Dear mummy (or daddy, or whoever is feeding me at home),
I want to tell you some things about dinner time. T
I know your trying to get dinner on the table and you’ve had a really busy day, but I just want to play with you. I’ve been at school all day, haven’t seen you, and just need a hug. Often, you are cranky while you are cooking and then I feel on edge when you yell at me to sit at the table to eat dinner.
I can see the stress of mealtimes in your face, and feel it in the air.
When I’m on edge and nervous, it’s only natural for me to lose my appetite and not want to sit there happily eating dinner. I know that you were in the kitchen for an hour trying to prepare a healthy meal with love for me, but I’m just a kid and don’t really understand all of that.
To be honest, sometimes I get nervous at meal times because I worry you are going to make me finish ALL of the food on my plate and I won’t be able to leave the table until I have finished everything. And sometimes, you put too much on my plate and it makes me not want to eat it, at all. It’s just a bit too overwhelming.
I would love if you could try to not put as much food on my plate, so that I could finish it all without having to fight with you to ‘finish what’s left on your plate’ as you say. If I’m hungry, I’ll ask for more and then we will both be happy!
AT THE TABLE
I know that you are now looking at me, staring at me, waiting for me to tell you that I think your food is delicious, but you’re freaking me out and making me feel uncomfortable. I would just like to relax after a big day at school mum, and I’m actually scared to speak the truth. When I do speak the truth you sometimes get really mad, or it hurts your feelings and makes you sad.
Like, when you ask me over and over ‘do you like your meatballs, are they yum?’ and I told you I didn’t. You got mad. You pushed your chair back, huffed and puffed, and threw the tea towel on the table. You told me you had spent ‘ages preparing this dinner’ and felt angry that all of the family didn’t like it. It scared me.
But the truth is, I don’t really like tomato, that’s all. It’s not that I don’t like you, it’s just the tomato flavour of dinner that I don’t like. And you did ask. You asked me if I liked it, and I answered you, and now you are angry with me so meal times can sometimes be super confusing for me.
When I’m at the dinner table, I just want to relax. Like you want to mum. Most often, you are quite cranky and worried at dinner time. You ask a lot of questions. I can see you are very tired. But I am too, and I pick up on your vibes…I can’t help it.
I know you want me to try new things at dinner time, but to I’m exhausted after school. All that playing and thinking. Trying a new food is actually scary and takes courage, and at the end of the day, I sometimes just don’t have the energy. What if it tastes so gross that I can’t get the flavour out of my mouth for the rest of my life? Or what if the texture is so weird that it makes me vomit?
Also, any time I do get the courage to try a new food, you stare at me and wait for me to like it. And sometimes I don’t. And then you get angry at me. This is a lot of pressure on me mum, and I’m just a kid.
Sometimes at dinner time, I throw a tantrum, or I even throw my food on the floor. On some days it’s even because I am just craving love and attention from you and I use food and mealtimes to try and get that.
You’re always so busy mumma, doing all the grownup jobs in the evening, that sometimes I just want to sit with you and talk to you about the day I had at school/daycare.
I’ve discovered that when I throw a tantrum, or throw food on the floor, it will always get me that attention from you (even though it’s scary yelling, I still get to have YOU looking and talking at ME).
Maybe sometimes, you could just spend a minute with me before we eat, to fill up my emotional cup? Let me show you the toy my friend let me borrow at school perhaps? Once I have that moment of time with you, could carry on preparing and serving the dinner. Would that work mummy?
I DON’T ALWAYS WANT TO EAT
Sometimes I just don’t want to eat. I need to feel like that’s ok mumma, because otherwise I feel nervous about food. The reasons I don’t want to eat can be pretty standard like: I’m just full, or I’m a bit sick. But they can also be complex like: I’m lonely and sad, or I’m so happy my heart could burst, or I’m confused why my bestie said she didn’t want to play with me this afternoon.
And sometimes, t’s just because I have had a day where I haven’t run a round a lot, so my body doesn’t need as much food as it did yesterday, and that’s ok.
So as you can see, dinner times are kinda crazy for me. Just like they are for you. Sometimes there’s no reason or explanation for my screaming and refusal to eat your livingly prepared dinner, other than I’m just being hard to get on with.
But is it ok if youdon’t take it personally and be patient with me mumma, while I navigate this tricky new skill?
I promise, it will be worth the wait.
Love from your child x