Friday, November 27, 2009

Bribes



I mentioned in my last post that Kai can be bribed with peas. In fact, she can be bribed, if you want to call it that, with all variety of things that she more or less has to do anyway. For example, she doesn't love to open her mouth and let you brush her teeth. But, when I say, "Kai, do you want to go to bed?" (she nods) "then let me brush your teeth." And, voila, she opens her mouth! Or, when I want her to clean up the books she has unceremoniously dumped off of her shelf I can say, "Kai, do you want to eat lunch?" (nods) "then pick up your books". And, again, the books are cleaned up in moments. I love it.

Of course, of course -- it won't last. I'm sure she'll learn to barter with the best of them. But, at this point, Kai's likes and dislikes are still somewhat simple. She hasn't really discovered a lot of the best things in life. I think she's had dessert 2 - 3 times, and it isn't something she thinks about. We take her all variety of places that she loves (the zoo, the play cafe, parks, playgrounds, museums), but she isn't at a point that she asks to go to these places. She is just excited to arrive. And, she really enjoys most of the day to day business of living -- she likes to go to bed; she likes to eat; she likes to take baths. These are all things she would have to do even if she hated them, but the fact that she enjoys - and even looks forward to - these things makes it so much easier. The only thing she has to do on a regular basis that she really hates is having her diaper changed; although, even this is beginning to change. Well, her hatred of the diaper change isn't changing -- but she has started to tell us when she needs to be changed. It's sort of funny. She'll grab onto her diaper and look at us, and we'll say, "do you need your diaper changed?" and then it'll dawn on her that if she says "yes" that means that we will, in fact, change her diaper (which she hates) so she says, "noooo no noo nooo no" while continuing to clutch her diaper. She has discovered that the changing table is up high (have I mentioned Kai's love of heights) and so every time I go to change her, she promptly flips onto her belly and shimmies to the edge so that she can hang off the table with her head jutting out over the edge. Lovely.



Nothing is really mundane to her yet. I think this is why the "bribing" works. Not only does she want to eat her lunch, but picking up the books she just tossed off the shelf also sounds pretty fun. She loves to tear things down and put them back, and she's eager to do what we ask her to do. Meals are slightly different -- she is skeptical of new foods, but if she gets a pea for trying it, well... why not. I think she figures she can always spit out whatever it is she has tried (when does the spitting out stop? So gross). It's fun to live in these moments with her.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mealtime

One of the things I find most stressful about being a parent is dinnertime. Before being a parent, dinnertime didn't really matter. Eric and I often ate in front of the TV with bowls of pasta, or we went out, or we ordered in... it wasn't really something we thought a lot about. We could skip dinner altogether. Or just eat pie and ice cream. I mean, we are adults, and dinner is just a meal. Sometimes, it was grand - when we had time to shop and cook and sit down together... or when we treated ourselves to a nice meal out (which, really, happened way more often than our budget should have allowed for). But, more often than those two scenarios, it was something that just happened.... with little to no planning because there was always something we could scrounge up and, really, it was just another meal.

Being a parent changes mealtime. Now I feel all this pressure to eat healthier (note, I didn't say healthy), plan meals, and - this is the really stressful part - eat together at an appointed hour that is more or less fixed in time, and way earlier than either Eric and I are accustomed to eating. Kai definitely thrives on a schedule (she's a child, after all), and so she eats at prescribed times (in between snacking at all other times, of course). Which means, if we want to eat together, we have to eat during those prescribed times.

I admit, this is a relatively new stressor. In the beginning, there was no pressure for us to eat together. I'd breastfeed her when I got home, and again before she went to sleep, and that was that. Eric and I could continue our old routine of eating whenever and whatever suited us (sans the nice meals out, of course). As we transitioned away from breast and towards normal feedings, we continued to feed her on her own schedule, particularly because we weren't exactly going to be eating the same thing, and it was so much easier to defrost some baby food and put it in front of her without worrying about what we were going to eat as well.

