Natalie might not be the greatest sleeper during the night and we might still have to employ the ten minutes of "cry-it-out" once she is placed in her crib.........but there is one thing that is NEVER a battle in our house.
None of it.
As Natalie's sitter Rebecca once said when I picked her up and she was still noshing on goldfish, "she's been eating for awhile, snack time is never really over for Natalie."
That's my girl. Like mother (and father, quite frankly) like daughter.
I outgrew Happy Meals by the time I was in grade school and as a growing preteen I was out-eating my much older brother at dinnertime. Full disclosure, I had a hyper-active thyroid condition in my youth along with a heart murmur plus plain old genetics which all led to me being taller than my 5'6 mother by the time I entered sixth grade. My body was on a metabolic overdrive all the time which caused me to sprout up, be super skinny and eat everything in sight.
Now that I am quickly approaching thirty my metabolism has obviously slowed down and having a baby certainly hasn't helped things, I definitely have to be more mindful of what I eat as well as how much of it I consume.
But even though Natalie is naturally a great eater there still are things that Craig and I have tried to implement in order to ensure she continues to be one.
First and foremost, she eats what we eat. If we are having a scheduled, pre-planned dinner then she will not be receiving her own specially cooked dinner. I am not a short order cook. Of course there are those nights when we pull out all the Tupperware containers from the kitchen and have a buffet where she can have whatever she wants but if I'm cooking....that's what she's eating, at least in some form.
We don't make a big deal out of trying new foods. I try to put three things on her plate that I know she likes and maybe one new or unusual food just to see. Sometimes she tries the new food and likes it but if she doesn't, I don't make a big production about her not being willing to try something different. I offer and if she says "no" then I say okay and suggest she eat something that she does enjoy. Last night was zucchini, tilapia and spaghetti with a homemade alfredo-type sauce. I put a little bit of everything on her plate along with some raspberries and she ate everything except the pasta to which she kindly refused. What more can you ask from a toddler?
We also don't worry if she doesn't eat much at dinner. She is a toddler. Their bodies are growing at different times which requires more (or less) food on any given day. I want my dinner table to be a pleasant atmosphere so I refuse to battle an almost two-year-old over food. If she isn't hungry at dinner, chances are she will be when she wakes up in the morning. She will not starve.
People are not cows and therefore we do not graze. Natalie eats breakfast, lunch and dinner......with an afternoon snack built in after her nap. If she is starting to get a little restless before dinner then she can eat a cracker but I don't let the snack cabinet get raided anytime she throws a fit. There is also no eating in the car, but that's just been ingrained into my head from years spent living with an autobody repairman.
Do not engage with the terrorist. There will be those days. OH. There are DEFINITELY those days when I swear her head turns all the way around and she is about to projectile vomit on me. Natalie obviously has her not-so-sweet moments but Craig and I try to remain calm at the dinner table. If she wants to throw her food we just calmly say "I guess you are done eating" and remove the plate from in front of her before continuing with our conversation. I give her a few moments to collect herself and then ask if she would like to keep eating. Sometimes the answer is yes and other times it is no. Either way, I don't let her know that her negative behavior has rattled me. In the extreme case where Natalie is complete unruly and unmanageable either Craig or myself will remove her from the table and sit in time-out with her on the foot of the stairs.
And now with that all being said and put out into the universe, let's see karma come back and bite me in the butt. Ha.
But in all reality, these are the expectations that Craig and I have decided work best for us in our home. Mealtime is a chance to get together in the evenings and connect with one another about their day. I enjoy eating dinner with both Natalie and Craig and we want to preserve the sanctity of the family meal in our home. So far this set of guidelines has helped us navigate what can sometimes be treacherous territory when it comes to feeding a small child.