War, apparently.

Can anyone think of something more passive-aggressive than a parent secretly hiding  ice cream in her child’s freezer, and then not mentioning it, when they are both on a full on diet?

While I’m aware that this is more amusing than pure evil, suggestions for an appropriate retaliation would still be great.

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No Two Ways About It, That’s Strange. (Part 3)

Calling out across the world for help on explaining this one.

I was lucky enough to be thoroughly spoiled with a day-trip to Venice yesterday for my 25th birthday. It is truly tourist-ville, with every street corner overflowing with the unique list of items which Venice is famous for. Each stand or small shop was full to the bursting with decorative masks, Murano glassware, and Gondola themed trinkets. Of course, as it was Italy, you also cannot escape the Carbs infatuation, (I knew I’ve always wanted to go there for a reason) and you cant walk ten yards without spotting Pizza or Pasta in one form or another.

This was one form I wasn’t expecting. In nearly every shop, there was a section like the below. This was the only one I saw however with the helpful/confusing sign up, which made me think I may be missing something about the phenomenon. Any ideas?

If this is typical Italian cuisine-I’m just glad we didn’t have time to go to a restaurant. Is this really such a must-have in the pasta department? I have to say, the UK are missing a trick, as I’ve never seen it in Tesco.

Explanation or not, I’ll stick to fusilli thanks.

 

The Chocolate Pudding Debacle

Yesterday, I made a mistake. It was only a small one in the grand scheme of parenting errors. I didnt leave my 8 year old in a pub like our esteemed Prime Minister. I certainly didn’t do any lasting damage to my poor son’s soul, but I did give myself a needlessly horrible afternoon.

All by trying to be the best mum ever.

After R woke up from his nap, he seemed to be a bit cranky. Having no plans to leave the house in the afternoon, I was really not enjoying the thought of a moody 1yo all day, and so decided to be in the ‘best mood ever’ to snap him out of it. After ten minutes or so of fun hide and seek games, (my baby has recently mastered running around a corner and shouting BO! -pretty close to Boo, you’ll admit) I decided to reward his cheer up with an AMAZING treat. A Chocolate Pudding. This was one of those Soya half healthy half not things, and apart from wanting a happy toddler, my other motivation was that if I shared it with him, I wouldn’t devour the whole thing myself, but would still get to have a sweet treat. At this juncture, I must point out that R had never had chocolate pudding before…

Now over the next ten minutes I made several mistakes. All in quick succession and all leading to the biggest tantrum he has ever had. I’m going to express them in a simple Chocolate Pudding Do’s and Dont’s format, and hopefully you can learn where I did not.

#1. Do not give your child something for the first time when they have just woken up from a nap and are questionably cranky.
#2. Do not give your child something deliciously sweet when you have just indulged in a high activity running around getting excited game.
#3. Do sit somewhere uncarpeted if you are worried about the mess a chocolate pudding might make.
#4. Do not let your child use your spoon, only to take it away because it is too big for them to use tidily. (see #3)
#5. Do not suggest we ‘feed teddy’ to calm child down, when the aforementioned teddy is ATTACHED to a book and therefore cannot be washed!
#6. Do not expect your 1 year old to understand that we are sharing the treat.
#7. Do not expect your 1 year old to understand the reason why you took away ‘his’ spoon or the reasons why you are trying to move the whole process to the laminate kitchen floor.
#7. Do deal with your own mistake of giving it to them in the first place and just let them make the biggest mess ever and eat the entire pot and probably be sick, rather than start taking it away and giving rules in the middle leading to giant heaving shrieking temper tantrums which take 3 hours to get over and put everyone in a bad mood until bed time.
#8. Do not be surprised when after an overload of sugar, your baby is wired up and in a crazy hyper angry mood all afternoon.

it was just TOO exciting. An amazing treat for him would have been one Malteaser. Or to be honest, a breadstick. I went too far with my choice, he was already tired and over excited in equal measure, and all his emotions went into overdrive when he realised just how amazing, chocolatey puddingy goodness really is. I can’t blame him for the grabbing and the screaming and the mess making and the temper tantrum, because he is a baby. I showed him a vat of deliciousness and then tried to ration and limit it.

Somehow in my own deluded head I had this image of him feeding himself nicely, with a neat coating of chocolate round his little mouth, grinning at me through bites as if to say, “wow, you’re the greatest Ima ever!” Then he would finish eating, grab a wipe and clean up, throw the pot in the bin, and go off and play nicely by himself as a thank you for my largess.

#9. Do not kid yourself.

The Mealtime Blues

Each stage with a kid comes with its own challenges. When they are immobile, you have a constant bad back from dragging them everywhere; when they start moving, you cant keep them out of your cupboards. When they cant talk, you are filled with frustration that they cant tell you what they want; once they start chattering, they can shout and tantrum oh so much more effectively.

