Toddlers & Mealtime: Resistance is futile… and fertile.

A foodie in the making…

My partner and I are foodies; we love good food. We love eating in, we love eating out and we love to linger over food. Over the years, a long, leisurely meal out has become a tradition for unwinding from the stresses of a busy week and subsequently, a very rich part of our life.  Or perhaps I should say had become…  Since having a child, mealtime has taken on a whole new dimension.  We have come to learn that resistance is most often futile. But learning that lesson… definitely fertile.

Our son is now 2 ½ years old. He is a delightful, curious, energetic toddler who loves to explore. After a particularly hectic week in late May I thought, ‘let’s unwind and go out to Toronto Island and have a lovely, leisurely meal at the Island Café.’ Yummy food, casual atmosphere, ‘family-friendly’ (a phrase that used to make me run in the opposite direction). I went with the desire and expectation for a particular mealtime experience – leisurely and relaxing. The problem was, this expectation was not based in our current mealtime reality.  At first, I resisted, and clung to this expectation… all the while getting increasingly stressed-out.

We arrived at the restaurant following a lovely time playing on the beach. After convincing our son that the stones in the garden are not for throwing like the stones on the beach, he ordered quesadillas and guacamole. He insisted on eating with his hands (fitting with quesadillas, but not fun for parents) — and he was done with bibs over a year ago. In no time there were sour cream cheeks and salsa hands, climbing from bench to chair and back again, lemonade ice-cube fishing followed by lemonade soaked pants (his and mine), countless trips to and from the fooze-ball table, the melted-old-cheddar nachos on the ground covered in dirt and over-ruling the 10 second rule, and to top it off – after moving to the cute table in the garden for a change of scene – bird poop on the edge of the plate (nothing to do with our son, but I couldn’t necessarily see it at that point). I had been determined to relax darn it. Only thing was, I wasn’t.

Resist! Resist! … Explode? Adapt?

Resistance in these situations can be futile, but also very fertile – when we become aware of it.  When we resist what is unfolding right in front of us, we can get swept up in disappointment, embarrassment, frustration, rigidity and even conflict.  But when we can take a moment to catch our breath, see what is actually happening and become aware of our reactions, we can make more conscious choices about how to respond…  These moments of awareness can indeed be fertile. When I finally remembered to remind myself of this, I ended up having an overall lovely experience with my family. Sure it wasn’t the experience I was initially hoping for, but one that I would have likely missed out on had resistance taken over.

After our son ever-so-politely thanked the server and chatted with the gardeners (while we beamed with pride), we walked to the ferry dock, stopping to play in a field of dandelions along the way.  We laughed and played and made wishes while blowing (and our son accidentally eating) the dandelion fluff.  Expectation long forgotten and resistance now behind me.

That evening, I had a completely different experience than what I had hoped for.  And one I wouldn’t change for the world.

 

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