But, Kai has been eating pretty much whatever we eat for about 5 months, and as a result, I now feel pressure for us to all eat together. One too many public service announcements about the importance of sitting down for dinner together as a family. Honestly, I don't think these commercials are really geared towards us... they are more likely targeting families with older children - you know, the kind of children that sit through meals, don't throw food, and can actually talk and tell you about their day. But, for some reason, I feel like because Kai can eat what we eat, we no longer can get away with just watching her eat (well, we can't get away with it as often, at least).

Logistically speaking, dinners together at an appointed hour are much more challenging they would appear to be on paper. It means someone has to make dinner by about 6:30, which is also the time we are often walking in the door with Kailey after a long day. This is also why the easiest dinner option continues to be grabbing some yogurt, bread, cheese, peas, fruit, cold cuts (you get the idea) out of the fridge and plopping some random assortment of food in front of Kailey, holding off on official dinner prep until after she goes to bed and we have had a chance to unwind a bit. We have taken this approach to meals with some frequency for the last few months... but, increasingly, every time we feed Kailey "random things out of the fridge" rather than a "planned meal" I feel guilty.

Slowly, as Kai has continued to increase her repertoire of food choices, this guilt has translated into more family dinners, and I am slowly learning the tricks to a successful family meal. After 12 years of not really worrying/caring about dinner, this has been a bit of an adjustment.

As with most of our transitions, we have taken this one slowly. We started by trying to have dinner together once a week, on a weekend. Or, if we were feeling particularly ambitious, BOTH weekend days. On the weekend, making the dinner isn't the problem -- there are two of us, someone can watch Kai while the other person cooks, and we can start cooking before 6 PM -- all the elements to a successful family dinner, right? Well, all the elements to successfully getting dinner onto the table. Then there is the small matter of actually eating together, which is also a bit stressful, as the meal involves little actual conversation and a lot of, "no, Kailey, EAT it. Don't throw it." or "Kailey, try your chicken. No more berries. No. No more berries. NO. Don't throw it. Or spit it out. Eat it. Are you done? This is dinner. Are you done? Eat it. Sit. No. Sit. Sit. Sit." And she tends to "finish" before we have even started, which sort of defeats the purpose of eating together.

However, after about a month of what could only be called unsuccessful family meals, we have started to learn some tricks to making family dinners work. First, we no longer serve the entire meal together. Fruit and veggies are like Kai's desserts. If she sees peas, corn, carrots, or any variety of fruit - that's all she'll eat. Whatever we've made for the main course will just sit there, until it lands on the floor. But, if the only thing on her plate is the main course, she'll eat it.

Second, Kailey can be bribed -- with fruits and vegetables! I know this probably won't last -- it's too good to be true. But, Kai will try most anything if you tell her she can have some peas once she tries it. I just don't feel badly about bribing my child with vegetables, and I plan to continue to use the tactic until Kai wises up and realizes that the veggies are not really a choice (or, that she can have her veggies irrespective of whether she eats her main course, desipte my threats). Soon, she'll realize that she could, in fact, barter for something more forbidden... say, dessert or something that she might not really get if she refuses that main course. But, until that time, I plan on bartering with peas.

Third, Kai seems to eat better if she gets to be involved in the meal in some way, and involving her in the prep of the meal distracts her from the fact that she's hungry while we busy ourselves preparing it -- win-win. So, we've taken to having her set the table with us -- an activity that can be drawn out over about 10 minutes. First we put the plates on the table (Kai carries her plate from the kitchen to the living room), then run back to the kitchen to get a cup, then back again for a spoon, back again for a fork, then a napkin... and, eventually, you've killed 10 minutes and Kai is feeling ready to eat anything that you put in front of her because of the anticipation of dinner (at least, this is my theory). Using these tricks made our weekend dinners much more pleasant (as in, we'd all sit and eat our food for about 10 minutes, before Kai started trying to toss items overboard and causing general chaos).

