This Hate Thing

We’re still caught up in an epic battle with the hate word. We’ve tried a variety of different methods for dealing with it, including all the ways you guys suggested. And thank you, I was dying for advice and it was great to see so much support come in.

What seemed to work, for a short, short time, was taking it VERY seriously. Acting very hurt and angry. Making him sit in his room and think about it for a while. But, then he started acting out at school. Bigtime. So, lesson learned. Anger won’t get us anywhere. But neither does acting like our feelings are hurt. That only seems to fuel it, really.

When he started freaking out at school, we got called in to talk about it (THE HORROR) and their basic stance on it is, let the kid say it. It’s just a word, after all. One that’s hard to hear from our flesh and blood, but just a word nonetheless.

If they are able to freely say it at home, an environment where they feel safe in pushing their boundaries, then they’re less likely to start saying it outside of home, to friends, etc.

If they do what the preschool teacher called a “drive-by”, where they just walk by and insult you: “I hate you.” “You’re stupid.” “You’re ugly.” with no real provocation, then that you can be upset about. Tell them you’re hurt, and it’s not a good word to use. But, if it’s in the heat of a denied-a-second-dessert fueled tantrum, then let it go.

And this might all sound like we’re being a little soft, but really it has been working. Sort of. He still says it. And it slips out at school once in a while. But, it has ebbed a little bit. And sometimes when I act all hurt and sad, he will quickly add, “I love you.”

I talked to a lot of other parents at preschool, and it seems like all of the kids are going through or have gone through the exact same thing. Which oddly makes me feel a lot better. There is a light at the end of this hate tunnel.

Fast Forward

I remember last year around this time, right after Bowie had started at preschool, wondering where the line was drawn between “toddler” and “preschooler”.

For a while now, we’ve been clearly in preschooler territory. When he started going up and down steps by himself, I figured he was no longer “toddling” and I had to stop calling him a toddler.

But all of a sudden, just in the past week or so, he’s doing all this stuff.

Pulling stools and chairs around to get at things he can’t reach. Getting his own food from the cupboard and fridge. Turning the water faucets on and off (and telling me, “H is for hot and C is for cold, mama!”). Putting on his own shoes. Going potty without help. Spitting after brushing his teeth. Forming complete sentences. Threading string through pasta to make a cool pasta necklace, all by himself.

Sniff.

So, now I’m wondering, where is the line between “preschooler” and just…”kid”? And how did we get to this line so quickly?

Everyone says the first year goes so fast. And it does! Yes, it does! But, what they don’t tell you, is every year after that goes exponentially faster. Until, I’m envisioning, you’ve got a teenager standing in front of you, and you’re like, “What the hell just happened?”

Mostly, I’m lamenting the fact that gone are the days when we can put the cookies and candy high up on a shelf, and not only can he not reach them, but he forgets all about them. No more. Now he’s smart. Really smart. And strong enough to carry the footstool across the kitchen.

This Picky Eating Thing

It’s no secret to regular readers that Bowie is somewhat of a picky eater. And, I’ve also been clear that I wholeheartedly don’t feel responsible, because I made all of his baby food and he was a very adventurous little eater.

He ate every single puree I ever made for him. Corn, black beans, green beans, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, lots of other stuff I’m forgetting about, and I even mixed in a wee bit of pureed chicken, fish or beef from time to time. He gobbled it ALL up.

He first got a little picky when I started introducing textured food into his puree. Rice and orzo were my first tries, and sometimes they went over fine, sometimes not so much. Then, I made a recipe from an Annabel Karmel book, with finely diced veggies in it, and that stuff sat in the fridge for days, the freezer for months, and he never did take a liking to it.

When he started self-feeding, I kept it fairly healthy, I think. Cheerios, berries, whole wheat pasta, rice, sunflower seeds, edamame. I wasn’t concerned, aside from the fact that he didn’t seem to like chunks of fish or chicken.

As he has gotten older though, the list of things he will eat gets shorter and shorter. Things I know he likes suddenly get thrown at the wall. We’re down to a handful of healthy foods he will touch, and I’ve become one of those moms I said I’d never be: most evenings making my son his own dinner plate, separate from what we’re eating. I’ve gotten caught in a vicious cycle.

So, the other day, I get the 48035097th email about picky eating from one of the many mom sites I subscribe to. It was a list of healthy vegetable dishes “your kids will actually eat!!!” Of course I took a gander. If I walk away from those articles with just one new dish to try, I consider it a success.

