Food and the Toddler

Picky eating and toddlers go hand-in-hand, right?

When we think of toddlers, culturally speaking, we think of “terrible twos” and picky eaters. Every moment is a fight or ramping up to a tantrum of some sort and there’s a parent in the background praying for this stage to end soon.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

In a nutshell: picky eating is about exerting control over what a toddler puts in their body. It may stem for a genuine dislike for a particular piece of food, an unknown allergy, modeling behavior seen, or just testing to see what they can get away with at mealtime.

With this in mind, a parent can respect a toddler’s need for control, respect their desires, and give them a safe space to experiment without causing food issues down the road.


Note: there are going to be periods of “picky” eating with every child. I am not suggesting that this will stop those moments, but this will help manage those moments so it doesn’t become the norm. Also, consider the personality of your child: some children have a personality that is drawn towards assertive behaviors. Honor that personality type and find ways to work with them to help manage mealtime.

I acknowledge that this post will not help in situations where the child has sensory issues with food. Experts may label it as picky eating for brevity, but that is a separate issue from a child refusing to eat as a means to defy a parent.


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Toddler Life Lessons

Toddlers are too young to understand deep, philosophical lessons. They are too young to understand moral quandaries. They are too young to really grasp right from wrong.

As parents, we know that just because they can’t understand it, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taught. I feel like this is a “no, duh” moment many parents are saying to themselves right now.

Yet an issue I run into as I parent Jai with Ash is knowing what lessons to teach and how best to teach them. Questions I ask myself on a daily basis: is this something worth correcting Jai on? How do I correct him, with a warning or straight to time out? Should I follow the mainstream recommendation or go with my instinct?

A mentor once told me years ago, well before I met Ash, that you are never truly prepared to have a child. So if you want to have one, you have to just jump in and learn as you go. It won’t be easy, but the payoff will be worth it in the end when you have a functioning, well-adjusted adult that wants to have a relationship with you after they’ve moved out of the house.

But in order to achieve this, I have to begin training Jai to be polite, thoughtful, a good listener, able to share, and comfortable with adults as a toddler. The list is a bit longer than that, but those are the main concerns I have on a daily basis with a toddler.

As I am training Jai, I have to be mindful of several things: I’m an adult, what battles to pick and being humble throughout the whole experience.

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Nature’s Classroom: Teaching Perspective

Monday I discussed the importance of spending time outdoors with little ones. Today I wanted to focus on the lessons we can teach by spending time outside, not just for ourselves, but for our little ones as well.

I struggle with perspective. The more time I spend outside, the clearer my perspective is on a lot of things. Not just my life, but where my life fits in the world and those directly surrounding me. While there are plenty of other ways to gain perspective, I have found that spending time in the middle of the woods or on top of a mountain to be the quickest way to re-orient and re-prioritize my mindset.

Children also struggle with perspective. Plenty of adults do too, but with a child’s limited experience it is hard for them to understand any perspective but their own. Teaching children to understand different points of views helps with empathy and compassion. It is important for children to have these tools prior to encountering a negative experience with another human being, such as a bully or bad behavior.

To be clear: teaching empathy isn’t telling a child to condone bad behavior, but to understand why a person behaves a certain way. If a child can try to understand the behavior it helps them not take it personally. Many situations where a child is treated badly or bullied have little to do with the child themselves and more to do with what they represent: i.e. happy home life, parental attention, or just because they are there.

Yet the bullied child is told to brush it off and ignore the bad behavior which can lead them to believe that there’s something wrong with them and not with the person behaving badly. If the child is taught to see things from the bully’s perspective, they may have a chance to see that it has nothing to do with them but has everything to do with the unhealthy ways the bully manages their feelings.

It isn’t about making friends with the bully but giving the child the emotional tools to manage the bully internally when it happens. Obviously, if a child’s physical and emotional well-being is in danger more drastic measures need to be taken, but I am referring to the simple push-and-take behavior that occurs in a toddler’s life.

There are many other reasons why teaching a child about perspective will help them daily, bullying is just an easy example many of us have already experienced and want to figure out how to handle when a little one goes through it as well. But learning about perspective cannot be forced, it must be gradually introduced into the child’s daily life/mindset.

