Sunday, January 06, 2008

Feeling lost in the parenting world...

I'm at my wits end this morning, and have absolutely no idea what to do next.

Last night I discovered that Luey had punched holes in the lid of a milo tin when he could prize it open, to get at the milo.

This morning, I woke up to Erik having eaten two icypoles, and having made himself a milo as well.

I'm sure quite a few of you are wondering what the hell my dispair is about, LOL. It's just food. I know this, I'm not completely insane (though I feel like I'm bordering on it). This morning I've seriously considered just letting the boys have free reign on the food in the house. Just let them eat whatever they want, whenever they want. Not try to control it at all.

The very thought of that stirs deep fear in my stomach. As it is they, Erik especially, but recently Luey has broken his personal vow of abstainence as well - probably because he feels like he's missing out - steal food every single day. Not because we don't share what we have with them, or they don't get enough food, just because we set a limit on the amount they can have.

We set these limits because we CAN'T AFFORD for them to eat as much as they like. We simply can't afford to keep buying more. If they finish the food, and we simply refuse to buy more, it literally means that Dave, Bryn and I go without. To put this into perspective, there have been weeks when I haven't had food all day because Erik finished off food from my alotted foods (because I'm on this girl diet), and there is nothing else for me to eat. It actually makes me cry in dispair just to write this because I don't know what else I can do.

There have been times when we no money in the house at all and Dave had to borrow from petty cash at work because Erik ate the last of everything there was. And now Luey is doing it too.

We spend a considerable amount of our money on foods specifically for them, that Dave, Bryn and I don't eat. Their school lunches contain things none of the rest of us eat, like sultanas, fruit yogurt, biscuits, apples. We buy them things like icypoles as treats. Not a week goes by without them having some form of lollies and takeaway, just because they ask for it. They're not deprived.

I just really don't know what to do.

I've been reading so many different strategies this morning, but they seem to universally deal with toddlers. I totally understand the inability to think outside yourself that toddlers have, but these boys are 8.5 and 6.5, distraction doesn't work. They get up before us in the morning. There is no such thing as putting stuff out of their reach.

I've even considered locking the food up, getting a padlock for the fridge. I'm not going to do that though, because that is just not the sort of parent I want to be. So, then my only option is to accept that my children will eat whatever they want whenever they want and not give a fuck about anyone else in this house.


katef said...

Oh I feel for you!
Our 'food stealing' issues are not as bad these days as they once were... but that is mostly because we locked everything (and I mean everything!) away and since the girls are not as old as your boys they can't manage the magna locks yet, even if they could find the keys. So suggesting you lock everything away is probably not all that helpful and I know you said you didn't want to do this but I wonder if locking - even with a padlock and key - some special food away, especially your girl making food etc - might at least relieve the stress a little? It is hard to be understanding and positive when you are hungry and going without!

I battled with similar issues about locking the girls out of their and our bedrooms because I couldn't deal with the constant mess. It didn't and to some extent still doesn't sit right with me to 'lock' them out of anywhere - it is their house too... but in the end I knew I had to do it to regain some of my sanity, so that I could regroup and be in a better place to find a better way to deal with the issue... so maybe for the short term locking up some of the food would just give you some breathing space to be able to find a better way for all of you to deal with it?

We too are on a tight food budget and in our house once it is gone it is gone.. that is it. I've started allowing the girls to eat from a biscuit jar whenever they want. We just put cheap rice crackers in there so they are eating healthyish food but also something they really like, but the idea is for them to begin to understand that when they are gone they are gone... not sure if it is working or not though

But maybe setting aside one cupboard of food that the boys know they can have whenever they want. It is their food, they have total control over it... maybe even let them shop for it and help choose and pay for it. Even if it isn't their money I think the physical action of handing over money helps connect the concept of payment etc and if you say they have x amount of money to spend then they might also help them connect the idea of limits? ie x$ only buys x amount of stuff and that is all we have? Get them to put it away, even label who's food is who's if needed and then have a chat about how that is the food for x amount of time, when it is gone it is gone, maybe even mark on a calendar how long they have until the next shop?

I am trying to come up with ways to help the boys understand the concepts of consumption etc... not necessarily the issue of them not 'thinking about others needs/feelings' because I think that is separate and so much harder for them and you to deal with... Just basically bringing it back to a basic concept of how much food there is and how long it has to last and how THEY feel when it is gone.

I think now that your boys are bigger including them in a discussion about it.. not an after the event dissection of who ate what, but a round table 'I have a problem can you help me think of ways to deal with it' before the event type discussion can really help. If they are invested in the issue from start to finish, if they feel heard and if they feel like they are part of the solution then maybe they are more likely to really get the consequences and deal better with them??

