Friday, September 9, 2016

Helping Others - How Having a Picky Eater Came In Handy

Today I went to help out with my kindergartener's school lunch time. At that early age they always need moms there to help open juice boxes and snack packs, it was so great seeing him eat his food in a different environment and not fuss about it. We will to try cafeteria food at some point, but for now this is good. But my victory today didn't come from my son's eating; it came from a totally unexpected source. As all kinder moms left, the first graders were coming in. I was still there grabbing my purse and on my way out I noticed this little girl crying quietly by a table. I asked if everything was OK but didn't get much of a response so I moved on. However, something didn't seem right so I went back. It turns out her grown up didn't pack her lunch and she was afraid she would not have anything to eat. Of course that would never happen, DISD offers free lunch, so we went thru the line and I started noticing she was very picky, she didn't want anything they offered. Oh boy! Here we go I thought. They have a few options each day, so I made sure she picked the food and not me. Since I was done with the Kinder shift and another group of moms had just came in to help out, my intention was to just help her get her food and go run the list of errands I had planned for that morning and then go get lunch with a dear friend. Yeah.... that didn't happen. When we got back to the table Abby (girl's name has been changed) started crying again because she didn't like anything that was on her plate. My first thought was: this is a failure! Can somebody else help her? But then I had an idea, what if I played one of the games I teach here on this blog? I first thought the Bites Game could work, but I didn't have pen and paper (ironic since we were at a school - I just mean they weren't right there handy to me, after all they only have 30 mins to eat). The Food Gamble would work too, but my purse is really small, and since my kids are bigger now I only carry my phone, lip balm and wallet, so I didn't have a die. I had a penny so the Heads and Tails Game could work, but it works better if you only have 2 choices, but I was able to adapt.  I told Abby that if the penny landed on heads she would have to choose between the celery and the smoothie cup (I thought all kids liked that little smoothie cup, but not this one!). If it landed on tails, she had to try the mac n cheese or the fish strips (the fish actually looked very delicious!).  Abby was not open to any of this! She was just looking down and pouting. I asked her, how about Mrs. Andreza tosses the coin the first time? When she heard the sound of the coin hit the table she immediately looked up interested. So I said, look! You got tails, that means you have to choose between taking a bite of the fish stick or the mac? Which one do you choose? She very cautiously picked up the fish and was not eating. So I suggested she didn't have to eat either one, this time she could drink a sip of the chocolate milk.  She chose the milk option. She still had to take a bite of the fish, and since she was still not trying it I thought I should offer her a reward, but what!? I could think of a hug, a kiss, a high five, but with her it would not work.  Luckily inside my small purse I had a bag of fruit snacks that my kids got from somewhere and I never gave to them.  So I offered that, it worked, she took a bite of the fish. Yay! This is getting better! We continued with the game and each time it got better, the first few tosses were all tails, so she ate almost an entire fish stick before I tossed heads. With heads, the options were celery and the smoothie, and she did not want to try the smoothie at all. I tried the Kiss, Lick, Bite (Drink in this case) Game with that and she made a funny face and immediately grabbed a piece of celery and stared at it for a moment. She took the smallest of bites, so I kept praising her and trying to make it more fun for her. She took better bites and by the end of the lunch she had eaten almost all 3 fish sticks, some celery and almost all of the milk. They keep a tight schedule there and by this point they were starting to put lunch boxes away and clean up the cafeteria. Two of Abby's classmates who were nearby became interested in helping me play the game with her. Teachers gave a 2 minute warning and I couldn't believe what I was seeing! Abby was eating more of the fish without us tossing the coin and the best part of all; she had a smile on her face. To me, that made it all worth it. Seeing Abby so happy with a genuine smile on her face made my day.  I didn't care that errands were moved to another day, lunch with my friend was few minutes late and that I probably looked like a crazy casino lady cheering and calling out each coin toss, what was important here was the fact that I was able to help a little girl who would likely have gone to recess and class hungry. Things got rushed at the end and I ended up not giving her the fruit snacks from my purse. Next time I'll know to get it out as soon as I offer it so I don't make the same mistake again. I will never forget Abby, and I hope she knows now that she can get her free lunch from the cafeteria next time her grown up does not pack her lunch.  I can't promise I will be there every time, but if I am I will sure sit with her again and give her the reward she so deservedly earned.

My son was so happy to see me at school today. I'll go again for sure!


  1. I'm just glad I could help. I almost continued on with my day but I would have been thinking about that little girl to this day, wondering if she got her lunch. This way I know how the story ended and I don't have to wonder ;)