soon as you finish."

The boys and Annika were done and cleaned up before Emma gagged down her last bite of casserole, but she did it. Mid way through she even said, "Mom, I'm really sorry that I didn't obey." I have never seen a more pure example of godly sorrow.

"I know sweetie," I said with compassion and love, "but you still have to eat it."

She nodded a little and replied, "I know."

She was proud of herself when she finished and I think, like Anson, she couldn't believe that she'd eaten it. It was a pretty awful situation for me as well as Emma, with all those tears and a heart wrenching apology. But I stuck to my guns for this reason: she'll never put up a fuss again. Ever. She'll eat at least a bite or two of whatever she's dished without complaint or insult and that is totally worth surviving one sad dinner.


anna said...

you're a really good mommy! i like your rules and will be sure to try them on my kids when they get older. i love the little convo between you and emma, sooo adorable and funny that she actually considered sitting there forever. tee hee. kids are cute!

dh said...

aaw. kids' apologies are soo sweet. I rather dislike them because they make me weak, but I love them too, because they ARE so genuine and heartfelt...

*Tanyetta* said...

They are playing you like a fiddle. I love every minute of it. They are so smart.

That was very thoughtful of your neighbor to bring over a casserole and outfit.

Unknown said...

I have the same food rules. Well, at least the first three. I may have to start with rule four soon. Good for you for sticking with it. I are having a similar problem with my 3 year old this week, except the issue is medicine and the stakes are MUCH higher.

Laurie said...

Wow! Jenna, you are so awesome. I would have totally failed that mommy test. I would have probably not noticed the uneaten bite, I would have probably given up and either let her leave the table hungry or go back on my word and let her eat just the one original bite and I know for sure I would have given in after the apology! I need to borrow your rules and hand them next to the table so that everyone, including me, can get through dinner knowing exactly what the rules are!

Jenibelle said...

I tried this once, my oldest son literally fell asleep in a bbq beef sandwich and almost died of aphyxiation when he inhaled bbq up his nose. True story. Now I don't care, don't eat....don't eat. No treats, no fun, no nothing.

Jeanie said...

Jenna, I LOVE your food rules. I have the same rules about not having to eat everything, and always trying something new once but I will definately start using the other ones! We all get tired of hearing our kids complain about what they have to eat. What an awesome way to teach them to not complain! Also, good job on following through! It's definately worth that one hard time to prevent what could have been many.