I would say that right now, at about 18 months, is a great stage for me and my son. He is walking confidently, which makes going out and about so much easier, and as the walking is still a novelty, it is almost a form of entertainment for him in itself. While he is still to say any real words, (this weeks addition is “Uhbul” -prizes for those who correctly guess the meaning) his understanding has sky-rocketed, and he can now fetch a large number of items, and understands enough of my tone to stop before he does himself any injury. Basically he now has the comprehension of a well trained Labrador.

But as we approach the aptly named “terrible twos” I feel my son testing me in new areas that we’ve never really  encountered problems with before. Lately, it has been food. Since about 8 months, my baby has always been a great eater, and like so many mums who opt for BLW (Baby led weaning) I am proud to say he has always had a varied palate and a great appetite. But lately, it is one trial after another. Being quite a baby led parent in general, I try to listen to what he is telling me, after all, babies are just tiny adults (gasp) and normally what they want is quite sensible.

When he was 8 months, I realised he wasnt interested in being spoonfed, and started the BLW process, giving him regular food for him to hold and try, and he took to it immediately. About 2 months ago, he stopped eating in his highchair, struggling against the straps and arching his body in anger. We duly stored the highchair in the loft, and spent an afternoon perusing table and chair sets, misting over at the idea that our little boy was old enough to sit in a big person little chair. Success, he loved it, playing merrily at the table with playdough, lego, books and toys galore. Eating? Another story altogether.

Thus begun the I enjoy walking around with my food stage. Sigh. This one was more my fault than his, as I never should have let it begin. But like most bad eating habits, it started with me being so happy he was eating, that why should it matter him wandering around the house with his bowl of chicken and potatoes?

After a week of looking the other way, I started enforcing the table rule for mealtimes, and we had moderate success. He now understands that we sit at the table if we want to eat. Great. Only thing is, he now decides he doesn’t actually want to eat.

In summary, we now have no highchair, but a table and chair which he loves, but wont eat at. And thus begins the current stage we are in now, which I affectionately dub living hell mealtimes. For those of you that remember those old Loreal adverts, Here comes the science. 20% of mealtimes are a pleasure. My son eats nicely, often feeds himself neatly and happily, and is a treat to be with throughout. The other 80% of mealtimes begin with ten minutes of rigorous shaking head and crying, and refusal to try the food, all of which I know he likes. Of that 80%, in around 50% of those cases, we have some foolproof tricks of the trade to encourage eating, which result in the entire plate being wiped clean. These are (in no particular order):

  • The Teddy Ruse. Grabbing a nearby cuddly toy, I proceed to feed the teddy with the spoon/fork while making delicious yum yum noises in uncanny impersonation of the character in question. R has a go himself, feeding the ted, and then proceeds to feed himself. Well, if teddy likes it, it cant be that bad.
    Pros: Easy, and lets face it, quite cute.
    Cons: Not one for when youre out and about, or in front of people you dont want to look like a complete muppet in front of.
  • The Gruffalo Adventure. An old favourite, simply reading this story out loud is sometimes enough of a distraction to get the mouth opening and closing and swallowing.
    Pros: As our entire family knows this one by heart, it is a pretty easy on the go solution.
    Cons: I’m not sure he knows he is eating, so it’s not exactly teaching him anything. Plus I now hate that book which I once loved.
  • The Brave Explorer. This food is horrible with that spoon, but not bad if I shove my fist in it, is the logic behind this technique. I agree that kids shouldn’t be expected to just open their mouths to food when the whole experience is quite new and unusual for them. So I’m quite liberal with the whole using fingers part of mealtime. And it does happen quite regularly that the meal is scarfed down happily with hands, when it was refused point blank with cutlery.
    Just a shame when that meal is weetabix.
    Pros: er.. they eat something.
    Cons: Not for public, and as all BLW mums know, invest in a good splash mat.
  • The Noise Attack. Just. Dont. Stop. Talking.
    Sing, dance, chat, praise.. Try not to even stop for breath. If they are opening and chewing, thats all you need to focus on. Doesn’t matter if what you’re saying makes sense or not, just let them concentrate on the drivel you’re spouting out, and not on the protein you’re spooning in.
    Pros: Public friendly, needs no props.
    Cons: A sore throat.

These mealtimes, while exhausting, are at least a success. However, whateverIhaveleft%  of meals are spent doing all these things and more, but to no avail. They are still a huge disaster and no food at all is eaten, no matter what we try. In the worst cases, the food ends up on the floor or in my lap, and I have to go scream into a pillow. (Sound familiar parents?)

The general consensus is that “Its just a phase” and that he will revert back to his happy eating, and that he wont starve himself. But it is beyond tiring having to do a song and dance 3 times a day for a coin toss of a chance of him eating a meal. So if anyone has any ideas of how to break the tantrum cycle, I am all ears and open to suggestions!

Restaurant Etiquette: The “No-no’s”

Kids in restaurants. I witnessed a spirited debate on this topic recently, and as always, would love to get my two cents in. (By the by, do Americans say two pennies in?)