There were the obligatory Carrots with Butter and Broccoli with Ranch (which never work for me), but one of the dishes was a chopped salad.

A CHOPPED SALAD.

Let me just tell you, if your kid will eat a chopped salad, you are winning at feeding your kid.

If you have to slather veggies in butter, douse them with ranch dressing, salt them to high heaven, chop them up into a salad, I don’t care what, if your child sees a vegetable on their plate (i.e. it’s not pureed and mixed in with other foods) and then eats that vegetable, you are 500 steps ahead of me as far as getting kids to eat veggies. You might think they’re picky because maybe broccoli and carrots are some of the only foods they prefer to eat, but really they’re not very picky at all.

Picky eaters don’t eat vegetables. They don’t eat most fruit. They only want one specific brand, shape and flavor of crackers. They won’t eat all shapes or colors of pasta. And crackers and pasta become very important, because they won’t eat grains in any other form. There’s only one variety of cheese they will deign to eat. And you can forget about meat completely.

And like I said before, picky eaters will have a certain dish that they love, that they adore, that they ask for at every meal. And just when you think you’ve found something they like that’s mildly nutritious and you’ve perfected the cooking process, they will turn up their nose at it.

Picky eaters also like things presented it just the perfect way. An example: Bowie really likes avocado rolls. But, if I were to just put avocado on his plate, he’d never touch it in a million years. He’s also picky about the way cheese is served. A dice or thin slice is ok, but shredded or stick form: no. Oh, and applesauce. He loves it in those squeezie pouches. But, the little cups, or from a jar? Forget it.

Far be it from me to discourage these sites from putting together articles for the mothers of picky eaters, in an effort to help them get their picky eaters to get a little more roughage in their diet. However, I find it absurd that they would imply that if I would just put a chopped salad in front of my son, he’d magically start liking vegetables, and would eat salads all the time. If your child will eat a chopped salad, your job is done.

Don’t feel bad if your kid is like mine, and wouldn’t touch that salad with an 80 foot fork. Their palate is still developing. Things that taste good to them today, might not taste good tomorrow. And as they get older, you’ll be a lot more successful at explaining to them that they should just try a bite, because you’re fairly sure they’ll enjoy the taste.

Having a picky toddler or preschooler sucks. It really does. But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And you don’t have to serve chopped salad to get there.

A Kind Word

We’ve all been there: you’re at the store, or the post office, or a restaurant, or just walking down the street. And your child chooses that precise moment to throw an unprecedented Tantrum of the Century over something seemingly innocuous, something you could never have guessed would cause such a fit.

This has happened to every. single. parent. You can’t deny it. Kids are just like that sometimes. So, if it’s such a common occurrence, what is with the typical response? A snicker, a sneer, a TSSSSKKK, all eyes glued to you as if you were a street performer. Never a sympathetic glance, never an “Oh, honey, we’ve all been there, it will pass.” Not even a passerby that can completely ignore it, this totally normal toddler behavioral moment.

People who don’t have kids think they would handle it so much better than you. People whose kids are grown think they did a better job, and their brains have selectively deleted the memories of their own children doing this. And even people who have young children, EVEN the people who have toddlers, think you’re a terrible parent.

And, what can your response possibly be? If you leave the establishment, you’re an ineffective parent and you let your kid walk all over you. If you spank them, you’re an authoritative parent that abuses their kid. If you try to talk to them, you’re a stupid hippie. If you do nothing, you’re lazy and raising a spoiled brat, not to mention forcing everyone in the vicinity to listen and watch. There is NOT ONE SINGLE THING you can do in response to a tantrum that will please everyone in the room.

It puts so much undue pressure on us. And we feel so isolated, when we should feel like we’re a part of the large, diverse parenting community.

But, there was this one time when a mother surprised the hell out of me. We were leaving Bowie’s swim lesson, it was only the second or third time we had been there. He wasn’t quite into the routine, and he didn’t understand that he had to leave because the lesson was over. He was kicking, flailing, crying and screaming at top volume as I tried to pull both him and myself out of the swimming pool, as we made the long walk to the locker room, as I tried to get my clothes on, as I tried to get his clothes on. And, I got the usual response: nasty looks, judgmental stares, barely-audible snarky comments.

At the moment I was about to give up, when I had only managed to get socks and a Pull-Up on Bowie (and he was in the process of ripping them off, still screaming), I sat down on a bench in the locker room, just to catch my breath. And a woman came over to me and said, “I just want you to know, I have been there. You are doing a great job of staying calm. Don’t forget: it will pass. I feel for you.”

