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!