One of the worst things about having small kids is having to follow my own rules, like “no eating on the couch” or “no TV on school nights” (mostly) or abiding by our newest regulation – “kitchen hours” – which we were forced to implement because our toddler is obsessed with food.
No, really. He is! He really is. I swear to Jesus it is the only thing he thinks of. Somewhere along the line, things in our home went awry. I have no idea where, but Matty has a one-track mind and I’m telling it you it leads him straight to the kitchen. He acts like it’s his mothership that’s just constantly calling him home.
When it all started six(ish) month ago, he would wake up in the morning and ask to go to “the house”. Back then, Seth and I had no idea what he was talking about. We tried explaining to him over and over again that we were IN the house. He’d cry and point and we’d insist that he was home. We should have known though because whenever we’d follow his finger to try to calm him down, we’d always end up standing in the kitchen (or right outside of it) with Matty in our arms asking him what he wanted. I remember one evening in particular when he wasn’t feeling well, we stood in the hallway outside of the kitchen, I was holding him in my arms and he just kept repeating himself “Da howz! Howz! Mama, hoooooowwwwzzz!” pointing at the light in the kitchen. In that moment, I felt so terrible. If I couldn’t translate my own kid’s requests, what kind of mother was I anyway?!
Then, one day while I was at work – just like that – it clicked. OH MY GOD. THE “HOUSE” IS THE FUCKING KITCHEN! AND HE THINKS IT’S CALLED HOUSE BECAUSE HE PLAYS “HOUSE” AT SCHOOL IN A PLAY KITCHEN! 💡 I wish I could describe how proud I was of myself in that moment, though I’m sure you can safely assume I was over the fucking moon.
Today, he still calls it “the house” unless you refuse to take him or go into the kitchen with him – then, he gets serious. “We go to the kitchen, Mama? I need cookies.” It’s the first place he wants to go in the morning and the first place he wants to go after school. On the weekend, his dream life would rotate between fruitful trips to the kitchen and long stints of watching “Train a Dragon” (as he calls it). Talk about a beautiful dating ad. It’s escalated to the point where you can *literally* negotiate him down from a cupcake to a tiny gluten-free, vegetable cracker. Um. If that doesn’t say something about his obsediction (obsession/addiction because I’m still not sure what the guidelines are around saying your toddler is an addict?), I don’t know what does.
So, we started small with a technique I’ve read is called a meal structure. We implemented “kitchen hours” and now no one is allowed to eat (in Matty’s presence) or be caught in the kitchen between meals and after dinner. Last night was our first night going all in and let me tell you, it wasn’t pleasant for anyone. Well, maybe Seth because he’s bed-ridden with the stomach flu and slept right through it, but for those of us present who aren’t a baby (AKA me and Matty) it was pure torture. I legitimately had this very argument with Matty AT LEAST seven different times (substitute different foods):
“I need chocolate, Mama.”
“The kitchen is closed buddy. Sorry.”
“No, Mama. The kitchen is not closed.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Matty, don’t yell at me.”
“NO, MAMA. THE KITCHEN IS NOT CLOSED! NO. MAMAAAA!” (Tears filling his eyes.)
“Matheson, the kitchen is closed.”
“Nooooooo, Mama, nooooo. The kitchen is OPENNNNN!” (Full on wailing.)
“Hey, Matty! Let’s play with your toys!”
“Nooooo, nooo toys! No. TOYS. MAMA!” (Lying on the ground, sobbing and lifeless.)
On top of that, after the holibirthday hurricane we’ve been swept up in, we went back to our no TV ways last night. So when we weren’t arguing about the availability of the kitchen, we were having this conversation (if that’s what you’d call it):
“I watch Train a Dragon, Mama?”
“No, buddy, no movies tonight. We’re going to play with your toys!”
“NO. No toys!”
“Well, we’re not watching any TV tonight. Let’s just play with your trains.”
*MATTY THROWS TRAIN*
“Matheson Walter! Do not throw your toys.”
“I NEED TO WATCH A MOVIE, MAMA!” (Queue the tears.)
“Sorry, buddy. Not tonight.”
Lots of inaudible wailing muffled by the floor of whichever room we were standing in.
The entire night was a disaster but I will say, this morning I felt like the mega champion of the world. When Seth finally emerged from the bedroom at 7:00am this morning and asked how the night was I told him it was okay. I told him how I thought not watching TV made bedtime way easier for Matty and how terrible the kitchen hours were but that it wasn’t the first thing he asked for when he woke up. And then, with sleep lines on his face and half-opened eyes, Seth looked around at the boys and said, “Yeah. I was going to say, I feel like they’re even acting better this morning.”
Any other time, I would have shrugged off the compliment as if it was nothing – but not this morning.
I worked for that one.
PS. Yes, we are working on teaching Matty the difference between “want” and “need”. And, yes, it does drive me bonkers. And, yes, I need chocolate but he does not.