Saturday, March 29, 2008


A couple months ago, I made one of what I am sure will be a multitude of parenting missteps; if it's the worst I ever do, I'll be a lucky mother.

One evening as we sat down to dinner, Jimmy informed me he did not want to eat what I had cooked and demanded I make him something else. I knew in the past he hadn't liked that particular dish but I was hoping he would warm to it with repeated exposure, as he can be extremely finicky, especially about trying new things. Feeling exasperated and a little unappreciated, I told him my days of being a short order cook were numbered, and that when he turned five he would be a big boy and would have to eat what everyone else was having for dinner.

Oh, the imminent ruage awaiting me.

As his birthday drew closer, Jimmy began to talk about not wanting to be five, not wanting to have a birthday at all. His anxiety was clearly evident. When we questioned him about it, he cited the impending prospect of having to eat foods he didn't like for dinner. Talk about wanting to eat your words; if I could have, I would.

For the last week or so, I've been in damage control mode. Even after we decided on the guest list, bought Star Wars party favors (including a piñata shaped like Darth Vader's head), and ordered a fancy cake (also with Darth Vader), Jimmy remained apprehensive. If we tried to talk to him about his birthday, he'd clam up and say, "I don't want to talk about that."

Finally, on Thursday afternoon (the day before), I locked us in the car when we got home from the grocery store and forced the issue. Because subtlety is not my strong suit. First, I apologized to Jimmy for what I had said that fateful dinnertime. Then I assured him he wouldn't have to eat anything he didn't like, and I wanted him to help choose what we made for our dinners so he could have things he did like. His outlook seemed to be better after our talk, until he woke up the next morning and when I greeted him with "Happy Birthday!" he responded by yelling "I want to be by myself!" and slammed his bedroom door after my hasty retreat.

A few minutes later, I knocked softly at the door and asked if I could come in. I asked him gently what he was upset about. "I don't want to talk about that, Mom." I asked him if he was worried about the dinner issue, and did he remember what we talked about yesterday? His expression softened, the clouds rolled away, the sun came out, and it was a happy birthday from then on.

Whew. Which is what makes the photo above such a treasure to me: Jimmy had just opened his birthday card from Grampy Trout and Grammy Lo, and was genuinely excited to finally be five and get a super-cool birthday card with a pop-out race car.

The moral of this story: a soft answer turneth away wrath. And ruage. Next time I'll know better.


anthonynorth said...

As the father of seven, I can tell you there's no rule book, and each kid needs different treatment.
You'll get it wrong over and over again, but in the entire history of the world, most parents get it right in the end :-)

It's called instinct and determination.

gautami tripathy said...

Kids will always behave like that. Parenting is not easy. However, one has to persist!


word by word

Leigh Lear said...

this was great, if only my kids would take me so seriously:)

aubrey said...

whoops. kids remember things SO well. and apparently that was a touchy subject for the poor guy.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Okay, maybe -- maybe -- it wasn't such a good idea to have made that edict. Maybe. (can you tell I like it?)

BUT you handled it beautifully in the end, and that's all that matters.

I hope you teach Jimmy how to be comfortable in the kitchen, and how much fun it can be to cook -- there is nothing sexier than a man who cooks.

jadey said...

Cooking with kids is always an awesome idea. The more exposure to a food the more you know whether or not they truly like or dislike it. So I hope things have gotten easier for all of you.

One More Believer said...

ohh, that was beautiful... thank you for reminding me of little boys.. the things they say the things they do.. my son is now 19.. i sure miss those days... sometimes...

tumblewords said...

Five year olds are so wise...and fearful! Nice post. I'm glad all is well.