It’s Not All Mary Poppins

And Here I Thought I Was the One Raising the Bar

“Come to the table, Malli! Lunchtime!”


Well, I was kind of expecting that. Prior to this, I’ve not made an issue of food. Malli will eat if the food is placed in an accessible spot and she is ignored. Makes me feel a bit like the trainer of a wild and skittish animal. But that’s fine. Until she had gained a level of comfort with me and my home, I was letting her manage her food in whatever way worked. It was a protest, for sure, but a silent one that affected no one but herself. She’s entitled to express her feelings. However, the last few times she’s been here, she’s been perfectly cheerful and relaxed. The time had come to raise the bar.

“You don’t have to eat if you don’t want to. You can just come and keep us company.” I’m not coaxing, I’m stating, but even so, you raise the bar one notch at a time, not ten.


But it is going up the one notch. “Yes, please, Malli.” I take her hand without speaking further, and she comes quietly to the table. She’s somber, but she’s at the table. I place a bowl in front of each child.

“No eat.”

“You don’t have to eat. You can just keep us company.” One notch. Just that one. All I want to do is normalize sitting at the table during meals. If she’s at the table while the rest of us eat, I’m happy. If her no-eating-in-company resolution wavers as a result, I’m even happier, but for today all I’m after is Butt on Bench.

I chat with the children as I help Anna and Timmy with their peas and carrots and chicken. Malli watches us in silence. The aroma of our lunches wafts under her nose. I know she’s hungry; I know she’s being tempted.

“Get down now.” This is Malli of the Iron Will. She may be hungry, she may be tempted, but she’s not giving in without a struggle!

“Not yet, sweetie. We’re not done yet. You’re keeping us company. Tell you what. You can get down when Anna is finished.” From that moment, Malli’s gaze does not waver from Anna. The baby is Malli’s chain to the table. I’m well pleased. Malli doesn’t want to be at the table, but she is sitting quietly without protest, waiting for Anna to set her free. This is the one notch up I was asking. Perfectly acceptable.

Anna finishes the last pea from her bowl.

“All right, Malli. Anna is done. You can get down now.”


(No?? I was fully expecting her to slide down off that bench and take off. ‘No’? Hmmm…. Hope rises within me. Let’s see if I can just manoeuvre this a bit…)

“No? That’s too bad. I wanted to give Anna what’s in your bowl. Can I give Anna some from your bowl?” (Wicked, manipulating me.)

“No. I eat it.” (Ha! Did I call that, or what?)

And she does. All of it. She’s raised that bar two notches!

Four minutes later, she’s eating seconds. (Three notches.)

And then thirds. (Four, five, six.)

And then, because there are no more peas, carrots, or chicken, me not having anticipated a child needing FOUR servings, she has a slice of bread and butter! (Eight, nine, ten.) All at the table. (Eleven, twelve!)

Ladies and gentlemen, Malli has gone for gold! She’s cleared the high bar!! I believe the meal-time sit-out protest is no more.

What a kid. 🙂

© 2006, Mary P

October 19, 2006 Posted by | food, individuality, manners, Mischief, parenting, power struggle | 16 Comments