A few months ago I was venting to my mom about another food struggle that I was having with my toddler. She was obsessed with bringing a dozen or more of her favorite little figurines to her table, and she was then way more interested in playing with her toys than eating whatever I had just prepared for her. She’s already a tough little nugget to get to eat, so the addition of the figurine obsession was about to make me loose my ever-loving mind.
I’m not sure what I was expecting my mom to say about the situation, but she had a pretty strong opinion about what was going on and she shot it to me straight.
“Erica, this is not that hard. You drop everything you’re doing and you sit down with her at her table. The entire time. Yes it’s inconvenient for you, but you have to. You tell her that toys are absolutely not allowed at the table. Period. The end. You’re the boss and you need to teach her how to properly eat. She’s two years old and doesn’t know any better. Teach her.”
My mom is really good at biting her tongue and letting my siblings and I make and (then hopefully) learn from our own mistakes (motherhood included), but I was so thankful she interjected about this situation because she was exactly right. I knew it right away.
The last part of her advice is what has stuck with me in the months since – that she wasn’t born knowing any of this stuff and that my husband and I have to teach her.
Even just typing that out makes me feel a little silly because this advice seems so obvious, but when you’re in the middle of a normal day and a meltdown ensues out of nowhere, you have to frequently (and quickly) remind yourself of this before you respond or act.
This advice is helping me keep my cool in situations where I normally might have lost my temper. When she’s begging for her 7th glass of milk that day or pleading to let her eat mac and cheese for her third meal in a row, I have to tell myself that she doesn’t know any better. She doesn’t know that she can’t live on a liquid diet that consists of milk and juice alone. She needs some water. She doesn’t know the zillion reasons why eating boxed mac and cheese at every meal will not help her grow in a healthy way.
There have been plenty of situations lately where she’s been melting down over something silly, and on my good days I’ve been able to recall my mom’s advice, and it’s helped me keep my cool and speak softly to my daughter. It’s helped me view my toddler’s antics as that of a normal two year old who just needs me to correct her behavior with either a tender explanation, redirection, or discipline, if warranted.
As her mom, she needs me to teach her. That’s my job.
But it’s hard. Whew buddy, is it sometimes hard.