The key to outwitting an opponent is to keep them guessing.
Get them on the cusp of expecting the next step of an unfolding pattern and then BOOM…lay them out with a move.
It seems my two kids were busy reading ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu whilst ensconced in the womb.
You see, it isn’t only bedtime and the wee hours that I and my wife have to be on our toes.
Interspersed by the glowing pride you have in your wee ones daily accomplishments, are regular bouts of crippling anxiety.
Are they too hot? Is it too cold in here? They haven’t been regular with their ‘nappy napalm,’ how do I stop them opening those cupboards now that they’ve cracked the clasps holding them shut, are they mixing with kids enough? Are they getting out enough?..
And it goes on, but chief among the worries that roll along your subconscious like the rolling ticker at the bottom of a sports broadcast, revolves around their diet.
It isn’t just what they’re eating – it’s the amount.
My oldest has never been a big eater, but has their favourites. They can imbibe what equates to about three swimming pools worth of Robinsons apple and blackcurrant, but sometimes they won’t eat a square meal for about two days. It leads to multiple meals being concocted in a vain attempt to get them to at least eat something.
They’ll eat something all right, but not what YOU want them to eat.
Put a Mr Kipling chocolate slice in front of them and watch as they turn into an infant version of Paul Daniels….a sleight of hand and the cake is gone.
My youngest however, has always been a foodie. Their grubby, chubby mitts can’t wait to tuck into whatever is put in front of them. True, at least half of it ends up on the floor (and also in their hair, it seems this might be an alarming trend for kids to do as my oldest does the same), but it is mere collateral damage. We are just happy he is shovelling it in.
But now, that is grinding to a halt and they too, are beginning their own version of a dinner strike.
We have cooked many meals in one evening, but it has fallen on deaf appetites. But it isn’t their appetite that’s the problem.
It is a growing sense of independence – and cool toys.
The first bit is something I’ve noticed over time. At first they’re happy to be spoonfed. Keep the plastic shovel coming daddy, load that up and do the aeroplane! That’s how it used to be.
Then they both discovered that picking it up from their highchair tables using their own hands is far more entertaining. The textures may be one attraction – and the fact that they can also use the now squashed morsel as a projectile must make this quite the addiction.
The problem is, not everything can be cut up into pieces and scattered on a table for them to pick up. Some things have a lot of sauce on them. Some things are just too soft. So the spoon comes back into play and invariably, when it does – they ain’t interested. They turn into a mini mobster of sorts, Little Jimmy Says-Nuthin. Nuthin is getting past dese lips.
So you crack and give them what they want…and sometimes that doesn’t even work. They come across as indignant that you would even consider spoonfeeding them. Now you must pay for your insolence and watch as I shun your attempts at giving me nourishment! Now begone, as I explore my mouth with my fingers.
The second part, is down to play.
Getting your kid ready for dinnertime is part of a routine, one they sorely need. So we make great pains to ensure no toy is visible when eating. This is down to past experience when they wouldn’t eat because Thomas the Bloody Tank Engine was giving them the eyes.
They get so engrossed in their toys, which is a great thing. But it also means it is a huge wrench for them to stop playing. You have to pick your moment if you can. Sometimes you don’t have that luxury.
Meanwhile, your kids continue to have you on strings.
From one day to the next, we have no idea if they will eat, but we’ll keep trying to outwit them.
It’s a humbling thought when your two-year-old is smarter than you are…