Read This, Your Belly Will Thank You

Of all the tales/lies/arguments/threats parents tell their children to get them to do something, very few seem to work. Some go right over their heads or, worse yet, backfire. Take for example, the battle of getting a toddler out the door in a timely manner.

After threatening to leave without him if he doesn’t put his shoes on this instant, the kid could simply state, “Okay, see you later.” And of course, as much as you want to, you can’t leave a toddler unattended for too long before he does some irreversible damage. If it hasn’t happened yet, it will.

Rarely does your point get across, or your goal met. More often, the intended purpose of the tale/lie/argument/threat is misunderstood. If you sense a story coming, you’re right.

In an attempt to get our daughter to eat healthy, Husband and I have taken to describing what her stomach is saying when she eats certain foods. If a piece of broccoli happens to make it into her mouth and down her throat, Husband and I will rejoice and make a comment such as, “Do you know what your stomach is saying right now?” (Daughter shakes head.) “It’s saying, ‘Oh, thank you! This is going to let you run fast and ride your bike!’

Daughter looks at us wide-eyed, not sure how to respond.

We keep going, because, hey, what do we have to lose? Let’s drive the point home.

“Your belly is so excited to share this food with the rest of your body. You should take another bite and make your tummy happy.”

We’ve done this on a number of occasions. Every time she eats a protein that isn’t a card deck-sized piece of cheese, we explain to her that her tummy is appreciative. Ecstatic even.

Three tiny bites of a hamburger in conjunction with sixteen French fries: “Your belly is saying ‘Mmm, thank you for this burger!’”

TM6
Husband and Daughter filling their tummies.

One lame slice of turkey hidden in the middle of a grilled cheese: “Yay!’ says your tummy. It’s going to use that to make your muscles stronger.”

This seemed to work (kind of) until we rewarded her one day with dessert and she said, “My belly thanks me for this cookie.”

Turns out Daughter’s stomach doesn’t discriminate food groups. We’ve kept up the charade, though. Somewhere along the line, Husband’s stomach and my stomach started relaying messages, too.

“I just ate these Brussel sprouts and my belly is excited!”

Yes, these words actually left my mouth in a serious manner. Yes, I was sober.

Anyway, this method started to break down when Daughter’s stomach started telling her non-food-related information. After going on an excursion with my father-in-law, he asks why Daughter mentioned her belly didn’t want her to ride her bike anymore.

Sometimes her belly doesn’t want her to go to school, or it lets her know she can play outside a little longer even though it’s getting dark. And wouldn’t you know, Daughter’s belly doesn’t think she needs to take a bath. Ever.

This isn’t our first parenting failure and it won’t be our last. And until Daughter tells me her stomach wants her to rob a bank, I’m not going to dwell on it. Instead, I’m going to crack a beer. My belly will thank me.

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