Really I am rambling on here...and I seem to have written an entire essay LOL.... hopefully something in there might be helpful...and you know, you are a great parent, you are doing the best for your boys, thinking these issues through being honest about your feelings - despite feeling lost right now remember to feel a little bit proud as well that you are working hard to figure out the best road for all of you!

Amanda O. said...

This is just a thought and may be totally crap because I don't have kids that age or much experience with them. (Even daycare kids were mostly under 5's...)

But you're right that at their age it's not unreasonable to expect them not to steal the food. They can think outside themselves to an extent, even if not probably in the same way a teenager or adult would. Maybe instead the problem is that they don't have so much grasp on the concept of running out... like, portion wise. Hm, not explaining myself well... but it's sort of like they want X and they know there's a limited amount of X and only part of the packet of X is theirs but just one more little bit won't hurt when it looks like there's a whole/most of it left... until they've nibbled away everyone else's portions. So maybe you could break down the portions to make it more visually distinct for them? Like if it's a packet of ricethins for example and there's 25 in the bag that's 5 for each of you, so bag up Erik's 5, Luey's 5, Bryn's 5, Your 5, Dave's 5 in bags with their names on them. That way they have a better visual for how much of the whole is their portion that they're responsible for choosing when and how much to eat? I like a lot of Kate's ideas too, so will be watching to see how you BOTH deal with this for when *I* have to deal with it in a few years! Hopefully some other people will have more experience/ideas and can help you better... you sound literally so stressed out you're about to cry in this post. :-(

Sif Dal said...

Buggar, I replied to this earlier, I wonder why my reply didn't go through???

Anyway, I said there are some great ideas in there, but unfortunately most of my food that Erik takes is fridge dependant, so I can't really lock it up.

I have thought about it though (well, obsessed about it actually, today - a nice break from obsessing on ttcing, LOL) and decided to put the responsibility for the act back with the boys. This is based on Erik telling me that sometimes he takes stuff because I won't let him have it (like my girl stuff).

Sooooo, I've decided to let the boys help themselves to stuff, but they also have to decide whether it's fair to do that if it means someone else is going to miss out (this obviously works best if I'm there when they are about to take the item, so not really sure what to do with the 5.30am food taking)...

Had a first go at this today when Luey asked for some yogurt, and I gave it to him. Erik also asked, and I pointed out he'd already eaten his alottment, but he could have some if he wanted to, it would simply mean that Luey or Bryn would miss out. He had to decide if he thought that was ok.

He said to me, "Well, I don't really want anything to eat, what I really want is a toy from the prize bag..." The prize bag is a bag of kellogg's cereal box toys my dad brought over for the boys last weekend. So, I told him he could help himself to that instead.

I *think* this way the boys will have to face the effects of their decisions before making them. We won't scold them, or otherwise punish them for their choice if we don't agree with it, we'll just tell them what the consequence of that choice is - i.e. now X won't have any.

Also, we're definitely doing the "when it's gone, it's gone" thing. I've really struggled with this, especially in relation to school lunch materials, because well, the teachers keep an eye on how much the kids have in their lunchboxes, and if they only have a sandwich and an apple all day, we are told to provide more food. That's kind of hard to deal with when the child has chosen to eat 5 boxes of sultanas in one sitting, yk... But maybe if we work on it now, during the holidays, by the time school starts, they'll have a better understanding???

Jen said...

I think that making them aware of the consequences to others in the house if they eat the food Sif is great :) .

Is it possible to put your girl foods in a plastic container in the fridge with your name on it?

Along the same sentiments could you put the special treats, foods that the boys can have in their own named plastic containers. Then let them know that those foods are only for them but must last for the week. Any other food in the cupboard/ fridge is for everyone in the house, including them. So if they take the other things then that means that someone in the house will miss out,etc.

I hope you work it all out together Sif.

Minni Mum said...

Hi Sif,

A girlfriend of mine has two boys aged 12 and 7, both of whom eat more in one sitting than their 6 foot, large-framed father. They are most certainly not fat either, in fact the 7 year old borders on being skinny! I am gobsmacked each time I witness the amount of food they can put away - and my GF always provides filling stuff like fresh fruit and vegies - they'll eat an entire loaf of bread with peanut butter on it between them just for afternoon tea, for example.

I can see that you think there is certainly an element of wanting something just because they can't have it, or because their brother has some, but FWIW I think a large degree of it is simply that they're hungry!

If money is an issue you might want to have a look at buying more items in bulk and then dividing them up. For example it's stacks cheaper to buy large packs of sultanas instead of the individual boxes (especially if they are eating five in one sitting), and the same goes for yoghurt, don't buy the individual pots. Better yet, make your own. My three girls go through a litre of yoghurt every two days. That was costing about $12 in individual pots, but I make it myself for around $1.50. using Easiyo mixes costs around $3 a litre, still heaps cheaper.

