Yesterday, I gave Madeline a gummy bear vitamin to eat with breakfast. She carried it in her clammy hand the whole way to church, where I can only assume she pawned it off on some other hungry toddler. I guess I really should have seen the sixteen-round, knock-down, drag-out fight coming.
IN THE RED CORNER, WEIGHING 24 POUNDS 6 OUNCES IS THE DEFENDING CHAMPION, THE IMMOVABLE MOUNTAIN OF STUBBORNESS, MADELINE CONNER!
AND IN THE BLUE CORNER, THE CHALLENGER, WEIGHING IN AT NONE-OF-YOUR-BUSINESS IS MOMMY WITH VITAMIN!!!!!!
*ding* ROUND ONE (8:30 AM)
I retrieved the vitamin from its jar and offered it to Madeline with great enthusiasm, “Here, red gummy!”
She retracted her head like a turtle and whined, “No.”
“You like your gummy! Here, look at it.” I held it up for her to inspect. She leaned in so her eyelashes brushed the vitamin; she touched it in three or four places, and THREW HERSELF forward on the ground, her head between her knees. “EEEEEEHHHHH.” This is her fake crying noise, and I am not fooled.
“Okay, we’ll just wait.” I began to make her oatmeal breakfast. As soon as she heard the oats rustling in the packet, she perked up. “Oatmeal??”
“Yes!” I encouraged. “First gummy, then oatmeal!”
“Aaooo,” she whimpered. Enter real tears. I crouched beside her and put my arm around her. “It’s okay, it’s just your vitamin. Chew it up and we can have breakfast together.” I stuffed the vitamin in her mouth. (The “stuffing-in-mouth-coupled-with-tender-words” technique works about 65% of the time. Not today.) She spit it out onto her shirt.
“MADELINE! No spitting, you know better than that. Chew up your gummy.” I placed it back in her mouth, and in one fluid movement she pushed it out with her tongue. I plucked the now-sticky vitamin off of her shirt again and said in stern-mommy-tone, “Madeline, if you spit it again, Mommy with flick your cheek. No spitting.” She stiffened every muscle in her neck and locked her lips. I crammed the vitamin in her mouth. She spit it out, and I thumped her cheek.
“WAHHHHHHHHH,” she wailed, the offending vitamin stuck to her shirt and residual red gummy goo on her lips.
*ding* ROUND TWO (9:00 AM)
New strategy, ignore the bad behavior. I probably read this in a book somewhere. I calm her down with kisses and explain calmly, “Madeline, after you eat your gummy, we will have breakfast. Okay?” And I promptly leave the room. (The “leaving-her-with-no-one-to-complain-to-and-no-one-for-whom-to-perform-technique” works about 50% of the time. Not today.)
I peek into the kitchen. This time, she’s thrown herself backwards and is lying on her back, positioned on the floor like Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, screaming in protest. I proceeded to check my email.
15 minutes later I peeked in to check on the status of things. Madeline was sitting cross-legged with puffy red eyes, staring at a spot on the floor six inches away – there laid her arch-nemesis: the vitamin.
*ding* ROUND THREE (9:30 AM)
Madeline and vitamin are still locked in the death stare. “Madeline, honey, would you like a different color vitamin?”
“Okay, do you want to pick it out of the jar all by yourself?”
“Reach in there,” she whimpered.
I picked her up, she helped unscrew the cap like a big girl, and pulled out a fresh, non-sticky orange variety. “There!” I said with as much positivity as I could muster. She grinned at me! Hope!
“Yummy orange one!” I said. She furrowed her eyebrows again, deep in thought. I held my breath.
“Share with Mommy!” she said, mashing the vitamin against my lips– all smiles. She is sneakier than I gave her credit for.
“No thank you,” I said, “that’s Madeline’s gummy.”
She frowned, “Share it!” Oh, the manipulation.
“Let’s eat our gummies together,” I said. “You feed Mommy a gummy, and MOMMY WILL FEED YOU A GUMMY.” She placed an orange gummy in my mouth. At least one of us has had 50% of our Niacin for the day. “MMMMMM, yummy!” I exaggerated all my chewing motions and noises. “Now it’s Madeline’s turn!”
Now Mommy is crying inside.
*ding* ROUNDS FOUR THRU FOURTEEN (9:40 AM)
I began flipping back and forth, doing good cop/bad cop all by myself. Which, I’m sure some early-childhood-development-specialist/parenting expert will email me and tell me is a horrible thing to do – but GAH! Nothing was working! And I was standing on principle. You simply cannot throw a tantrum and expect to eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese three square meals a day. Period.
*ding* ROUND 15 (10:00 AM)
I strapped Madeline in the booster seat, with a purple vitamin on the tray in front of her. I explained that she must eat it before she could have breakfast (or get down), and I left the room again. From the office I hear weeping and gnashing of teeth. She’s been awake for two hours with no breakfast – she’s on a hunger strike for babies everywhere against vitamins. Two months later, I hear “All done vitamin.”
Elated, I rush into the kitchen - only to find that she has leaned precariously far out of her seat to place the vitamin on the table - as far away from her AS PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE without ripping the seatbelt from its hinges.
I set it back on her tray and say, “Madeline, you must eat your vitamin.”
“Want Daddy.” Oh, this is rich.
I kiss her on the head and leave the room again. Before I even reach my chair in the office I hear a loud screeching sound and the floor begins to vibrate. I come running out of the office to find her rocking violently in her booster seat, causing her chair to scooch backwards across the floor, away from the vitamin that she has placed BACK on the table.
*ding* ROUND 16 (10:30 AM)
Mommy, defeated and near tears, drags her feet to the pantry and retrieves a pack of fruit snacks. The famished, yet resolute Madeline eats one blue fruit snack, then another. Then mommy stuffs in the vitamin with the third blue fruit snack, and mercifully, MADELINE SWALLOWS.
There are no winners here. “The Principle” is out the window and The Vitamin is in the stomach.
Is it naptime yet?