Sometimes, in order to be a good parent, you have to step outside your comfort zone. What works best for you may not actually be the best solution for the little ones, and in the grand scheme of things, their needs trump yours. You have to adapt and overcome. Mealtimes in our house are a good example of this.
We decided early on that we were going to place a high value on family meals. We always try to sit around the dinner table and enjoy each other’s company. It’s a good way to make sure that we’re connected with each other for at least part of the day, and it’s also helps teach the kids good manners. Every once in a while, we will order pizza and then sit in the living room while watching a movie, but we try to reserve that for special occasions and rewards.
We also want everyone to eat their meal. In order to facilitate this, we try to limit snacks throughout the day. That way the kids are hungry when meals roll around, and they eat what we put on their plate.
This works fine with our daughter. She’s always been big for her age and a healthy eater. As long as she likes the food (and there’s very few things that she doesn’t like), she will sit down for dinner and eat like a champ. Since she is our older child, we have become very comfortable with this routine over the years, and it works great.
Our son, on the other hand, is different. In some ways, he’s the polar opposite of his sister. While she has always hovered around the 95th percentile as far as height and weight, he dropped off the bottom of the chart when he was about 9 months old and has never been able to get back on it. He’s perfectly healthy in every way, but he’s just small. He also doesn’t eat as well as his sister. He’s more of a grazer than anything else. He doesn’t like to sit down and eat a lot at one time. He would much rather just keep eating small amounts throughout the day.
Obviously, this doesn’t fit into our plan very well. We’re very reluctant to give him a snack at 4:30 when dinner is only an hour away? How is he going to eat his meal if he’s been shoving trail mix in his mouth all day. Therefore, we just maintained the norm. For him, however, hunger doesn’t have much to do with his desire to eat. He could be starving, and he still wouldn’t eat everything on his plate at dinner. Since he’s such an active child, some days became a battle to ensure that calories in were greater than calories out.
Last November, my mother moved in with us. As I knew from growing up, she’s not against snacking throughout the day, and family meals are great, but they’re not a necessity. She doesn’t mind giving Little Dude a cup of raisins 45 minutes before lunch or giving him a cheese stick whenever he asks for one. At first, this made my wife and I fairly uncomfortable. In fact, I’m still not sure that we’re completely cool with it, but it appears to be working.
November was also the last time that we measured Little Dude against the wall. In the 3 months since then, he has grown about an inch and a half. That’s a huge leap for him, and it marks the largest growth spurt since he was born.
It just shows you that your way isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone. While we enforced the family meals and limited snacks with the best intentions, it wasn’t working for Little Dude. It took Military Gramma moving in with us to break us from our comfort zone and find a better solution. Sometimes, you just have adjust your way of thinking if you’re going to be the best father that you can.