6 lessons I learned about feeding in 6 years (happy birthday to my daughter)
My precious daughter Ella, my eldest child, turns 6 this week!
I remember those early days clearly. The insane adjustment to no sleep, no time and an entire human being completely dependent on me. The trauma of her not growing fast enough. How I spent her first two years force feeding her and obsessing about her eating, size and weight (she was “too small” according to me).
If you would have told me 6 years ago, I would have a child who eats everything from pesto to sushi to steak and leaves half a chocolate bar over because it’s “too rich” I would never have believed you.
But just when I was feeling smug about my brilliant eaters, my 2 boys grew up and suddenly became really difficult to feed (one is basically vegetarian, and the other won’t eat a fruit or vegetable).
Luckily, in the 6 years of feeding my children, I have learned that:
1. How they eat now is not how they will eat forever. Children have funny eating habits. Some days they don’t stop eating, some days they eat barely anything. They change their favourites for no reason. They are unpredictable. But if we don’t ruin it, they will grow out of it. It’s a stage (which can last years) and it’s normal.
2. Their bodies are unique. My daughter eats a huge amount and is still the shortest in her class (like I was). Genetics account for build, height and size and there’s not much I can or want to do to change it. My youngest, a 2 year old boy, is a chunky little guy with a different build to his older siblings.
3. Patience is everything. Patience means seeing the big picture. I understand that my goal is not for my child to eat their beans at dinner tonight. My goal is for them to develop a healthy relationship to food for life. This allows for optimal nutrition in the short & long-term, and can feed themselves reliably as adults.
4. Their eating and body size is no measure of my success as a mother. We feel proud when our kids eat and grow “well”. And we feel guilty, when they don’t. Here’s the thing. It’s not in our control. Their are many factors, including personality, age, growth patterns, etc which contributes to growth. You are a great mother if you provide food regularly in a pleasant environment. Period. After that, its not up to you, and trying to control their eating makes it much, much worse.
5. It’s just one day. Sometimes, life is crazy (like recent ear infections, grommets, and moving house or just a plain bad mood) to prepare a “decent” meal. And cereal, or toast (again) is on the dinner menu. Instead of beating myself up and saying what a bad mother I am – I say to myself “It is just one day (or a week)” there are hundreds more to come this year. I have way more compassion for my own limitations, and less anxiety about every meal being balanced and wholesome. I know my kids will self-regulate, and make up for missing nutrients in the days to come.
6. I count. I am the mother who will make everything nutritious for her kids – buying expensive out-of-season blueberries and salad and freshly pressed juice. But when it comes to me, I grab a piece of bread on the way to work. Not anymore. I am working on taking time to feed MYSELF reliably. Because I matter. And the best way to get your kids to develop a healthy relationship with food, is to have one yourself. This is a work in progress for me, but I know 100% that I matter and deserve to be nourished with reliable & satisfying meals.
So, that’s it from me. What have you learned about parenting since you became a mom?