The Princess and The Pea, there are many versions, as with most fairy tales. The most widely known version is about a prince who wants to marry a princess but has not found a suitable match. One night a girl claiming to be a princess comes to his castle cold and wet asking for shelter. The prince’s mother decides to test the so-called princess by placing a pea under 20 mattresses because, only a princess would have the sensitivity to feel a pea under that amount of bedding. The next morning the princess complains about a sleepless night because of something in the mattress that bruised her. And of course the prince marries the princess as is the ending of most old fairy tales.
Finding a needle in a haystack, finding a black cat in a coal cellar, a polar bear in a snowstorm, finding something to watch on Netflix, a parking spot at the grocery store on the Friday after a payday, a grain of sugar in a salt shaker, finding an insightful and intelligent comment on Youtube, Waldo, a four leaf clover, or a Skittle in a bowl of M&M’s. The list of these idioms can go on and on. You get the point though right? Impossible things. Like the princess not being able to sleep because of a pea. I firmly believe a castle servant sneaked a rock under the mattress the princess was sleeping on (either the second or nineteenth depending on your direction of counting) to get the picky prince to marry already!
My Bug is that princess. My gosh it is exhausting sometimes. She is so smart and so acutely perceptive it almost hurts. Let me explain.
When Bug started not eating foods she had been eating for 6+ months, I got creative. I hid foods in foods she loved: zucchini in muffins, flax in pancakes, bananas in cookies, sweet potatoes in smoothies. I was, and am, desperate to get good foods into her growing body.
Now, after doing a LOT of research and talking to professionals in the feeding area, I do agree that hiding foods is not a good idea. However I also have the belief that we can do the hiding now and worry about building a relationship to the food either later on down the road or while still hiding the foods–just not letting them know what is in that favorite muffin or they will never eat any muffins ever ever again. It is a very difficult place to be in. Rock and a hard place?
We have tried so many tactics to get Bug to eat: food games, the crumb method, bribery, placemats, utensils, reward charts, hiding foods, having her make foods…this list goes on. We have been working with a great feeding therapist for almost nine months now and there has been progress and regression. It came to a head for me two nights ago at dinner. I was trying yet another tactic: I put one, ONE, grain of rice in a huge bean quesadilla for Bug’s dinner. ONE. The idea was that gradually I could add grains of rice one by one and then by the time she realized they were in there it wouldn’t be a bad thing.
I was so very, very wrong.
I have a super smart and painfully (at times) perceptive child.
SHE FOUND THE ONE GRAIN OF RICE. Are you kidding me child?! ONE!!
*deep breaths mommy*
I texted our feeding therapist about this and she responded “Ms. Princess and the Pea!”. This is so accurate that I started laughing. Of course my Bug would find that one tiny piece of food she dislikes in the food she loves. But boy is it frustrating.
So the next day I get a call from our feeding therapist and she has another idea for us to try. I’m all for new ideas…one of them has to work right??? Or is that wishful thinking? Anyway, she says her new idea is this: feed Bug the foods she loves, don’t offer her foods she dislikes, don’t even talk about eating with her. If she’s hungry, give her the healthy preferred foods she will eat, burritos (beans and rice), smoothies (with whole fruits and veggies), etc.
That seems so simple! We have been making this so complicated and stressful. Sometimes with Bug you just have to take a step back, start from the beginning or stop for a while before she “gets it”.
And I have done it. I stopped pestering her about smelling, licking, biting that non-preferred food at dinner, I stopped putting the “icky” apple slice on her plate at lunch, I stopped bribing her with a jelly bean to take a bite and chew it of whatever fruit I was having for breakfast.
I fed her when she was hungry, not at my set snack/meal schedule. I fed her whole foods that are on her preferred foods list (beans, homemade breads and muffins and smoothies, etc). I gave her more when she asked. And you know what? She is more relaxed at her mealtimes now, she isn’t complaining about how her tummy is “gurgle-popping” because I gave them a smaller snack 45 minutes before lunch.
An improvement. She is liking eating again. No more fight/flight/freeze, no more whining, no more nagging from me to please oh please just try this one bite!, and no more stress for either of us.
She still prefers her much-beloved burrito with beans and Spanish rice…I’m starting to think I need to start a GoFundMe account for her burrito habit. My princess and her burrito. Still won’t eat my Spanish rice, even though I have the restaurant’s recipe and specific brands they use…nope, not gonna!
Yes it may seem like we are giving in or letting her win, and yes it may mean one more meal I have to make after making dinner for everyone else. But she is smart, it is her body, she knows for sure what she does and does NOT want going into it and when.
Maybe she will grow up to be an adult who will only eat 5 things in one certain color or from one restaurant, but maybe down the road a little we can get her to understand that foods with colors are not the enemy. I have no idea which it will be, but I know that whichever way it goes, she WILL eat, she Will be happy and she WILL survive.
Eating is hard.