Our little E is 19 months old and has the independent streak of a teenager. She can only speak a dozen or so words, but she makes it clear that it is her way or no way when it comes to eating. For the past several weeks, E has refused to eat any kind of warm meal – from pasta to fish sticks to stir fry. She basically eats sandwiches, fruit, milk and cheese.
E used to happily eat jarred of baby food nightly. Vegetarian options were her favorite. Suddenly, she categorically refused. She turns her head sharply away, twisting her body in her high chair and alternates between shoving her fingers in her mouth or sticking her tongue out. For dramatic effect, E drapes her arm over her eyes and folds forward on the table pretending to sleep. It is pretty funny until she paints the table with her food, spits it out and pushes her bowl across the table. It is a power struggle.
My little E is a control freak. Well, our little family of three is full of them so I can hardly feign surprise. I just have to get creative. The key to her stomach seems to be in giving her as much control as possible.
E will only eat a food if she is in control of how it finds its way into her mouth. For instance, she LOVES bananas. She calls them by name. She will only eat them, though, if you hand one to her open, but still partly attached to the peel where after she can break a big piece off to eat. I had not really noticed the extent of this until I explained it to friends with children the same age.
She also likes to eat applesauce and flavored yogurt. These come in single serving, child sized containers that E can hold in one hand and scoop food out of with a spoon with her other hand. When we serve her a warm meal like pureed vegetables, it is from a more adult sized container like a cereal bowl. ‘Whish’ it goes across the table as she pushes it away in disgust.
Tonight I just gave her half a jar of heated baby food still in the jar and walked away. She played with it a little…and then ate the entire thing! She grabbed onto the glass jar with one hand and ate from a long-handled spoon with the other.
It was all I could do not to jump up, dance around, and do a celebratory fist pump. I did not want to wake her inner Drama Queen, though, so I tempered by smile and tried for my most nonchalant, “Good Job!” I did not want her to realize she was now doing what she had battled against for weeks. Victory! Vegetables!