Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Anti-Frances Strikes Again

I've blogged before about my daughter and her picky eating--comparing her to one of my favorite book characters--Frances, the strong-minded badger who refuses to eat anything but bread and jam until her parents finally decide to teach her a lesson by feeding her only bread and jam at all meals. In the end, Frances learns that one can have a little too much of a good thing and a little variety is important to your diet.

I had been in the presence of a Frances-like child before with my nephew, who is just about the most extreme case of picky eating that I have ever seen. He's now 13-years-old, and eats a few more foods, but for the first 12 or so years of his life you could literally count on one hand the number of foods he would eat. And, my eight-year-old is almost as tall as him now, probably because of it.

My husband and I, in our full non-parenting arrogance, could not believe how he was allowed to fill up on sweets and not eat the food in front of him. Why, we'd NEVER let our child behave that way!

And, then, almost 4 years ago, my daughter was born. And, until about age 2, she was fine. And, then it hit us--we've got a full blown Frances on our hands! And, it seems to have only gotten worse. Case in point:
  • My daughter only eats bananas, peaches, apples and mandarin oranges for fruits--and fruit is the best type of food she eats (aside from junk food sweets). She's starting to reject bananas now too.

  • She eats no vegetables at all. Not ONE. Not a carrot. Not a kernel of corn. Potatoes only in the form of french friends, not mashed or baked. She's not budging on this one.

  • She does not eat rice or pasta, other than spaghetti and occasionally cheesy shells.

  • She only recently began sporadically eating macaroni and cheese at all, and it's still rejected more than she eats it.

  • She recently started completely boycotting meats--and only eats them in "meatball" form or lunch meat rolled up. No chicken, fish or beef at all.

  • She drinks no milk and will not touch it no matter how you try and disguise it (except in Jello pudding and yogurt (but it must have sprinkles on top). She's starting to not request yogurt anymore, thus another calcium source bites the dust.

My tactics thus far have been:

  • I've tried not making a big deal of it.

  • I've tried making foods fun.

  • I've had her help me in the kitchen and she loves to cook. And, then she won't eat it. Not a single bite. Instead, she asks you how YOU like the food and is thrilled when you do.

  • I've tried creative presentations, peer pressure, you name it...I've tried it.
As someone who struggles with TOO healthy of an appetite, I have to admit I am a bit jealous of this at times. I told my husband the other day that if I ever lose my appetite, he should have me checked for cancer or something because I can have the full-blown flu and still will be hungry at mealtime.

So, a few times now, we've had a show-down with our little Frances, determined to win the battle. Dinner time is her worst time of day. She's been told she has to eat at least 3 bites of something and then she can be excused, but if she does not eat, that is it. No snacks. Nothing until breakfast in the morning.

And, she's fine with that completely. The child will go to bed with her stomach growling loud enough for me to hear it, and wait it out until morning.

But, two nights ago, we had our worst showdown. My husband and I dared to serve flank steak, which tastes just like our favorite restaurant's beef fajitas--something a year ago that she would eat just fine. Along with it--we had roasted potatoes which I cut up on her plate like french fries and served them with ketchup. And, her token mandarin oranges or peaches--which we now have to hold along with any bread we might serve as she'll fill up on bread and peaches and eat no vegetables or meat.

After eating a bite or so of the potatoes and curling her lip at that, she refused to eat another bite of anything. I gave the nothing-after-dinner speech and she proclaimed herself done, excused herself from the table, and didn't ask for anything the whole evening.

When, I put her to bed, I knew she was starving and I felt like a horrible mother. I considered a small cup of yogurt, but she'd even been turning her nose at that lately. But, I stood strong, determined to out-stubborn my stubborn darling. After all, how many times had I heard from parenting experts--"a child won't starve from one night of no dinner, will they?"

The next morning, something was very physically wrong with my daughter. She could barely wake up and her eyes would not focus on anything for a long period of time. She seemed lethargic and I was quite scared. No fever, no other symptoms of illness. I instantly got her some apple juice, full strength for a change, and made one of the only 2-3 breakfast options that I knew she'd eat.

She quickly ate and started to perk up. About 20 minutes after eating her breakfast, she threw it up everywhere. (An aside--the irony of it was, this happened just moments before the carpet guys were to show up to stretch our carpets.) So, as I frantically shampooed up upchuck, I worried what it the world could be wrong with her. Was it the flu?

Then, she seemed completely back to normal after the barfing episode, and ran no fever and had no other intestinal problems the rest of the day. And, it dawned on me--maybe her problem was from not eating.

Could she have had extremely low blood sugar from her win at the dinner-time standoff? I am a Type II diabetic, so it is quite possible this could have caused her episode that morning. Was the food such a SHOCK to her system that she couldn't keep it down? Is my 4-year-old becoming an anorexic or something. (Lest you worry, she has no problem eating breads, chicken nuggets, and chocolate ice cream anytime she can get her hands on them!)

That, my friends, is when I realized that Frances badger was actually a big weenie. My daughter could take Frances any day of the week. In fact, if she had been in the story, I am certain the badger mommy's ploy would have failed miserably. My daughter would have eaten that bread and jam for years without complaint. And, badger mommy and daddy would eventually have been turned in to the animal CPS for malnourishing their badger child when school officials noticed her teeth rotting out. And, then she'd bounce from foster badger hole to foster badger hole, lasting only long enough for her new foster family to realize what it really means to live with a picky eater. The End.



Blogger LadyBugCrossing said...

For years we had an alternate meal that the children could fix themselves. Peanut butter on wheat. No jam. No jelly. No chips. Just the sandwiches. This was approved by the nutritionist.
Lets just say that peanut butter on wheat is very boring, but it's healthy. #1 ate a lot of those sandwiches. He still eats very few veggies. But, I give him a multivitamin and send him on his way. He's 6 feet tall and still growing. I'm not worrying. He'll come around eventually.

5:21 AM, February 25, 2008  
Anonymous Angela said...

Oh, how frustrating :( I remember many evenings in my childhood spent alone at the table that I wasn't allowed to leave until I had eating the specified amount. I wish there was an easy answer for this--I wonder if your pediatrician would have any recommendations? Particularly since your daughter seems to be pretty aversely affected by not eating...

12:52 PM, February 25, 2008  
Blogger Dipu said...

Wow, I remember that book!

That's pretty scary that her willpower was stronger than her body's need to eat.

I have no idea how to get around that. My sister still won't eat salads ... and she's 33.

10:31 PM, February 25, 2008  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

I like Ladybugcrossings advice. Just remember, this will not last forever. She will out grow it and go will both survive!

12:43 PM, February 27, 2008  

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