A successful 10 minutes of eating together was enough to motivate me to try a few weekday dinners. We have gotten better at planning things for weekday meals that only take 15 (or fewer) minutes to get onto the table, which is about how long you can distract Kailey by allowing her to "help" with dinner. We are up to about 3 - 4 dinners together a week, which I think is pretty good. On the nights that one of us is working late or that we are just too exhausted to deal with dinner (or we don't have anything in mind that can be made in 15 or fewer minutes), we resort back to scrounging through the fridge and assembling a random assortment of food for Kailey. But, we are starting to eat together with greater frequency. So, here's to continuing to muddle through family dinners! Maybe someday I'll make dinner every night (although I am really not holding my breath... and neither should you!)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Transitions



Kai is a child who understands transitions, it seems. Eric and/or I were home with her for the first 8 months of her life, but she had no trouble transitioning to being with our good friend Doug three days a week. Indeed, it was the opposite. From the very beginning, she would wave her hands excitedly as we pulled up to Doug's house. Now, in the morning, we ask if she wants to go to Doug's and she runs to the front door, frantically trying to open it. We've started visiting daycares and preschools, and Kai has accompanied us on many of these visits. Walking into a room full for 12 children does not begin to phase her. Again, the opposite. She squirms to get down, and immediately starts to play with the toys and introduce herself to the other children. I've found issues with every place we've visited; although, with the exception of one, they've all been good programs where Kai would certainly continue to thrive. I just can't really imagine leaving her with so many other children -- and, it's not because she can't handle it (clearly). I just worry about everything - safety, top among them (although, when it comes to safety issues, one could say I have a tendency to be on the hyper-vigilant side. I am the person who refuses any amusement park rides, won't go on trips that involve any combination of height, speed, or the possibility of being subjected to hypothermia or bear attacks. I've been known to be a bit of a lurker (as Sarah and Doug call it). It's possible that I've called the police when Eric was an hour late. So, it could be that my safety concerns are a tad overblown). Bottom line: I am not so good at transitions. I can see Kai as a teenager now, rolling her eyes at me and saying "mooommmmm, STOP worrying."

Our transition to a big girl bed is yet another example of Kai's adaptability, and my resistance to change. We bought her a toddler bed about a month ago (as I mentioned a couple of posts ago), which she was excited about right away. From the moment we set it up, she started signing "sleep". She knew that one could sleep in the bed (in addition to jumping on it or using it to practice climbing skills). For the first week, we just let it be in her room without trying to get her to sleep in it. She would jump on it, run to it when she was tired and sign "sleep", throw the blankets on and off the bed... she liked it.

(ok, I know I've posted this video before... but, it seems appropriate here. Also, I tend to be a little redundant).

Then we decided to try a few naps in the bed. The first time I put her down for a nap in her bed, I crawled into the bed with her. She curled up on my shoulder the way she always does... then she lifted her head, looking at me and then at the wall, that was pushing up against her, as if to say, "ummm... it's a little crowded." She put her head back down, and went to sleep and proceeded to nap as though nothing were different. Next day, same drill, same result. We did that for a few more days, with absolutely no trauma.


This week, we started putting her to sleep in her bed at nighttime. The first time I went to put her to sleep in her bed, she happily crawled into bed, let me cover her (covers are NOT permitted when she sleeps in our bed, but apparently, they are fine in her own bed). Then I tried to get in next to her and Kai pushed me and slapped at me. She wanted her bed to herself! It was as if she had decided that if we were going to be doing this "big girl bed" thing with some frequency, she was going to need enough room to fall asleep properly, without being crammed against the wall. I sat on the floor next to her bed, holding Kai's hand and she drifted off to sleep. Again, absolutely no trauma. Granted, I am sitting right next to her until she falls asleep, but, really, I think we may be taking this transition a little slower than she needs (but a little faster than we need!) Kailey is sleeping in her own bed as I type this. We are still bringing her into our bed with us before we go to sleep -- mostly because neither of us wants to crawl out of bed in the middle of the night to go get her when she wakes up (I know, we're lazy!) Baby steps for us, big girl steps for Kailey.