Meal times can be a wonderful time of day. I have so many happy memories of family dinners and this is what I assumed would happen when we had our own family…but oh no!
For the last few years, they had become my worst time of the day and I would dread it. It would start with J asking ‘whats for dinner?’ I would reply and then he would say ‘and what am I having?’ I didn’t make him a completely separate meal, but he would mainly only eat white things. Dinner time would then arrive, and it would be awful. There would be food in his hair because he wouldn’t wipe his hands on a cloth, he would get up 10 times in one meal time, I would be kicked over and over because J couldn’t sit still, he would refuse to eat and then to top it off there would be a drink knocked over at some point again due to him not sitting still.
I think one night something literally snapped in my head and I had to do something about it and I went into solution mode…
I bought a larva lamp (I bet you weren’t expecting that!). Over Christmas we had a candle on the table and J loved it. It gave him an object to focus on so I wanted something a little more permanent (and not as flammable) and he particularly likes it because ‘it looks like jellyfish.’ This helped a little but there was still some work to do.
We made it so if J got down then he couldn’t have any pudding. Now this is a bit of a score for us because J loves fruit, so we didn’t even need to bribe him with chocolate: the thought of missing out on a fruit smoothie was enough to make him sit there! It took about four days of reminding him A LOT. I think he had one day where he missed out, but mainly it worked with reminding. We also made sure there was always a cloth on the table to wipe his hands without making out he has to get down to get a towel or a tissue or clean himself on my sofa!!
After a few days of a more settled meal time, we started to work on fussy eating. I hadn’t done anything about it before for a number of reasons (or should I say, excuses). For a long time we thought J was colour blind as it does run in my family. J would literally only eat white food, save the odd strawberry, and I put this down to foods looking a bit ‘strange’ to someone who is colour blind. Excuse number two was that I just wanted pleasant meal times and didn’t want the fight so I just gave in. Well, we ruled out the colour blind thing and meal times were horrible anyway so there was nothing to lose!
I made a ‘J tried new foods’ plate rewards chart.
Every time J tried a new food he would get a sticker – that sticker in the picture was roast chicken. J has essentially been a vegetarian since he was 18 months old, so this was a big deal.
And as of tonight his sticker reward plate is almost full and he got his sticker for eating spaghetti bolognese! You cannot imagine how proud I am of him.
I have been putting veg in a food processor, and using that as a base for sauces so we are getting veg in him, but it’s not as daunting.
The last week, we’ve eaten the same food and have been able to have lovely family meal times together. We’ve talked about our day and had a laugh together, which is such a difference.
It’s made me realise that you can’t always assume that over night these issues will change. Sometimes you have to make a battle plan and put in the hard work. Work out what you want the end goal to be and then work out how to get there.