This evening at the dinner table, things were not going well. Finn has three separate boxes of valentine’s candy, heart-shaped and shiny red. There has been much talk of chocolate since the 14th of February. We treat all candy as a special reward and not a fifth food group, so this becomes an issue at times.

Jen and I also tend to restrict chocolate after about 6:30 or so, knowing it turns our daughter into the Large Hadron Collider of sugar-filled energy. This does not stop Finn from trying; She is slicker than a mob lawyer in her attempts to weasel it out of us at all times of the day. Tonight was no exception. We gave her the standard party line about cleaning her plate to earn a treat, but she wasn’t interested in finishing her meal (something happening with greater frequency these days; Where is the child who inhaled fruits, vegetables, meat, paper, crayons, and cat food with no regard for chewing or silverware?) and sat idly in her chair watching us finish our food.

Mama got up to rinse her plate, and I stayed with Finn as she futzed around in her chair. We have a long-standing house rule about asking permission to leave the table, and after some back-and-forth histrionics I realized she’d got stuck in a feedback loop between not having cleaned her plate for a chocolate and not asking to get up from the table because she hadn’t finished a dinner she didn’t want to eat. Picking her up, I explained that it was OK to leave food on her plate, although Mama and I would prefer to see her eat her dinner, and that having good manners were important. She looked me in the eye and told me I’d made her sad, which twisted my heart into a pretzel. I told her we’d sit on the couch and I’d hold her until she felt better.

This led into a conversation about the difference between being sad and confused, and I explained (as best I could) the two in terms she could understand. I assured her we’d always be there to talk to when she was feeling either way, and to my wonder, we had a ten-minute talk without her attention wandering. I felt like I was connecting with her in a way I’d not been able to before. Looking into her eyes, I could see her there, working through the things I was telling her, not just contemplating how fun it would be to pinch my chin or poke my nose.

Mama joined us on the couch and helped us finish that conversation before segueing into a comparison of eye color, and then it was off to bed. Laying under the covers, surrounded by stuffed monsters, I looked down at my beautiful daughter and thought, sometimes the special reward doesn’t come wrapped in a shiny red box.

Date posted: February 29, 2012 | Filed under finn | Leave a Comment »

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