I was so stunned, that all I could muster was a “thank you.” And, I can’t, for the life of me, remember her face. I’m sure that we still see her there, week after week, in the locker room. But, I can’t remember which mom she is, so that I can say, “hey, thanks so much for that pep talk that one time. I really needed it.”

I can’t remember her, so I can’t repay the favor. But, whenever I have the opportunity, I offer my sympathies to another parent in the throes. And I urge you to do the same. Try to recall a particularly bad moment for you and your child (because there IS one there) and put yourself into their shoes instead of judging them into oblivion.

Genius Mom Moment #492

Bowie has been somewhat picky since about 18 months of age. But lately, he’s taken it to a whole new level. He’s like, competitively picky, as if he were on a reality show: America’s Pickiest Eater. I mean, the list of the things he will deign to eat, is less than I have fingers. Which royally sucks when you’re trying to get just an ever so slightly tiny minuscule amount of nutrition into him.

One of the foods he will gladly eat, and not just eat but clean his plate of, is cheese pizza. Loves the stuff, gobbles it up. Which he comes by naturally, I could eat pizza in some form for every single meal for the rest of my life and be perfectly content. Ahem.

Anyway, I was standing in front of a fridge case at Trader Joe’s, waiting in line for my time to browse (why the heck are those stores packed morning, noon and night? Oh yeah, because they are the BOMB.) and I thought about making a pizza for one of our dinners that week. Then, I thought to myself, Self, instead of having Bowie mooch off of the pizza you make for yourself, you could pull off a little ball of dough, and make him his own tiny pizza.

And at that moment, I swear to you, the heavens opened up, and a voice came down and said, Thou shalt pull the whole package of dough into little dough balls, and thou shalt freeze said dough balls, and thou shalt be able to make a mini pizza for him whenever thou pleaseth.

I mean, this is GENIUS. I have thus far made about 10 of these mini pizzas for him since that lightbulb went off, and I am STILL amazed at how simple it is.

And the best part about pizza is you can hide pretty much anything you want to in that sauce. (If you go that route, I’m not looking to start a debate here, just letting you know what worked for this mom.) I’m a fan of spinach, kale, carrot or sweet potato puree. And even if I don’t have any of that at the ready, I will sprinkle on a little flax meal. And a little corn meal on the crust. And, use whole wheat dough. I’m telling you, the added-nutrition options are endless.

So, there you have it. This picky eating breakthrough was way too good to not share with my bloggy friends. 1 lb. bag of store-bought pizza dough, some ziploc baggies, a bag of shredded mozzarella and a jar of pizza sauce = like 10 meals!

I made a little pizza tonight, and I wanted to take a picture for the blog, but I forgot until I had already given it to him. I went into the kitchen to retrieve the camera, and this is what was left:

Newest Family Member

Auntie got Bowie a fish for his birthday. A real, live, eating, swimming, pooping fish. Which is super fun, truthfully. I grew up with lots of fish around, and had been wanting to get him one for a while now.

We tried to get a really cool, fun name stuck in kiddo’s mind, but nothing took. Not Miguel, Ricardo, Lightning McQueen, The Situation, nothing.

Fishy’s name is Fishy. And this is NOT because he just keeps pointing at it and saying “fishy!” This is because one day when I was saying to him, “Is his name Ricardo? Can you say Ricardo? I think Ricardo is a nice name!” Bowie turned to me and said, “NO MAMA, his name is Fishy!”

Okay then.

Tantrums

Something, SOMETHING, drew me to look up the word “tantrum” in the dictionary one day. (Hint: I’m pretty sure it was one of the one thousand tantrums Bowie throws each hour that might have been my inspiration. WHO CAN SAY.)

I was hoping to find some kind of origin for the word, something that…oh, I have no idea, maybe I was hoping for a clue on how to handle one. Like, maybe the origin of the word was Latin for “give the child a sedative and tie them to a chair until it kicks in”.

Apparently, the origin of the word is unknown. But, what the entry did say was that the first known usage of the word dated back to 1714. Which means us mamas have been dealing with tantrums for A MIGHTY LONG TIME. It took them until the 18th century to come up with a term for it, but they’ve been happening all along, I’d venture a guess. I can just picture some cave woman, throwing her basket of gathered goods on the ground and saying to her child, “I’m DONE. Just DONE.”

