It was just a matter of time until Brontë started fighting her father for food.
Lately, I’ve been noticing that whenever we eat out, my husband has been ordering food “for the kids” that he actually enjoys. For example, Brontë is a big fan of beans, whereas John is not. So when we get Mexican food, I try to order beans for her, but he suspiciously insists that *she* would prefer the quesadilla kids meal. With the churro.
This is somewhat reasonable, since he always mops up her leftovers. Toddlers frequently eat the equivalent of two grapes before calling it a day, so you have to finish their food if you don’t want it wasted. Besides, I just tell them to add a side of beans and everyone is happy (though John tends to leave the churro in the bag, where Brontë can’t see it, then *has* to eat that too once she leaves the table).
I have further noticed John’s eyebrows start to knit on the rare occasions that the kids actually eat all of their food.
By now, he’s gotten so used to eating extra rations that he looks forward to it. After listening to him ask Brontë multiple times whether she was full yet (when she was clearly still stuffing her face with quesadilla), I thought I might make a helpful suggestion…
“Umm… Why don’t you just order another quesadilla for yourself?”
He looked back at me, slightly violated, and said, “Because that would be piggy.”
I see. Makes perfect sense. Hmm.
Not only does John have a voracious appetite (see Pregnancy Pancake Anxiety), but Brontë can also take ages to finish a meal. Toddlers don’t have a great sense of time, not having had to worry about deadlines and appointments yet, and tend to linger endlessly over everything they do, getting distracted every five seconds (this especially applies to putting shoes on).
I try not to rush her, because I don’t want her to mess up her hunger signals by teaching her to cram food down, but can get ridiculous. She sits at the dinner table, playing with her food, playing in her chair, taking a minuscule bite every five minutes before launching into a discussion about why Pinkie Pie is obviously the best My Little Pony. Eventually, even the most patient of parents starts checking their watch.
You see, not only is such a drawn out meal tiresome, but it cuts into our evening break. After dealing with work and house upkeep and endless toddler demands from sunup to sundown, John and I look forward to watching a nightly grown-up show before going to bed. It’s the only time of day we can relax our parental vigilance and just be a couple again.
Because the kids are in bed at that point, it’s also the only time we can cuss and watch adult things. After a long, hard day of being super cheerful and listening to kid songs, sometimes parents just want to hear the F-word again. Just to shake off “The Wiggles” a bit. This is our window in which to catch shows like Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead, or whatever else you can’t turn on with the kids around.
So, when John watches Brontë take over 90 minutes to finish a bowl of chow, he is not just seeing precious food growing ever colder, but also the diminishing chance we will get to see how Rick plans to defeat the Governor before hitting our grinding routine again.
The other night, John made fresh pesto pasta. It was delicious, and also a family favorite. Brontë started out eating pesto (or “green pasta,” as she calls it) at breakneck speed, but slowly wound down into her familiar game of staring blankly at the wall for minutes on end while wiggling an errant noodle in the air.
“Don’t play with your food. Eat it,” John says. Brontë eats a single pasta strand, then begins playing in her chair.
“Quit playing. Eat your food,” he tells her. Brontë grabs another single strand of pasta and shakes it as she stares at the ceiling. John sighs. “Are you done?” he asks.
“NO, I NOT DONE!” she yells, grabbing her plate with both fists before slowly turning her head and staring at the wall some more.
I watch John mentally calculate how much time it will take to brush Brontë’s teeth, read her a story, and get her into bed as he ponders why Rick isn’t fixing the precarious prison wall. He finally decides to take action.
Distracted by something toddler-fabulous on the wall, at first Brontë didn’t notice her father sneaking strands of her pasta and eating them. She kept lallygagging at the kitchen table as her green pile quietly and mysteriously started shrinking. She stared at her fingernails as John nabbed bits of her pasta on the sly.
But John made too sharp a movement and suddenly, she caught on. Raising her fork, she deftly parried his with a *clink* (Hmm… she must’ve picked up some of my fencing skill. This has great potential as a training technique). He moved his fork toward her plate again, and she answered it with another clink of hers. “Don’t eat my green!” she yelled.
“FINISH YOUR FOOD OR I’M GOING TO EAT IT!” he shouted, frustrated. Their eyes locked in a standoff. John held her gaze for several minutes before she looked down, ate a couple more strands, then announced she was finished. Guess she wanted to be the one to call it.
Last night we had pizza, and Brontë launched straight into molasses mode. She kept getting up from the table and running around the kitchen (we are working on this). Finally, after lapping the kitchen island several times, she looked over and saw her slice hanging out of her father’s mouth.
Her eyes bulged. She walked over with exaggerated authority, slammed both fists on the table, and said, “DADDY?”
“What?” he asked, mumbling through pizza gulps.
She locked his eyes in quiet toddler fury before slowly saying:
Let the food wars begin.