Thursday, August 25, 2011

Should we force our kids to eat?

Ever since Munchkin Girl was a baby, she has been a terrible eater.  Even bottles she barely ate and I was always worried she wasn't getting enough nutrition.  She has also been a very busy kid and hates to sit still.  We had her three year check-up last week and I really was worried about how it would go since she looks like she's barely grown at all.  Of course she insists on brining her purse to the appointment, which just happens to be a fake Prada purse that I got in New York City several years ago.  At the appointment we sit next to a lady with her baby.  The woman smiles at me and glances at Munchkin Girl.  She suddenly sees the "Prada" symbol on the purse.  She raises her eyebrows at me and frowns at me really sour.  She looks away.

"It's not really Prada," I say.  I tried to resist justifying myself, but I couldn't help myself!  I'm not the kind of person that would buy my kid an expensive anything, let alone a Prada.

"Yes it is Mom," she says.  "It's a real purse."

"What?" I say.  "No, really it isn't.  She's just being silly."

The lady smiles, almost a pity smile.  Then they call her kids name and she walks away.  Munchkin Girl grins at me and starts searching through her purse and finds a small stick.  She pulls out the stick and carries it with her when they call our name.  

The nurse puts her on the scale.  Keep in mind she is three years old.  And the scale says....25.2 pounds!  Yes, that is less than my 17 month old weighs!  The doctor comes in, and we love him.  He sees her purse and then sees her stick sitting next to the purse.  He laughs and they talk for a few minutes about her stick and what else is in her purse.  Then he begins the exam, and Munchkin Girl is actually very well-behanved.  At the end, it's time for him to chart her weight and height.  He tells me she is in the 3rd percentile for weight.  Yikes.  But the 25th for height, so that's good news!  I ask him if I should be worried about her growth.  He shows me her chart.  From a small baby, she has hovered between 3rd percentile and 10th percentile.

"Nope," he says.  "This is totally normal for her.  Just keep doing what you're doing."

So that brings me to the question, Should we force our kids to eat?  Even though the doctor says she is fine, I know that she often is hungry and won't eat.  She will beg me for a snack, but when I tell her she has to get up in her chair to eat the snack, she suddenly isn't hungry anymore.  Even when she's in her chair, she'll eat a few bites, only enough to tide her over and then she'll say she's full and wants to get down.  Then without fail about 15 minutes later she says she wants a snack.  So the question is, should I insist that she eat more?

My grandmother had 8 siblings.  She says that she's the only one still alive for a reason (Yes, she's a bit of a skeptic and a very interesting old lady).  She says that she never forced herself to eat like the rest of her family and that's why she is still in good shape and still alive.  Although slightly morbid, I think she might a point.  I see moms who force their kids to eat every last bit of the pudding they brought for them to the park.  And their kids are slightly chubby.  Do we want our kids to go to school chubby?  For what?  So that we didn't waste the pudding we bought?  Plus, my friend was just telling me the other day how she forced her son to eat after he told her he had a tummy ache.  He went ahead and ate and about three hours later he promplty threw up on her.  Clearly he wasn't hungry for a reason, but she was worried about his nutrition. 

On the other hand, I know how frustrating it is to cook a meal, even macaroni, and have the kid not even want to touch a single bit.  Or worse, try a bite, make a face, and then spit it Mom's hand (that really happens a lot, I'm not making that up).

I think I've come to the conclusion that all we can do is try.  I'm going to really try to only offer healthy foods like lots of cheese, fruit, and veggies.  Whole wheat english muffins are actually a huge hit, and they will both eat them plain.  I'm also going to keep trying to always get them to eat in their chairs instead of while they wrestle (again, actually does happen sometimes).  Then if Munchkin Girl chooses not to eat, at least I know I've tried.  The good news is that at least the doctor says she's normal, she'll always be skinny, which she'll really appreciate when she gets older.  And at least I don't have this problem with Little Buddy.  That kids eats.  A lot.

What do you think?  Should we force our kids to eat?  Email me and let me know your thoughts!  I also have a poll on my home page.  I'm going to close the poll on September 1st and post the results!
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