Lately it seems that my son has been drinking a lot less fluid during the day. This is partially a good thing, because for a while I thought we were going to have to keep a cow in the backyard to satiate his endless milk consumption, and I don’t really fancy myself much of a gentlewoman dairy farmer and, besides, the eau de parfum of fresh manure might not be a hit with the neighbors. But this new phase seems to have coincided with his inability to stay in his seat for an entire meal.

Nope, no can do. It’s all about popping up out of his seat every once and a while despite our repeated instruction that he stay seated. Sometimes his journeys from the table are driven by curiosity and general restlessness: he wants an up close view of what his baby sister is eating, he wants to feed her “all by myself”, he gives a matchbox car or two a quick spin, he helps himself to another napkin, he takes a lap around the first floor like an athlete on the sideline who needs to stay loose. Sometimes his absence at the table is borne of stubborn refusal –  a refusal to try something new, a refusal to eat because he’s “not hungry” although he is simultaneously requesting a completely dinner-inappropriate snack, a refusal to eat something he has eaten several times before and liked, a refusal to eat because he knows it drives us crazy when he so refuses, a refusal to eat because he’s three and that’s what you do when you’re three — you know, the kind of experiences that make parents so very willing to fork over cash to a sitter so they can occasionally have dinner without their children.

With all of the up and down, in and out of his seat caused by distractions real, imagined and manufactured, it seems like at the end of the meal his drink cup is often practically as full as when we sat down, and so we’ve been trying to make a point of encouraging him to finish his drink during meals. The other night as he was finishing up dinner with a graham cracker and a still mostly-full cup of milk, my husband gently nudged, “Graham crackers are really good with milk. You should have some milk with your cracker.” The suggestion was met with a curious stare. I offered my own assurances that milk and grahams are good together. “Yum, you should definitely have milk with your grahams.” (No doubt proffered up in that annoying overly enthusiastic and saccharine caregiver voice that every child eventually learns to distrust.) He looked back and forth at us, still a bit reluctant that we were telling the truth. We renewed our milk and cookies suggestion. Then with a somewhat timid look that seemed to indicate “okay, if you say so…”, he placed his graham cracker on his plate, picked up his milk and poured it on the cracker.

Perhaps we should have been a bit more precise with our suggestion.

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