Friday, February 23, 2007

Life in the Circus

I'm not quite sure when it happened, but at some point I ran away and joined the circus. You see, I find myself the constant companion to a monkey and a parrot. Or sometimes a pair of clowns, or roaring tigers, charging elephants or trapeze artists. Is this sounding at all familiar to any other Mamas out there?
It's fun to live in such a place, most of the time. But I'm having a hard time getting my little ones to see that meals are not the place for their antics. I'm afraid I've allowed Peregrine to be a bit too monkey-ish at the table, and now that he has a little parrot who mimics his every action I've become very aware of it. I think in wanting to keep mealtime joyful I've not put enough emphasis on manners and what is appropriate. When it was only Peregrine I didn't notice it so much, but there is a little girl who sits across the table from him and copies him. He does a lot of things that a boy his age (over four) should know not to do. Like tipping his plate up, not enough to dump the food, but just enough to get his sister to do it. She, of course, doesn't know when to stop, and there goes another plate of food. And the noises! Truly, you would think they were a couple of monkeys at the table. He frequently starts in on some chattering noise, or repeats a syllable over and over and over, and then the Parrot joins in.
I'm finding mealtimes to not be quite as pleasant as I feel they ought to be. I'm having to constantly tell them to stop doing things, and several times lately I've had to have Peregrine the Monkey finish his meal in silence. He doesn't seem to be able to draw the line between what is appropriate and what is completely over the top. And with his every action being mimicked by Poppy the Parrot, I don't quite know what to do. But I need to do something.
The other mealtime "issue" I'm having is not knowing how much to expect a child to eat when the food is not "their favorite". I don't want food to be too much of a battle, but Peregrine has become pretty picky. I think it's important for him to learn to eat at least some of things he finds distasteful. Last night I gave him a tiny bowl of coleslaw that he was to eat before he could have the rest of his dinner. Tiny, as in one of those little glass dishes that's about three inches across- three or four bites. Over an hour later he was still not finished with it. And the problem is that he takes a bite and literally keeps it in his mouth, half-heartedly chewing, for about twenty minutes! It's the swallowing that he balks at. He used to love coleslaw, so I'm not sure if it's truly distasteful to him or if he's just choosing a battle that he thinks he can win.
So, I'm looking to my fellow Circus Mamas for advice. Any hints on mealtime training? I don't want to put so much emphasis on propriety that they feel they can't be somewhat merry at the table. On the other hand, it's out of control. I'm just not sure how much to expect of them at their ages and how to achieve it. Also, I don't know what's reasonable as far as having them eat food they don't care for. Help me please! I'm trapped in the Circus!


  1. I don't know the answer, it's been so long since my kids were that age, but hugs.

  2. we don't make our kids eat anything, (we want to pick our battles carefully) but if they don't eat what's for dinner they don't get anything else. We have a few goals in mind-one, respect for mom-she's not your slave! I'm not going to make 4 different things at dinner. Two-thankfulness. The old starving kid in china bit. But the real version-that they should be thankful they have good food. three-responsibility to nourish their bodies. Food is for refueling, and the taste of it shouldn't be the determining factor-eating for health, not for gluttony. You don't have to eat alot to be a glutton-you can be one spiritually, too. And we don't want them to eat if their not hungry-i feel this way, we're treating them more like adults. I don't always finish my plate-and I can control my portion size, they can't.
    whoa, long comment.
    can you tell i've thought about this alot?

  3. Hi. I noticed your comment on "My Life My Love". Your blog is beautiful. I've read some of your posts and I've found myself in tears. You write beautifully. You sound like a really great mommy, I feel inspired by you. I too have a boy and a girl. 3 years and 10 months respectively. I look forward to reading more. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  4. Rebeca - With our little one, if she really doesn't like something, we make her eat one bite. (But we put it on the spoon/fork, so that it's an actual bite.) And as far as "monkeying around" at the table, a lot is allowed (laughing, making jokes, etc.) but if she does anything like throw her dish, cup, or utensil, she usually gets one warning before we tell her that dinner is over for her.

    You have more experience than I do, but I thought you might appreciate more thoughts on it...

  5. I'm right there with you.... I just got through asking my second son if he wanted a cracker, because he's been a "parrot" to my older son all day!

  6. Usually what we do with Claire is if she doesn't finish her plate (unless I admit I gave her way too much--I try to be careful about this) or won't at least try something new (a few bites is good), she doesn't get dessert.

    As far as monkey business at the table, she gets one warning and then she loses the privilege of eating with us and is sent to her room while we finish. Definately no dessert after that! Obviously, Claire likes dessert, so this is what works for us.

    Hang in there, Beca!

  7. Anonymous1:32 AM

    Hey, rebecca! Sunshine here!
    I have been having my hands full with a 3 & 1/2 year old (strong willed) and hannah 6 month old. I am going to LOVE AND LOGIC and wow what an enlightening class. It talks all about that and behaviour. I am so blessed to understand. Now I am not at all frustrated and enjoy teaching J.D. about life, giving him his roadmaps so that he has a solid foundation. I know that you are unique in you home life however if you get a chance, I do recommend this class, it's wellspring!


  8. Ah, I miss the days when people would ask, isn't it Halloween a bit early? My daughter especially loved going around with her little red riding hood cape or a tiara. It cracked me up that dressing up is seen as only a Halloween thing!

    As far as eating, it depends on how truly the kid doesn't like it. I'll ask them to eat one to three bites, or none if I know it's just something they really and truly do not like. Lots of dislikes have been outgrown over the years. I let them get whatever they want, after they've eaten the bit that satisfies me. As long as it's healthy and balanced. If they're doing this a lot, I make sure they know that I, the mom, put a lot of thought and work into what to make for dinner and I'd appreciate it if they'd put a little more effort into eating what I make. Oh, and I do not make another dinner for them, or even help with it. I already made dinner, remember?

    But acting goofy at the table is one thing they don't outgrow as they get least mine haven't. I think actively engaging them in conversation is a good way to deal with it. If it gets too bad I tell them that I'd like a pleasant dinner and this isn't it. If they still won't stop, asking them to leave the table and come back when they're ready to be pleasant usually does it. If not, dinner is only so long....

    You have to figure out your own kids, though. What they need, what they want, what motivates them. One size of parenting does not fit all.

  9. Thank you all for the great suggestions!


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