Good luck!
Cheers, Julie

Unknown said...

Fuck Sif, sounds really hard - but great ideas, and you are obviously putting a lot of effort in to the solution.

Frankly our 'treat' food often just didn't even come home from shops - they just couldn't afford to buy it. When they did - well, we usually ate it ALL and then it was gone. I guess we also didn't have much freedom to take ourselves to the shop (even if we stole money, which we did!). Well, occasionally we snuck out the window...

Good luck, sounds hideous, but try to remember that the boys aren't trying to deliberately SHIT you - just get what they want, which is sometimes your attention - and sometimes just tasty snacks. Hugs
babe xx

PS. I think I read some unschooling guy write in an article that they did the 'free reign' thing with their kid, and she DID eventually healthily self-regulate - but they started when she was maybe 7-8 years old, and it was a good MONTH of total binging on shit food until she made herself sick on a regular basis - then she finally came around to eating normally. That's a long time (and a LOT of money), but they felt it was worth it in the end.

Sif Dal said...

Rofl, at the risk of sounding like I'm nay-saying everything everyone suggests (don't you just hate those kinds of people???)...

Erik and Luey are already well aware of what food is solely mine, and what foods are solely theirs. The issue with Erik (because this has now only happened twice with Luey, but for the past four years with Erik), is that he can't or won't control the impulse to take what he wants, irregardless of WHO'S it might be, yk? So, labelling stuff makes not a jot of difference, because it's not the lack of knowing that causes this...

The reason we don't buy bulk sultanas is that they end up everywhere in their school bags once the lunchbox is opened up, and I guess we don't have small enough containers to stick them in (besides which, if they weren't in their lunch box, the boys would like forget to eat them at all). We don't normally buy individual yogurts, LOL, that was just a treat for this week - as were the icypoles... But on the whole, we nevery have the money to buy in bulk, rofl, it's a bit of a catch 22, you need to have money to buy in bulk to save money... But maybe I can figure something out with the sultanas, I'll rethink that one...

Clel, we're kind of doing the unschooling thing now with them having free reign, although there isn't actually any crap in our house for them to eat per se, as I said before the icy poles were a rare treat like the individual yogurts, most of the "crap" they eat is outside the house BECAUSE we want to limit it, hahaha, both for them and ourselves, LOL...

I'm hoping that once Erik connects that while he CAN do whatever he wants, HE needs to choose not to do stuff that negatively affects other people where he can (with self-integrity, of course), then this might fizzle out.

My main worry is that Erik might KNOW it's unfair of him to eat other people's share of household food, but he can't control the impulse to just take and keep taking despite that knowledge...

nic said...

Hi sif,

Firstly, I love reading your blog!

Are you saying that your boys get up at 5.30am?! OMG. If so, do they have a clock in their rooms. What works for us is that the kids are not allowed to wake each other and they are not allowed out of their rooms until 7am and not a minute before. If they sleep longer then that is a bonus.

So by 7am I am slowly starting to wake also and I can hear what they are up to. Another idea is organising their breaky for them the night before. Cereal in a bowl and they just need to add the milk. Once hey have finished their breaky then there is nothing else to eat until you serve it to them when you are ready.

Our budget is verylimited also so when the food is finished there is not more until the next shopping day. It is just too bad for the kids.

Also do they have water readily available for them to drink in the morning. Maybe this will keep them a little happy until you surface for the day?

I don't know if I have helped in any way but I still can't get over them waking at 5.30am. That would do my head in

Sif Dal said...

Rofl, yes, Erik sometimes gets up earlier, expecially if he's woken up to Bryn and brought him in to us (sometimes happens at 4.30am).

Yeah, you know we HAVE throught about preparing cereal but I was wanting to use our everyday bowls from tupperware (because they have a lid on them to keep the cereal crisp), and Dave and managed to wreck them, but now that you've reminded me, I've just ordered more everyday bowls from Kate - so thanks for that!

Sif Dal said...

Oh, and I meant to mention yesterday that the boys actually eat more food each day than either Dave or I, LOL! I'm really hoping for a little girl who barely eats at all next time (well, as long as she's healthy, yk?)...

Jen said...

*quote* I'm really hoping for a little girl who barely eats at all next time*

rofl Sif. I have a boy and girl and she eats him under the table!!!! So if you find that little girl that barely eats could you send a prototype this way :p

Sif Dal said...

LOL, that would have to be the way, wouldn't it - just when you think you have the solution, someone comes along and tells you their experience which totally contradicts you're own marvellous solution, roflmao!!!

Good Job!