The Schizophrenic Toddler

Toddlers are crazy.  Either their bodies can’t keep up with the growth of their brains, or their brains can’t keep up with the grown of their bodies, but something crazy happens to your child once they cross the threshold from babyhood into toddlerhood.  Suddenly your willing-to-eat-anything child hates everything you put in front of them.  Steamed carrots used to be AWESOME, but now if you, as the parent, are even lucky enough to get them to “try” it, within seconds it is spilling out of their mouths and onto their bibs, not even slightly resembling the yummy food you just put before them.  Even pasta, once a staple food, won’t make it past your pint-sized gatekeeper.  What is it that causes our little angels to transform into culinary devils before our very eyes?  That is the million dollar question, one that I don’t know I will ever answer.

The other day I say to my son, “Do you want some Elmo Soup?”  “Elmo Soup!  Elmo Soup!”, he replies in eager anticipation.  Although my son HATES vegetables with a passion, we can usually get him to eat it in three different forms:  Baby Food, Dr. Praeger’s vegetable bites, or Elmo Soup.  Anything with Elmo on it is generally a winner.  But not on this day.  On this day, I put it in front of my son, he picks up a spoon-full, picks out the carrots and peas, and then takes a bite of one lone piece of pasta.  And then….he promptly spits it back out.  After this display of recalcitrance, he then decides he doesn’t want anything to do with Elmo Soup and starts yelling “Elmo all done, Elmo all done!”  So I take the bowl of soup away, to which he quickly responds by then yelling “Elmo Soup, Elmo soup!!”  Now I’m really confused.  “So do you want the Elmo Soup or not?”, I ask.  “Elmo Soup”, is all he says.  So I put the Elmo soup back in front of him, at which point he again yells, “Elmo all done, Elmo all done!”  Oh my God…really??

And this wacky exchange is not something associated exclusively with Elmo Soup.  It seems to happen with just about anything: milk, sandwiches, crackers…you name it, my son has asked for it and then promptly yelled at you for giving it to him.  I can’t keep up.  ‘Is it me?’, I wonder.  Maybe I’m missing something.  But I don’t think I am.  I think that this is just a phase where they don’t really know what they want.  They like the idea of having the milk or the soup or whatever it is you have offered them.  But once the real deal is staring them in the face they suddenly realize that they don’t want that at all.  And fortunately their little minds aren’t quite corrupted enough yet to actually engage in premeditated craziness, just for their own enjoyment of seeing you tear your hair out.

In these situations I never quite know what to do.  Do I say “This is what we’re having for Dinner (breakfast, lunch, snack, etc.), and if you don’t like it that is all you’re getting”?  Or do I actually fix him something I am marginally confident he will eat?   He’s only 22 months, so although I know he understands when I try to lay down the law, I often wonder how much he really gets it, and if I’m doing more harm than good by only offering him one choice.  I certainly don’t want him to starve.  I just want him to eat vegetables and protein so Child Protective Services don’t come after me for raising a malnourished child.  They say the definition of “crazy” is trying to do the same thing multiple times, expecting a different result.  Call me crazy, but I am going to keep trying to get my son to eat these things, and hope that someday, of the multiple personalities my son is capable of exhibiting, the personality that likes vegetables will show itself again, and he will eat those damn steamed carrots.

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