Violet loves to eat slowly. Scratch that, she loves to talk, jump around on her chair, change her shoes, give hugs to her sisters, sing Adele’s “Hello,” twirl, walk our dog Batman on a leash around the house, talk, jump on the furniture, lose her tiny glasses, go to the bathroom, talk, draw on our chalk table, tell me all about Jesus, talk, ask for drinks of water, talk, and talk–all between bites.
You’ve never seen a tiny bowl of Apples and Cinnamon oatmeal* endure so long on a table with a spoon in it. Quite often, it ceases to be breakfast and turns into an fossilized artifact of some long, lost civilization where people went hungry because Jake and the Neverland Pirates was on TV.
*Which, in her defense, is kind of gross.
I, of course, handle this terribly. I often remind Violet of external pressures that might lead her to feel a bit more inspired to get a move on–like time. I say things like, “We have to leave in five minutes or we’ll be late for school.” Since five-year-olds have no concept of time whatsoever, she pretends to take this very seriously and then proceeds to chase our dogs around the living room with a lightsaber.
Another tactic I sometimes use is to tell her how truly great that oatmeal is. It’s SO delicious. If she doesn’t get to it quick, I’m going to eat it. This has literally never worked.
Other times–less prouder moments–I try to intimidate Violet. I tell her how upset I am. I sigh loudly. I even hit the table for emphasis on the word “GOT.” As in, “You’ve GOT to eat. Please, please, PLEASE, eat!!” This also never works. What usually happens–because I’m a 5’10” man and she’s a sub 4′ little girl–is that she starts doing that frozen, shaking thing. Her big eyes look into mine and she doesn’t know what to do. My heightened frustration is intimidating to her, and it incapacitates her.
Technically, Violet does chew at an appropriate speed. I’ve seen food go into her mouth and within what seems like a suitable amount of time it does appear to go down her throat. (I swear it happens, but don’t ask me for proof. Violet eating is like Sasquatch running through a forest–we all know it happens, but the camera lens refuses it.)
What finally seems to work is to tell Violet how many bites she has left and then let her count them out. There’s something about that limit–that boundary she can operate within–that gives her enough calm and comfort to proceed to eat like a human girl and not a caffeinated monkey bouncing all over the house. She likes knowing when it will end instead of being overwhelmed by what to her is a mountain of food. It doesn’t even matter how many bites I tell her she has to eat–I could say three bites or five or ten and I could even even say they have to be big bites–she’ll eat every last one of them with a speed on the human side of the Human-Sloth Scale, and then she’s done. And we get to school on time.
I don’t know why I’m so slow to remember this tactic each and every time Violet sits down for a meal. It probably has something to do with the fact that I want Violet to eat appropriately in the first place, and not through trickery. But trickery is Parenting 101. I should know this–I should remember this. Violet is hardly my first slow eater. Watching my oldest inhale food now like she’s been learning at the feet of our vacuum should give me a bit more patience and faith.
I’m working on it. Violet is working on it. We’ll get there. In the meantime, I’m gonna buy better tasting oatmeal.