Now I finally, finally understand the meaning of the cliched parenting phrase "This hurts me more than it hurts you." Because it does. A lot.
My son has been refusing most vegetables lately, and even some fruits, and I'm not sure what to do about it. We've been down the constipation path once already, and I'm not eager to repeat the experience. One thing I've heard, and seen some evidence of, is that kids are more willing to eat vegetables when they're hungry, so today I decided to start his lunch with only fruits and vegetables, and give him more food if he finished them.
Perhaps I should've started with only vegetables. On the other hand, it still might not have worked.
He started his lunch with a plate of strawberries (which he had refused to eat for breakfast,) carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and blue cheese dip. And, of course, milk. For myself, I also had some chopped veggies (to set a good example) and two slices of leftover pizza. There was one more slice of pizza, which I intended to give to him, provided he finished his veggies first.
With eyes like an eagle he, of course, immediately saw my pizza and started pointing at it and making noise, requesting some of his own. I informed him that if he wanted pizza, he needed to eat everything on his plate first. He promptly ate the strawberries. I thanked him for eating the strawberries, but reminded him that he needed to finish everything on his plate if he wanted pizza. After several rounds of him pointing at my pizza and my reminding him of what I expected, he ate the carrots and sweet potatoes.
That left the hard part: the green stuff. I tried, several times, to get him to eat his "trees," and then decided to offer him an alternative: he could either eat his broccoli, or he could eat some peas. I put some peas on his plate and then went back to my food.
He still refused, so once I was done eating I told him that his time was up, cleaned him off, and picked him up. At that point he made a huge fuss so I carried him back to the table and reminded him that he needed to eat either his broccoli or his peas if he wanted pizza. I picked up a few peas and held them out to him, and to my surprise, he ate them. I gave him a few more and then gave him some milk, hoping it would wash them down (getting something into his mouth will not guarantee that he'll eat it these days.) In this way, we managed to finish the peas.
Or so I thought. I felt much better at that point because I didn't want to deprive him of pizza, so I happily put him back in his high chair and put his slice in the microwave. When I turned back around, his hand was in his mouth, pulling out a few chewed-up peas and scattering them across his tray. We were back to where we'd been.
As I imagine you can guess, I wasn't able to get him to finish his peas. Not even after changing his diaper, getting him dressed for his nap, and taking him back to the kitchen for one last chance. Not even after I grabbed a few fresh peas in case he had an aversion to the masticated ones.
I even took the fresh peas into his bedroom with us while I sang to him, giving the option to change his mind at any time. I almost thought he was going to, except that after putting the fresh peas in his mouth for a moment, he pulled them out and gave them back to me. It was hard to sing to him, as tears were threatening to fall at any time. He remained unmoved, however, and I put him down for a nap with only half a lunch.
I know that he's a healthy boy and he does not lack for nourishment. I know that he won't starve by taking one nap without a full stomach. That's not really the part that hurts my feelings. It hurts my feelings that I ate pizza, something I know he loves, in front of him, and I didn't share. I feel like the bad guy, like I'm being mean, and I don't want to be mean. I wanted to give him his pizza, but I didn't because I know that follow-through is the best thing I could do in the long run.
But that doesn't stop it from hurting.