It is a sometimes unfortunate fact of life, that once you have children, you are never alone. They follow you to the bathroom, they share your breakfast, and can generally be found clinging to your legs as you attempt to continue with life as you vaguely remember it. So it makes sense, that unless you are surrendering completely to the whims of the tiny humans, they will sometimes need to be in an eating establishment with you. However, if you are there, chances are that the eatery in question is open. Which means that other people are there also. And therein lies the problem.

Because you know how adorable it is when your LO makes that high pitched squealing noise that he just learned this week, and you’re busy storing the exact words she is gabbling to a stranger at the next table so you can recount the episode to your other half that evening, and you’re definitely super proud of your kid for getting almost a whole spoonful of that macaroni cheese into their mouth and swallowed.. But everyone else? Here’s a secret. They want you to go home.

Unless the restaurant in question is one of those where your seat comes with crayons to draw on the tablecloth, and there is a mini play area in the corner, it is not child friendly enough. Even if it is cheap, or not particularly fancy, that does not equal “Oh, my kids can run free in here.”

Some people are blessed with the kind of children who will sit at a table, or be placated with food for long periods of time. This means that you can often squeeze a quick lunch with a friend into your day. Congratulations. You are in the minority. For those of us who dont, restaurants are simply not an option most of the time. When with our kids, we prefer to meet our friends at the library, or walking around a shopping mall, or at one of our own houses.

I’m going to give all the parents I see in restaurants with their kids the benefit of the doubt, and say that you must all be blessed with those former types of children. (You’re not.) But I know, that even the best behaved of children have off days, or days when they have ants in their pants. As a parent, this should not be a surprise to you. Theyre kids. Why would they want to sit and listen to you gossip and catch up with a friend? Why would they want to people watch from a highchair when there are so many new things to intefere with, only metres away?

In my opinion, as you obviously cannot pick and choose when your kid decides to throw a tantrum, you only have two choices when all hell breaks loose. You can either quickly pay, apologise to your friend and leave the restaurant, or you can excuse yourself with your kid for a few minutes, and take them on a walk outside the door, or for a run around in the mall play area, or whatever is nearby, and then try again in a while. Although it may seem obvious, here are just a few of the things you CANT do. (All of which I have seen so many times in public that it seems to have become the norm.)

  • Let them ‘cry it out.’
    Babies in restaurants are notoriously difficult. You thought they would sleep, you thought the bottle would tire them out, you thought they would fall asleep on the walk there.. Disaster, they are still awake, and don’t want to be lying in a pram while you stuff ravioli in your mouth as fast as you can. People around you are paying for the environment as well as the food. Unfortunately, whether it means your food gets cold or not, you should be rocking the pram keeping your baby quiet, or outside the shop, apologies once again to the friend, soothing them properly. Crying it out techniques are for home, where only your own ears are being assailed.
  • Let them ‘run off some steam’
    How how how can you sit there talking to your lunch date while your toddlers are running in between other peoples tables and chairs? I don’t care if it is a Michelin starred eatery or a Pizza Express, this is not appropriate restauraunt behaviour. If they need to move about, it is your responsibility to be with them at all times, and not ‘watching from across the room’ with them, but actually physically standing holding their hand or looking after them. After all, I’m pretty sure you would be the first to complain if there was an accident.
  • Let them ‘go chat to strangers’
    I’m sure your daughter is gorgeous, and very intelligent for her age. But if I’d come out to talk to a toddler, and hear her sing me twinkle twinkle little star, I would be scouting out the local playground, not ordering steak and chips. Obviously it is cute for a minute or two when a child smiles or waves or repeats something funny, but again, your kid = your responsibility, you should be removing her from my table ASAP. Apart from anything else, weirdo’s and child snatchers have to eat sometime too.
  • Let them come out to dinner
    If it is 9pm at night, of COURSE they are being little terrors. They are exhausted! Time and time again I see children who sometimes arent even old enough to know whats flying, sitting around a crowded and noisy restaurant table with their famillies, late into the evening, when they obviously should be asleep. Special occasion or otherwise, there are always babysitters available, and your child should be in bed right now.

There are many other problems which are certain to arise when taking kids out to eat, and we cant pre-empt them all. Even the most organised mum, who has brought extra snacks, crayons, entertainment, a sleepy kid, an extra bottle, or all of the above, can be caught out. That lack of freedom to just socialise when you want, just comes with the territory of motherhood. When looking across the room at a flustered parent, trying desperately to soothe an angry and bored toddler, I don’t blame her, it’s really hard!

Who I do blame however, is the parent who doesnt realise it is simply time to go. The one who is willfully ignoring her running or shouting progeny, or spouting one-liners such as “Oh, he’s just a kid, what do you expect?”

You’re right. He is just a kid. But contrary to your behaviour, you’re actually an adult.

I’d love to hear opinions on this one! Agree/Disagree? Any other inappropriate restaurant behaviour I’ve missed?