Some background: I'm mama to a 27 month old girl, and expecting a second next month. We've had a pretty stressful year so far, with my pregnancy, medical issues, weaning (I'm having issues with bf'ing at this point) and an impending move to another country. So we've all been a little frazzled. DD had, until 18 months, been a very very large baby - off the charts big and pretty plump. As my milk cut out, her growth slowed considerably. She is still large (90th percentile), just not gigantic.
So the unaccountable attachment to the bowl of cereal (plain cheerios in a plastic bowl, no milk) has me worried. Is she hungry? She constantly sets up table with the bowl, sometimes getting little plastic spoons from our drawers and a plastic birthday cake. She has little plastic stringing bead bears, which look a lot like the jellybears which someone had secretly fed her without my knowledge. She sets them up too, and now there are a couple of lego blocks and a bottle of bubble mix she calls "drink". She plays this "game" all evening long, and mornings too, setting up table on different tables, rearranging and adding to her pretend feast. She wants to bring her o's (cheerios) to bed with her. We've compromised, they go on the nightstand. She almost never eats these o's, mostly they fall on the floor and I have to vacuum them as she looks on and cries. Then I give her a new bowl.
I know this sounds hilarious, and maybe I'm just hormonal but I'm seriously upset by this. I'm a WOHM and I spend most of the evening cooking/trying to feed her to no avail. She won't eat most of the stuff I cook, only some fruits and sometimes yogurt. Sometimes the only way I can get her to eat is to either set her in front of the TV with her favorite cartoon or when she's finally tired out to refuse to nurse her until she finishes her food. Or I can pour ketchup all over the food I made, which I don't want to do because she has dental issues.
DH wants to just get rid of the bowl, the o's falling on the floor drives him crazy, but she is seriously attached to them - cries if she forgets the bowl in the living room at night, wants to bring it downstairs first thing in the morning. I'm scared to take them from her because I feel I must be starving the kid, since breastfeeding no longer produces milk.
Any ideas? Anyone else have a story like this?
My DD is super picky and sometimes will only eat certain things. During these times, I just feed her what she will eat, but I do understand how frustrating it can be to try to feed someone who refuses to eat. At this point, I don't think I'd be concerned about an attachment to a particular game and the cereal bowl. It doesn't sound that weird to me. If she just wants to eat yogurt and fruit, let her eat those things.
In the meantime, you may want to check out some books on child development to see if there are any behaviors that may indicate something unusual. PBS has a website that has some good developmental info so you can see what is in the range of "normal." I was often surprised by what seemingly odd behaviors ended up being normal developmental phases with DD.
In general, is your DD experiencing weight loss or behavior problems which don't seem developmentally driven? How verbal is she - does she tell you anything? I think it is somewhat normal for appetites to fluctuate as growth cycles change. If you are worried, I'd take her to the doctor. Or wait a week or so and see if things resolve, then take her if you are still worried.
For the night time issue with the O's, is there a container with a lid you could put them in so she could have them close by without them spilling everywhere? This sounds like it's irritating both you and DH and could be adding to your stress a bit.
Also, you said you guys have been under a lot of stress and it sounds like there have been many changes going on. Sometimes kids react to things OK during the time of the stress, but then go on to process things later. My DD often has a bit of a delayed reaction to stressful situations. (Mary Sheedy Kucinka discusses this in some of her books and we have seen this first hand in our home.) Example: We had to re-home a dog to which my DD was very attached (he had tried to bite her several times - it was a terribly difficult decision for us because we loved the dog too). Strangely enough, DD did really well (better than me) with the transition of the dog leaving. We explained everything and she hardly fussed or anything. But then about 6 months later (pretty much the same age as your DD) she started grieving the loss of the dog. She cried every day for at least a month; she was mean to the other dog we had kept (her logic was that if M had to go away, then B could come back). She didn't sleep well. It was really hard. Then it passed.
Anyway, I hope some of this helpful. Hang in there. Being under stress (and hormones!) seems to make everything just "more."
Just focusing on her Cheerio game, no, I don't think it sounds worrisome nor would I take it as a sign of hunger. It sounds like a game to me, and I recognize the appeal of the game from what I've seen DD do at that age.
I personally would NOT take them away from her. I'd do things to ensure they didn't drive me quite as nuts (like the PP's suggestion to have a container with a lid).
I can sympathize with the issue of her not eating much (which is, in my humble opinion, unrelated to her game). DD's picky eating is an ongoing challenge. I'll let you know when I figure it out :)
But a lot of mamas here recommend Ellyn Satter's methods for dealing with eating issues without creating a power struggle. Her site is here: http://www.ellynsatter.com/ And she has several books which may be available at your library or you can buy them online.
Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.
Thank you for normalizing this, I was beginning to think I gave DD an eating disorder.
I tried the lid approach, that did not work because she can't really open that lid very well, when she finally manages to get it off the bowl is on its side and everything comes falling out. I think she really wants to be able to touch them. I may try to use a "spill proof" cup type thing, so she can get her o's out. She also likes collecting stones, so maybe this is just an extension of that.
I am slightly concerned about growth - her growth has been really really fast, and she was definitely overweight/obese at one point. Then she did not gain any weight from 18 to 24 months, although she grew an inch in height. Since then she has put on a few pounds, mostly because I've been chasing her around with a plate of food every evening. Our ped is not worried at all, although I am a bit. At home we only gave her good home-cooked food to eat, and until recently she didn't even like candy. I was in denial, though, about what she was eating at daycare, which is mainly packaged food, daycare is also where the gummy bears were introduced. I think it has warped her taste buds a bit, so I have difficulty feeding her more plain fare which we cook at home. Only a couple months to go until we move, so taking her out of that daycare would just be more turmoil for her.
She is not very verbal, partly because we're a 2-language family with two very different languages. More than verbal ability I think it's temperament. She's a very active kid, and not really there yet in terms of describing her feelings or needs. She does say "eat-eat-eat-eat" when she's hungry, but sometimes I feel she would rather play than eat, particularly when the food is not appetizing (i.e. not candy).
Anyway, we are sort of managing with the food, but I think my frustration comes sometimes from trying to feed her while she's preparing this imaginary feast for herself. Even to me the food on the plate looks bad compared to the plastic cake. Maybe I need to back off or find some other activity for her to do while eating which is less distressing to me and less likely to remind her there are other things she'd rather eat (candy, cake, etc.).
Thanks again for your replies.