Yesterday morning, I asked my four-year-old twins what they wanted for breakfast.
“Toast with peanut butter,” H and S said in unison.
“And honey,” S added.
“NO honey for me,” H reminded me.
“How about apple honey butter?” I asked H, hoping she’d be in the mood to try something new. Trying new things with H is – well, TRYING.
“NOOOOOOOO,” she whined. Her usual answer.
I remind her about the time she finally ate – and loved – the shrimp she once protested in the shrimp soup she orders at our local Mexican restaurant. (I know. Don’t ask.)
“NOOOOOOOO,” she insisted.
But I decided to put the apple honey butter on a little corner of her toast so she could try it, and if she didn’t like it, the rest of her peanut butter would remain untainted. She frowned at me and whined, but then she stuck her tongue out and licked it. And loved it. I ended up putting apple-honey butter on the whole piece of toast.
Battle won. Add one to the list of “Foods H Will Eat.”
Okay, yes, this is minor. And, truth be told, I can’t say either of my daughters is fussy, considering that, at Open House at preschool this week, I learned that when asked her favorite food, S answered without hesitation, “Ceviche.” H didn’t have to think before sharing her most-frequent request: “Lamb with wine sauce.” As crazy as that sounds, it’s a little taste of the food-loving fun we’ve been sharing with the girls since they were old enough to eat what we eat.
The reason I’m giving this a second thought is H’s resistance to new things has gone beyond food protests to day-to-day things I want to see her overcome. The girls just started a new year of dance classes, with all of the same friends as last year, and a few new ones. But this year, they’ll have a different teacher. H caught me completely off-guard when she woke up that morning and cried non-stop until we left for school about how she didn’t want to go to dance, or to school. She just wanted to stay home with me and “have work meetings with Daddy and go to stores.”
After my husband met me at school to assist with drop-off, and I gave everyone who needed to know a heads up, I spent most of the day with knots in my stomach. Wondering if she was crying, if she would have a huge meltdown and I’d have to go get her. I’ve been lucky in that the girls have been excited and easily convinced to go to school – and the only worries and tears I’ve had to contend with were my own.
This is SO much worse than that.
It’s hard not to question the choices we make as parents. When’s a good time to start school? Is it too soon? Will it be too late if we wait? Do we choose this activity – or that one? Is it too much? Not enough? And most of all, if they’re crying, if it’s something non-essential, do we just stop doing it and try again later?
I’m seeing something in H that I struggle with myself. She likes her comforts and familiarity. She loves where she is so much that change is a threat rather than an opportunity to experience the world, to find more things – and people – to love. I get hung up a lot on that, especially when it comes to the girls growing out of something and into something else. I know where we’ve been and what we can do – and from the safety of the present, I can fully embrace the past. Which makes the future sometimes look more daunting and maybe not as meaningful.
This leads me to my biggest question yet: how do I teach my daughter something I haven’t quite resolved for myself? And how do I tell her it’s going to be okay, when I know exactly how torn and uncomfortable she feels? Do I protect her from her fears, or find a way to help her work through them?
After some discussion, my husband and I decided the right thing for us is to stick with the dance classes, and help H (and S by example) through what will be the first of many (big and small) transitions in her life. I’m trying not to play up the fact that she has her sister with her, because next year, due to school rules, they’ll be in separate classes. Ah, more change! We’ve been talking about trying new things – and things she’d have missed if we didn’t try, like Thunder Mountain at Disney. We’re trying to help her focus on the company of her friends, and how proud she was last year when she showed us all she learned at their dance recital.
I’m grateful to have the support and help of her teachers and the kindness of other parents in the meantime. I’m pretty sure it will work out sooner or later. Half the time when the girls are home, they’re dressed up like Disney princesses, dancing and singing around their room, anyway. With any luck, maybe this will be a healthy step forward for both of us.