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. πŸ™‚

© 2006, Mary P

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


  1. What a kid? Oh, no. I think that should be revised to “What a Mary!”
    I love it when a plan comes together! Even one that happened by accident!

    Comment by Tater and Tot | October 19, 2006 | Reply

  2. It was a good day!
    Congrats to you and Malli!

    Comment by LoryKC | October 19, 2006 | Reply

  3. Holey kamoley! Bet she did it just to mess with you… Think it’ll last?

    Comment by kittenpie | October 19, 2006 | Reply

  4. Yeah, I’m thinking this was just the first trials. If Malli holds true to form, you may not have even seen the semi-finals yet. πŸ™‚

    Comment by MsSisyphus | October 19, 2006 | Reply

  5. You’ve always said, “When it comes to food, this is a battle that parents can’t lose.”

    These kids have met their match in you, Ms. Mary P.!

    Comment by Stephen | October 19, 2006 | Reply

  6. I’m trying to make up my mind if it’s a victory or if she just changed her mind because she thought you wanted the opposite.

    Doesn’t really matter – she ate enough for 4 little girls.

    Comment by Granny | October 19, 2006 | Reply

  7. hey goddess sister of the wee ones…i need some advice…

    my kid, for 3-4 days now, has gone batshit. temper tantrums every 20 minutes. she’s never been like this before. yes, she just turned two.

    while i can’t change the behavior, i’d like to make sure i have a graceful and appropriate response.

    Comment by jen | October 19, 2006 | Reply

  8. OK, quick question. What would you have done if she hadn’t eaten (i.e. gotten up when you said she could)? Or was this one of those childproof techniques that are just guaranteed to succeed? πŸ™‚

    Comment by Kat O+ | October 19, 2006 | Reply

  9. Where were your helpful hints when my children were little :-0

    Comment by Si | October 20, 2006 | Reply

  10. Tater and Tot: Thank you. Oh, this was the plan, all right. Malli just accelerated the process times ten. Heh. I love it when they make my job easier.

    Lory: Thank you!

    Kittenpie: I think it’ll keep. This is not to say there won’t be resistance again the next day, but not as strong as before, and not as lasting. A token, face-saving resistance, but I won’t take it seriously. But it may not happen at all. Keeping my fingers crossed.

    MsS: As I said to Kittenpie, I think any further resistance, should it happen, will be token. We’ll see. She’ll be here later today…


    And you’re right. I totally believe the food issue is a non-issue. You simply don’t have to lose that battle.

    Granny: She did, indeed. And we’ll find out later today what exactly happened yesterday!!

    Jen: This will require an email conversation, I think. Too many questions, too many possibilities to manage in a comment box. You can reach me at at gmail dot com

    “Goddess sister of the wee ones”. LMAO

    Kat: Oh, no, it’s not childproof at all. While I’ve seen this sort of thing happen before, there was no guarantee of it at all.

    If she’d decided to leave the table, I’d have let her go. I meant what I said about raising the bar only a single notch. All she had to do was sit at the table. Period.

    My attitude to food (gleaned from Ellyn Satter in her great book, “Child of Mine, Feeding with Love and Good Sense”) is this: I get to choose what, when, and where they eat; they get to choose whether and how much. I can put her at the table and present the food. She gets to decide whether to ingest any. Totally her responsibility/choice/power.

    So could she have left the table hungry? Absolutely. No reason for it, of course: she had a perfectly nourishing meal in front of her. But she could have made that choice. That’s okay, because it only means she’d get hungrier, and when they’re hungry, they’re awfully motivated to eat what they’re given.

    Eventually, it’s fool-proof. πŸ™‚

    Si: I’ll bet your mother was doling out the helpful hints, but you wouldn’t listen. Kids are stubborn that way… πŸ˜€

    Comment by Mary P. | October 20, 2006 | Reply

  11. Oh boy, have I been there, lol!

    Comment by Jill Shalvis | October 20, 2006 | Reply

  12. You are the master manipulator! In a good way, because it’s all for the benefit of children. You outwit them for their own good. Great job

    Comment by MamaBear | October 20, 2006 | Reply

  13. You rock, Mary P!

    Comment by Kristen | October 20, 2006 | Reply

  14. LOL, my mother is the original Shirley Valentine. In 13 years she’s had 2 of my kids for 1 night!

    Like mamabear says your the master manipulator πŸ™‚ which is good. Me, ive just banned my youngest from sweets, chocolates, cakes, crisps for a fortnight, I can’t understand why she says she doesn’t love me :-O

    Have fun

    Comment by Si | October 20, 2006 | Reply

  15. Go, Mary P!

    I’m constantly amazed at how much the little ones understand, so young.

    And thanks for the link to Stephen’s blog – Loved the motorcycle pictures!

    Comment by Lady M | October 22, 2006 | Reply

  16. Excellent! It’s so nice when they surpass your expectations.

    Comment by Mamacita Tina | October 22, 2006 | Reply

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