May 2, 2011

Food Fights

Even the new goldfish, my daughter's new pets, are winning.  They see me coming, they go right to the top of the tank, their tiny goldfish mouths bleating open and closed for their paper thin morsels.  (Who ever heard of bottomless goldfish?)  I give in.  A snack can't hurt.  Right?

It's always been hard for me to say no to food--feeding myself, others, my family, strangers.  There's just such an abundance of stuff we eat that it's hardly fathomable that people still go hungry (even blocks away from where I live).

In high school, I remember a friend coming over to visit, and mentioning how hungry he was.  In an instant, he was sitting at our kitchen table in front of a plate of leftover meatloaf and potatoes, fork in hand, gobbling away while I hoped my dad wouldn't be looking for a midnight snack later on.  After a while, my friend would often just walk in our door and pull himself up a seat at the table, no questions asked.

Come to think of it, food has bonded many of my best friends and I.  If we weren't trying to lose weight while trying to visit every restaurant and diner that boated a two-fer, then we were laughing and crying over pints of Ben & Jerry's.  Food's not just a feminist issue.  It's a woman's issue.

Food is love, we all know that.  It's why my husband proposed to me after a beautiful afternoon of winery-hopping, replete with a tapas-style picnic he'd packed, over a dinner he'd had specially prepared by a chef-friend by the light of the sunset.  Food is romantic, intoxicating, an emotional catalyst for some.  Bad days can dissolve in a forkful of good, creamy risotto; good days can't be that good if your breakfast was dry toast and a glass of milk.

So when Devi, in her two-year-oldness, decides she's done with the dinner in front of her in favor of playing with her dinosaur collection, it's logical to take the plate away so that she understands we've heard her.

I really get that.  But sometimes I leave the plate.  I can't help but think--what if she's hungry later?  Of course, there comes a point where we need to clean up and everything's put away, but when those little eyelashes curl up at me--I wasn't done, mommy!  I'm NOT done!--oh, I am weak.   And am working on that.

Devi has been addicted to popsicles since her worst teething days nearly a year ago, and just the way she says please mommy, can i please have a popfh-si-cahl? has led to numerous discussions between Heath and I about what constitutes a dessert food, when desserts should be eaten in this house, the difference between desserts, snacks, and treats, and when popsicles are given the green light (sore throats, bad days, dog days of summer, etc.).

When I teach my daughter about how to eat, I am re-teaching myself.  I can't believe it, but there it is: simple talks about portions, how much is too much, knowing when to walk away from the table, or how to say no thank you.  Recognizing when you're full.  There's a time and place to eat.  When it's okay to share what's on your plate (or pick at the plate next to you).  And she's only two.  This is not fear of weight (there, I said it).  It's a fear of her developing the wrong relationship with food and recognizing how what she eats affects how she feels.

So really, it's up to me to be the strong one these days.  All done really needs to mean all done, and I've learned from family members that a glass of milk before bed really cures the void of a plate not cleared.   When the goldfish curl their little fish eyelashes up at me, I'm going to have to walk away.  

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