Now that you mention it, getting a 3-year old to eat can be really tough. Some say not to try: I know a nursery school teacher who calls kids this age “freshairitarians.” Another friend of mine went all Dr. Spock on my ass and told me not to force it: Boo will eat what she needs to when she needs to and will get hungry when she gets hungry.
Fine. Except: she doesn’t.
Boo can be entertained (and dissuaded from her plate) by any number of dinnertime distractions: picking just the right fork, for example, or discovering how many yoga positions can be accomplished at table. (You’ve got to see her do Utthita Pada Sirsasana* over the chair back. Breathtaking.)
So why not just let her be, you ask? Well, you see, if Boo goes to bed poorly fed, she’ll be up two or three times in the night. As a defense mechanism, we’ve resorted to trying to stuff her with snacks before bedtime; it’s either that or stuff her with snacks at 2 a.m. when she wakes up hungry.
It’s not even that she’s picky. She’ll eat a huge range of food when she’s in the mood. (Raw mushrooms? You bet. Green beans? A favorite!) Those happy eating days come about twice a week, and she’ll pack away the calories, go to sleep happy, and wake up nine hours of undisturbed sleep later.
But in between? I get desperate to fill my girl’s belly and maybe — just maybe — get a decent night’s sleep. So we break out the milk and crackers and to hell with the crumbs: just eat anywhere.
The warnings about eating disorders loom large: don’t give them a complex about food, don’t use food as reward or punishment, do make sure that meals are balanced and healthy. But Boo’s innate curiosity (or stubbornness) has developed before her appetite, so the rules are impossible to follow.