Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Pringles Incident

I need advice.

Here's the scenario: I got home from work yesterday to find my 6-year-old daughter in her bedroom sobbing her little heart out, and her surly faced father stalking around the house, pissed as all hell. Turns out Em was being punished for lying. Baroy had gotten her a snack--a can of Pringles--after he picked her up from school. He'd told her to just take a portion, because he didn't want her eating the whole thing. She insisted she wouldn't. She then sat down in front of the TV (a no-no on my watch, and they both know it) and, well, ate the whole thing, except for maybe a few crumbs at the bottom. For whatever six-year-old, stupid-headed reason, she decided to try and pretend she hadn't done what she'd just done. So she put the top back on the tube, and announced to her father that she'd finished, and she was putting the tube on the kitchen counter so he could put the rest of the chips away.

Imagine his surprise when he went to do so and found an empty can.

There was, apparently, some yelling involved. And some off-the-cuff punishments meted out that were later transmuted into more reasonable and reasoned punishments. No biggie. Nothing unusual in our house.

After things had calmed down, Em and I got into the car to go over to the YMCA for her swimming lesson. And I asked her about what had happened from her point of view, whether she was crying because her dad had punished her or because she thought he was being mean, etc. Em is a remarkably mature kid, and she didn't surprise me in this regard during our conversation. She told me that she was crying because she was sad about what she'd done, and she just didn't understand why she had lied to her dad. And then she said something that made my heart break for her a little. She said, "I don't know why I did at all those Pringles in the first place, Mommy. Sometimes I just don't have control over how much I eat, and I don't know how to get control."

We talked about it a little bit--about strategies for not eating a whole tube of Pringles--and then we talked about it some more, at her request, as we drove home. I told her that adults have the same problem sometimes, which is why I won't sit down with a whole bag of pretzels in front of me, but rather will take only a portion and then go back if I want more.

But really, I didn't know what to say to her about the larger issue. It's an ongoing one; she really does get a bit obsessed about food, and we really are generally pretty good about not depriving her, despite the fact that she does show some tendencies towards being overweight. (This is a particularly hard thing for Baroy, who is the most body dysmorphic man I've ever met, and really battles an ingrained "fat phobia" passed on to him by his mother.)

So, what would you say? What would you say to an almost 7-year-old who expressed a feeling of being out of control around food? What would you do to help her without ruining her? I'm hungry, as it were, for any and all opinions here...

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