Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

My Food Fiend

See that, over there? Way, way off in the distance? That's my rope. And I am so, so far past the end of it that...well...that I'm making bad, stupid jokes about it to start off this blog entry.

What put me here? Em, my 7-year-old daughter. She is such an essentially good kid, really she is. I wish I could express it properly, make it sing for you, because I'm about to rail on and on about her, and it should be prefaced with more than just the usual disclaimers. You should know ahead of time just how crazy I am about her. But I'm too tired, and too far from my rope's end. So I can't do that part true justice.

Here's the short version: Lately, Em has been lying to us, doing sneaky things, trying to get away with stuff. Tonight was the third time in a week that she's been sent to her room for trying to snowme. One of the three was fairly innocuous--she had slept over at a friend's house, and when we said she needed to take a bath that night, said that she'd had one at J's that morning. I asked if she'd also washed her hair, and she said "Yes," but shifted uncomfortably as she did it, and quickly succumbed to my mad interrogation skillz.

The other two were more troublesome. Both involved sneaking food. When she did it the first time, it was almost ridiculous. She spent some time in her room, we had a long talk, she made promises. Then came this afternoon, when I caught her, red-handed, stealing and then hiding a little bag of M&Ms under a pillow on the couch. When I pulled the pillow aside, I found another, empty, scrunched-up bag. I stayed calm, somehow, but did send her to her room while I got a hold on myself and my feelings, and I did cancel her by-then-just-about-to-start gymnastics class. And I talked with her--OK, OK, I talked at her. And then I handed her a pad and pencil, and told her to write what was going on in her head, because clearly, she was just parroting what she knew I wanted to hear while we talked, and we were getting nowhere.

About 10, 15 minutes later, she came out and handed me the following. And yes, the spelling is all hers:
I'm felling that I don't get enghf food. I gess when I alrety had a snak and I ask, you might get angery at me. I don't know why it is junk food. When I steal food I don't know what I feel. When I feel hungrey I seem to get scard and I don't know why. Maby I don't get enuph food at school or maby at snak. I don't know why I steal food. You and daddy semm like you don't want us to have verry much food. I know you guys want the best for us and don't want us to steal stuf. I should be setting a good exampul for N and I'm not. I hope N dose not grow up lik that. I want N to grow up to be a good child. So I hope this note will tell you how my fellings are. Love, Em
Yeah, I know. It totally killed me too. Especially the part about N. And the first thing I said to her when I went back in to talk it over with her was that she is NOT a "bad child," that she'd just made a few bad choices recently.

(Also, I feel the need to come to my own defense. When I asked Em about the "you and daddy seem like you don't want us to have very much food," she said she meant that we don't like her to have too many snacks. We really aren't abusing or starving the kids. Really.)

So I'm at a loss. Feeding is actually a parenting topic I've thought and read a lot about, and which I would have told you, just a week ago, that I had totally handled. But now? Not so much.

So here are my questions for you, dear reader: Is this normal? It doesn't seem normal to me. What strategies should I be using to stop it? The kid currently gets three good meals plus two snacks per day. I generally don't put limits on her intake, other than to insist she not eat in front of the TV and that she not panhandle for food in between meals and/or snacks. But the truth is, I never refuse her if she asks--I will almost always let her have fruit or veggies or something like that if she's really still hungry. So why has she resorted to a life of culinary crime? What have I done wrong? What do I need to do to make it right?

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