The Honey Monster

image

It’s a bit ironic really that I’ve written a blog called the Marmite Kid about Jonah, my son, considering his idiosyncratic relationship with food.

We’ve moved on from telling people that he’s a fussy eater to saying that he has special dietary requirements because we tend to find that shuts them up a bit more.

I find that people have a weird thing about food and kids. Having a healthy appetite and eating everything and anything in sight is seen as a mark of achievement. Parents of fussy eaters can be made to feel that they are somehow failing if their child won’t wolf down whatever is put out in front of them.

I have two kids, one, Evie, who will eat pretty much anything (except porridge and bananas) and one who won’t, Jonah. So therefore, how can my parenting be judged?

Personally, I pay very little attention to it. As a former dancer, I was surrounded by people watching what they put in their mouth, but after five years of teaching dance at the Rhodes Farm Clinic, a unit for young people suffering from eating disorders, I understand that sometimes you should not put so much emphasis on food.

The best thing about Jonah’s diet is the reaction it causes in other people. We recently went to a McDonald’s party and the host was dumbstruck that all Jonah requested was a bottle of water. No milkshake, no chips, no burger, no nuggets, just his usual lunch, which of course I brought with.

In fact, meal times with Jonah is pretty straightforward. For breakfast he has a big bowl of porridge with honey. For lunch, honey sandwiches on brown bread (no crust), a fruit stick, crackers, custard creams, pom bears, yogurt and a bottle of water. Dinner is a bit more adventurous with a sausage (skin off), beanz, cucumber or even pizza.

Snacks are fine as he likes apples and strawberries and I never leave the house without a bag of crackers or brioche. Although he is partial to a little bit of milk chocolate, what he won’t do is consume the crap that most kids have on a daily basis. Offer him sweets and he’ll simply say, “No, thank you.”

Consequently, he is actually very healthy (according to the doctors), his teeth are shiny white (according to the dentist). So it is only other people’s strange reactions that we have to deal with.

The other day, Evie said to me: “Mum I feel sorry when people offer Jonah a sweet because they just don’t understand why he doesn’t want it.”

Jonah’s relationship with food is very likely to be based around control and him feeling scared and out of control if he is given something new to try. The child development doctor we saw said that you can try showing the child the same food up to 15 times before they are likely to accept it but in her opinion this approach didn’t even work with her own children.

So what is the answer I asked her: “When Jonah is older and is at his girlfriend’s house and her dad says eat up your greens, the chances are he just will,” she said.

But one of the things she did ask Jonah was if he had been on a plane. And the reason being was because for fussy eaters, parents often stop exposing them to new situations because they are worried about if they will eat anything.

This is totally understandable but shouldn’t stop your child from enjoying all that life has to offer. This summer we went to California for a month and carted around with us four boxes of porridge, six packs of crackers, custard creams, pom bears, fruit sticks and a whole load of honey!

Little did we know you can buy most of the items in California. And we also discovered another brand of porridge that passes muster. Life is full of surprises.

The check shirt

image

I blame Woody from Toy Story.

That fantastic film that captures the hearts and minds of children and adults alike has caused somewhat of a wardrobe malfunction in our house.

Because from the age of about 3.5 when Jonah first got into these films, all he will wear is a check shirt. (Trousers too, that would be too weird to just wear trousers.)

When it first happened I didn’t really get it and would wrestle him into a jumper or T-shirt only to cause him to have a huge tantrum.

Only when he was able to articulate more he could explain to me that he just preferred shirts.

This would cause disagreements at home. My mum couldn’t understand why I just let him wear his beloved checked shirts when we had a whole wardrobe of clothes for him.

But as someone who also loves clothes, on a very superficial level I thought, why not let him wear what he feels comfortable in. Or in his own words what he felt was smart.

But looking back at it, I think it may also be about him having
control over this one area of his life.

So I would say quite simply, pick your battles and don’t sweat the small stuff. And perhaps even go with it a bit.

The joy when I found check shirt pyjamas was something to behold. In fact we have check shirts for every season and anyway he looks good rockin’ the cowboy look.

Plus it could have been worse, he could have wanted to be Buzz Lightyear!

The silent protest

image

Starting nursery school can be a bit traumatic for many children. Some cry, some refuse to go in, some have tantrums and some trot along happily. How your child reacts is in my opinion very little to do with you as a parent or even the actual nursery.

In Jonah’s case, he just didn’t want to go but was savvy enough to realise that this was non-negotiable. For 3 mornings a week, he was there come hell or high water. So what did he do? he only thing really in his power, he stopped talking.

This took me by complete surprise. He would talk at home, talk to his friends, talk to his toys but for half a term at nursery, he said nothing. I like to refer to this as his silent protest.

Luckily for us he went to a wonderful Montessori where the teachers work with the individual rather than lumping them all in the same age bracket and questioning why they are not hitting ‘targets’. His silent protest quickly passed but this was the start of discovering some of his other little quirks, like his best friends ‘the hands’.

‘The hands’ were in fact my own hands that Jonah likes to pretend were separate entities. Apparently this is quite common with toddlers but most like to play with adults’ feet. I know this sounds like a strange fetish but when you think of it, it sort of makes sense.

Toddlers spend most of the time playing on the floor and most of their eye line is at people’s legs and feet so it is not that surprising that they hone in on the feet. What apparently is more unusual is for them to react to people’s hands in the same way. So much so that when the area SENCO came for a visit, she was fascinated.

‘The hands’ would give Jonah hours of fun (and me slight repetitive strain injury). He could tell them to jump, do a silly dance, cry, tickle, be excited, laugh or pretty much anything else that I could make them act out. Looking back, I think it is all about control.

When you are 3 years old, the world surely seems pretty crazy. There are a million rules that for many children don’t come naturally. You can run and jump in some places but get told off if you do it in another environment, you can make loud noises sometimes but other times you are told to be quiet.

Your choices, if you have any are incredibly limited and you are made to do lots of things you simple don’t want to. While I believe the majority of children simply accept this, for others, like Jonah, life’s restrictions are suffocating and having some sort of control is imperative.

At the time of writing, Jonah is 5 and three quarters. ‘The hands’ are pretty much a distant memory, now replaced by various cuddly dogs that I make come alive.

For Jonah, I’m sure having this control is a real comfort. He is learning that no matter how much he shouts how many tantrums he has, he can’t control everyone. Teachers, his sister, family, friends – none of us will do things just because he says so, and quite frankly why should we?

But every morning when Jonah scampers into my bed for a cuddle
with a couple of his little cuddly dogs, I’m happy for him to be the master and to control his little ‘pets’ for him. We all want to have a voice and to be heard and for five minutes every morning, Jonah is the king of his castle.