So, the next time you are in the throes, try to remind yourself that you are approximately the 483,349,376,484,290,4848th mama to have dealt with tantrums. I don’t know why, but for some reason that makes it seem easier to tolerate. Eventually the tantrum will end. And eventually he will be old enough that he won’t have them anymore. Maybe.

I also liked that one if the synonyms was “scene”. Because yes, it does happen to cause a scene. Even when you are in a crowd of fellow parents, even fellow parents of toddlers, you seem to get that “Do you even KNOW what you’re DOING?” look from people as your child pulls your hair, bites you, throws themselves to the floor, kicks, screams, slaps and throws toys at other kids. No, that’s ok, Complete Stranger, don’t offer to help, don’t give me a half-smile-of-sympathy, no please, really, just JUDGE ME.

I just hope the Age of the Tantrum is almost over. Not sure how many more I can take. (And somehow I want to sign on to do this for another kiddo? What is wrong with me?)

Buy Yourself Some Pants

I have had almost every pair of pants that I own either since before Bowie was born, or since he was an infant. I noticed a month or so ago that they are all (understandably) getting really worn, frayed, faded and ripped. The only decent looking pair that still fits me are the jeans that I got with my Gap Groupon like a year ago.

I was thinking that it’s probably because I wash them so much. I used to be able to go 2 or 3 wears before having to wash a pair of pants, but let me tell you, having a baby/toddler throws that all out the window. You’re lucky if you can go a HALF day without having to change, because you’re covered in pee/poo/mashed berries/snot/poo/juice/pee/juice/milk/mac and cheese.

But, a closer look reveals that there is one specific part of the pants that is the most damaged on all of them: the lap.

The lap that gets climbed into, or pawed at, or yanked on a thousand times a day by that adorable, poo-and-mashed-berry-covered little person.

So, pants, expectant first moms. Buy more good-quality pants. You’re gonna need ’em.

But wait until after you have the baby, because you won’t have your old body back, no siree. (But that’s a whole other blog post.)

The Patience Wears Thin

Bowie’s latest activity of choice has been to find a tube of toothpaste, during the 10 seconds I am distracted from him each day, squirt a bunch of it into his hand, and smear it around the bathroom.

I have allowed this to happen, and had to take on the cumbersome task of cleaning it up (cumbersome? Yes. Why don’t you go smear toothpaste all over your bathroom and try cleaning it up, and we will discuss.), no less than 5 times (THUS FAR). And the only thing more annoying than  cleaning up a particularly sloppy and difficult mess left by a toddler is having to do it more than once.

I’ve tried all of that “they’re only little once” and “try not to focus on the moments when they are bad, but instead on the moments when they are sweet”. But, we all know those sweet moments are few and far between. And SWEET JESUS IN HEAVEN, I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO SMELL ANYTHING BUT COLGATE FOR AN HOUR AND HE’S WASTED ALMOST AN ENTIRE TUBE OF TOOTHPASTE AND LOOK AT ALL THE TOOTHPASTE STAINS ON OUR CLOTHES. Ahem.

Sometimes, I’m just not patient enough to hold in the anger. It comes spilling out like angry volcano lava.

But then, after all that anger finds its way out, and you have unleashed it all upon your child, that’s when you look down into those big, innocent eyes and realize crap. He was just a normal, curious toddler who liked the feel of the toothpaste squishing between his fingers, and now I’ve gone and hurt his feelings. This is all my fault anyway, for not paying attention while I was on the phone.

Motherhood is the single most frustrating thing on earth. I’m sure of it. Someone should study that.

Time.

Bowie was running a fever (again) today, so I kept him out of school. But, because it’s against every single rule in the Motherhood Handbook to keep a 2 1/2 year old inside a house on a sunny 65 degree day, I buckled him into the stroller and we walked to the park.

The whole walk there, I had this really weird feeling…I couldn’t quite place it…then finally when we were leaving the park, I got it: nostalgia.

There was a time, not so long ago, when I would buckle him in pretty much every morning, and we would make our trek to the park, and maybe he would swing or maybe he would slide, maybe he would just sit next to me on the bench, didn’t matter, I enjoyed those trips to the park so much. And I realized that we hadn’t been in a long time. Too long.

I have a big boy preschooler now, and a lot of days we just can’t seem to find the time for a walk, let alone time at the park (except our walks to school, which I cherish and will miss SO MUCH). I still remember his first trip to the park, SIGH: