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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Parenting is already hard enough!

I had my supermarket toddler update booklet delivered the other day, and as I had a quite moment (both girls eating) I thought I'd have a flick through. It's one of the free magazines you get if you sign up to a supermarket baby and toddler parenting club giving you information on what they can sell you for your child's current stage of development, product reviews and general articles.

I found myself drawn to a short article about a toddlers eating, and how it was important not to give them cakes, crisps and biscuits, but give them healthy options. It went on to say that it has been proven that a child who has a healthy balanced diet before the age of two will have a higher IQ when they are older by 2 points.

Now don't get me wrong, I am an advocate of healthy eating for my children and try to give them a balanced diet with the odd treat but I have to say I immediately felt like a bad parent! Erin is particularly adament that she will not eat vegetables, and although she was never keen on veg when weaning, she ate most things up until the age of one.

Just before her first birthday she seemed to develop this fear of food and wouldn't touch anything she was unfamiliar with. On top of that, literally overnight, she decided she was going to be in control of what she ate and refused most of what I gave her for about 2 weeks. Most of the problem seemed to be texture so I embarked on a mission to try and figure out what she would and wouldn't eat. People said "It's a phase, just stick with it, give her what she wants with a bit of what she doesn't and she'll come around in another week or so". Well.....nearly a year on she has improved slightly but will still eat a very limited diet.

She has recently decided she likes apples, and yoghurt coated raisins. She will happily eat chicken nuggets or goujons, although for a while she'd pick the coating off so she just ate the chicken. Cook her some roast chicken on it's own and she'd point blank refuse. She used to LOVE mashed potato and baked beans, they were my saving grace - alas that changed when she was one too.

She has gradually agreed to eat roast potatoes, and will try a pea every now and again, so I can see progress, despite it being very slow. But by no means does she get what she wants every mealtime. I did that for a short while but now give her what we have or a proper alternative meal if it's not toddler friendly. Every few days she'll have something like chicken nuggets or fish fingers and roasts etc so that I know she's getting a good meal. She'll happily eat breakfast and lunch so I know she won't be going hungry all day, and she won't let herself starve. Having read a large number of articles on the subject of toddler eating, I am now comfortable that I am offering her a balanced meal, I just can't MAKE her eat it.

...But when you read things like the article above, telling me that it is my fault if my daughter doesn't reach her potential IQ because of her diet, then it's no wonder mothers today carry such a guilt around that they could do more. I will not force feed her vegetables in the first few years of her life, making meal times traumatic for both of us, for the sake of articles like that.

I recently went to a Care For The Family event called "Mum's The Word", and one of the best things they said was "Don't take all the credit, don't take all the blame. Just do what you can". Whilst I have no doubt that there are some angelic toddlers who love vegetables, I would bet my life that there are other mums out there with toddlers like mine, just wishing they would eat one stick of carrot (c'mon, just one mouthful, look mummy's got one too!") and feeling the pressure that they are solely responsible for that little person's future eating habits. That each mealtime is one more confirmation that they are not doing the best for their child.

But you know what... Supermum DOES NOT exist! You are doing your best, you are treating your child with respect by not forcing anything down them, acknowledging that their opinions matter and  loving them anyway. One day, they will eat that carrot, and it'll just be something else that piles the pressure on.

The important thing is that we do what we can, how we can, and love our children no matter what. If for some reason Erin does lose out on 2 points of IQ, I think she'd be more grateful that I didn't rugby tackle her to the ground every mealtime!

"We do our children a wonderful service if we send them into the world with an unshakeable belief that there is at least one person who, irrespective of their grades, weight, or athletic genius, loved them - anyway. It really is the greatest gift. Most of us, as adults, are still searching for somebody to love us like that." Taken from The Sixty Minute Mother by Rob Parsons.

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