When I taught I found that my more successful teaching moments happened when I took the time to understand things from the student’s perspective and worked on their level rather than talking down to them. I could lecture students all day how to formulate a thesis statement or a paragraph, but it was only when I showed them how to do it in a more subtle way on a level they could understand that I found more success.

For kids, nature is a non-threatening and interesting way to understand the world around them and how they fit within it. Using nature as a classroom is an organic way to teach children that there is more to what they see in front of them and makes it easy to transfer those lessons into different scenarios.

Before getting to that point, it’s important to understand things from a toddler’s perspective. Life is rather difficult for toddlers, despite the fact that everything is still done for them: you learn about independence, yet you can’t be fully independent; you learn about objects and how you might want them, yet you can’t get everything you want when you want it; and finally, you are curious about everything, but you aren’t allowed to see or do everything you want when you want.

It’s hard.

It’s also very hard to see the larger world as a toddler. Everything is momentary, everything is what is in front of you. Anything hidden doesn’t exist even when object permanence is finally a thing.

That’s where spending time outdoors can help start the learning process that there’s more to life than what is in front of a toddler’s nose.

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Celebrating Fatherhood

I am lucky to have three important men in my life: my dad, my husband, and my son.

Two of those men are fathers, the third may become one someday. That’s his choice when he’s ready.

I wanted to spend a post talking about how much I love and respect these two fathers in honor of Father’s Day yesterday.

My Father

I could list all the things my father did like many Father’s Day posts do: sitting with me when I was sick, teaching me something important, or dispensing sage life advice when necessary. All of which he’s done.

Or I can write about two formative lessons he passed on to me. One was an individual incident and the other was taught my entire life.

While I was “daddy’s little girl,” that didn’t mean I had to be girly-girl. In fact, I was more like “daddy’s little tomboy” growing up. He taught me how to climb trees, build a tree house, shoot a bow, ride a bike, scare my mom, and not allow boys to push me around because I was a girl.

Never once growing up did I ever feel the need to adhere to a specific gender role from my father. He never told me “no” because it was unladylike, nor did he expect me to behave a certain way because that’s how it’s done according to gender.

He made sure I understood one thing: don’t be what other’s want you to be. Only be yourself.

One of the best examples of this in my life happened when I was around 11/12 years old:

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The Struggle to Get Pregnant

Before launching into posts about motherhood, I wanted to spend a post discussing the struggle Ash and I went through to get pregnant. It wasn’t as difficult as it was for some couples, it took about six months from start to conception, but it was an emotionally turbulent six months filled with hope and a lot of disappointment.

I am merely sharing my experience, so please do not take any of my observations as advice or “how-to” when it comes to trying to conceive. Everyone’s story is different and uniquely personal to them.

Deciding to Start a Family

Growing up I never wanted to have kids.

I was of two minds on the subject: I didn’t want to contribute to possible overpopulation and I thought I would be a terrible mother. Back in high school, I did some research for a prepared speech on veganism and one of the sources I found talked about how having children was detrimental to the environment.

Super idealistic and driven to save the world at 16, I decided that I didn’t want to have kids to do my part. Looking back, this is a fantastic attitude to prevent having kids but easy to do when you don’t have a boyfriend.

This attitude stayed with me for a long time and I built upon it as I grew older: children limit your time, your resources, your ability to do anything fun. Children were a ball-and-chain and I wanted nothing to do with it.

I also hadn’t met anyone until Ash that I wanted to have children with so again, this was no major sacrifice on my part.

Ash was of a similar attitude when we first met. He didn’t want to have kids for much of the same reasons and so we settled on an agreement to not consider having children. At least for several years into our relationship and marriage.

Unfortunately for me, biology had other plans. I was in a stable relationship, income, house…we had the means to be parents and my body said it’s GO TIME.

As baby fever started to grow, Ash and I decided that we still weren’t ready to consider children just yet. This was before my diagnosis and I was in the middle of my graduate program.

So we adopted a third cat instead.

The little furbaby did his job for about three years, but when 2015 rolled around and I was two years into my diagnosis I reached a critical point: if I was to have children, it needed to be before I was 35. There was the potential that my MS would transition into SPMS by the time I was 40 and I wanted to have at least five years of quality time with any child.

Thus started the fun negotiations of “should we/shouldn’t we” with Ash.

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