Friday, April 9, 2010

Hungry Yet?

My daughter is teaching herself a lesson. We usually go to Private Ryan's mother's house for Friday Dinner ... and Teenybop loves it there. She loves everything about her Grandma and we call that house "the land of yes". In that house there is love and contentment, but there is also energy and a general sense of happiness. There are quirks and normalities both to be found under the roof in "the land of yes" ... And Teenybop is learning the fine art of acting pitiful so that Grandma will feel sorry for you and think you have a terrible Mommy and Daddy.

No joke, my six year old had this poor woman trying to spoon-feed her dinner to her in order to get her out of trouble for throwing a fit over her nasty horrible dinner. Anyone want to venture a guess at what the horror on her plate was? Aparagus? Squash? Mushrooms? Squid? No, none of those.

It was a baked potato. Stripped out of the skin and made up like mashed potatoes, complete with butter, sour cream, salt, pepper, and cheese. And she wouldn't eat it. And that's when it got bad. She cried, she heaved great fake sobs that nearly had Private Ryan's mom crying for real out of sheer panic that she had to watch this child get in trouble. So I did what my parents did. First I sent her away from the table, and made her sit on the back porch until she was done throwing a fit. That lasted about ten minutes and then Private Ryan's mom was out there, "Come on Teenybop, let's just eat the chicken and the salad, it'll be okay ... How can I make a potato so that you will like it?"

Seriously. What more was there for us to do, coat it in candy? And really, I love this woman with my whole heart. She is a gentle soul with infinite patience, soft-spoken and loving to a fault. Just neurotic enough to make her cute, and she is the only person I have ever met who has the kind of giving heart that would allow her to make excuses for the most obscene behavior. She believes that there is good in everyone, even when it is hard to find. I love her. Really.

But I am going crazy. I feel like when I go over there to "the land of yes", I stop being the mother of my children because I am undermined every time I am a little "mean" and I make my kids behave themselves. I bite my tongue to preserve the relationship with her because Private Ryan and his mother are close and I want it to stay that way. But I am going crazy. I am not "mean". My daughter eats baked potatoes at home. She eats them at my mother's house. She eats them in restaurants. She also eats diced potatoes, french fried potatoes, and mashed potatoes. She only acts out like this at Private Ryan's mom's house, "the land of yes", because she knows that she can make his mother and grandmother feel sorry for her ... yes, we are horrible parents. We even make her eat dinner before dessert!!! (you getting the sarcasm yet?)

I am going crazy. And it is already starting on my baby too, on my Piglet. We, Private Ryan and I, as this child's parents, have decided to have her birthday party tomorrow because her birthday is May 19th and Private Ryan will be gone by then. He doesn't want to miss her very first birthday party, so we are having it tomorrow. We have already purchased the gifts, we ordered a cute CareBear cake, and we asked them to make the free baby cake with yellow icing because that is Piglet's favorite color. And tonight at dinner we go over there excited to tell Private Ryan's mom and grandma about the party, and his mother is like, "Oh, that's cute that you guys are having an un-birthday party for her!! Maybe when her real birthday comes we can have a real party for her ..."

I don't think so. I am that child's mother and Private Ryan is her father, and we have made the choice that is our right to make. There is no "un-birthday", tomorrow is going to be her "real" birthday party. Period.

And if I get my toes stepped on again, I swear I am not going to keep going over there. I am tired of being undermined by Private Ryan's mother, tired of being undermined by my mother, tired of being undermined period. Since when is it mean to give your child dinner and expect them to actually eat it?

When I was growing up, we ate the dinner or we went without, and I did not starve to death. Why is mean now? When I smarted off, I got smacked. Why is it mean now (not that I am a big smacker)? Why do the standards change from generation to generation?

And mostly, why can't people mind their own business instead of taking charge of mine? I carried both my daughters through illness and trials just like any other pregnant woman, I birthed them, and I have kept them alive largely on my own, so where do these people get off thinking they can just step in when they don't like what I'm doing? I have earned the right to parent these children my way, and I will not be run over.

Ranting aside ... I told my daughter that since she was determined not to eat her dinner I bet she would be pretty hungry when I warmed it up and gave it back to her for breakfast. When she told me that she was skipping breakfast tomorrow, I informed her that she will be eating her potato for lunch, dinner, or whatever meal came along when she decided she was hungry.

She informed me that she can wait. So when breakfast time rolls around, we will see. And when lunch time rolls around, we will see. And when we go pick up Piglet's birthday cake, we will see. And when it is time to eat that cake and she still has that potato, we will see.

I am confident that my child's human instinct will not allow her to starve herself to death. She will eat when she is hungry, and at that point, the baked potato (freshly made, of course) will taste fluffy and buttery and like heaven. In the meantime, should my Teenybop have the personal determination to wait until her stomach begins to know real hunger, then she will have taught herself a valuable lesson; food is not just something we do, it is something we need. It is also something that many people live without every day of their lives. My daughter at six years old will know that she is blessed to have food in her home, and that she is blessed to be fed so abundantly that she can afford to be choosy.