My daughter is three years old and she still drinks her milk from a bottle. I know this is a Bad Thing, but up to this point, I really didn’t care. Dealing with all of E2’s food and sleep issues took so much of my time and energy that I was happy to let the bottle-battle slide until I had more resources to tackle it.
But the time has come. E2 is vastly improved now that we have cut her allergens out of my diet, and she is finally finally finally giving me some good nights’ sleep — at least three times a week now, I get as much as five or six (or occasionally seven!) hours in a row. But more than that is the fact that I am embarrassed that E1 is still drinking from a bottle. She is big for her age — she was in clothes for four year olds when she was only two — and people assume she’s older than she is. So it looks really quite wrong to see her with a bottle stuck in her mouth. It’s time.
Her bottle is more than a mere container to her, though — it’s a habit …and a comfort. It’s what she’s been doing for as long as she can remember, and she is very very attached to it. The first time I offered her milk in a sippy cup several months ago, her reaction stunned me. She was beside herself — wracked with sobs and actually panicking at this unexpected change. There was nothing I could do to console her — and I tried everything in my repertoire — except to back off and let her have her bottle again, which is what I eventually did. And all subsequent attempts got no further.
But yesterday, walking around the county fair, I was embarrassed. People were staring at my daughter — people wearing clothes that gave damning testimony to their own sense of appropriateness were staring at my daughter …and then shifting their contemptuous gazes to me. “Drink it! Drink it quick!” I hissed over the back of the pushchair, as I hunted for a less conspicuous area to duck into until the offending bottle could be hidden away again. We left the fair with my maternal pride dented and my resolve renewed.
She had her first-thing milk this morning in a bottle, as usual — no sense in trying to start this off when she’s sleepy to boot — but I explained that her next milk would be in a cup, like Mummy’s drinks are. “No cup,” she said with calm determination. I explained it several more times as the morning when on, and her reply never changed, “No cup.” I lifted my eyes to the heavens as my heart sank through the floor — I did not want the fight.
What was I going to do to make this work? How was I going to get round her resistance? I could forsee only another fruitless battle of wills, when I suddenly had an idea. “Shoes on, girls!” I called out, and they looked up from their toys, perplexed. “I fancy a coffee,” I explained, as I bundled them in the car and began madly clicking their seatbelts into place. As I backed out of the garage, I could see their faces in the rearview mirror, pictures of complete confusion at their mother’s sudden burst of activity.
At the coffee shop, I asked for my decaf in a paper cup with a no-spill lid, and then settled us down at a table. “Mmmmm…” I said dramatically, as I took a sip through the tiny hole in the lid. “Mummy’s coffee in a cup!” I reached into my bag. “A cup just like your milk!” I said with lashings of enthusiasm and a lot of nervous hope. She looked at the sippy cup I produced with a stony expression, and then at my cup, and then up at my face. Ah, she got it now — Mummy wastrying to be clever but she’d been sussed, and E1 wasn’t best pleased.
I felt the tide turning, so I quickly pulled out the second line of attack: a piece of her favourite fruit leather. She brightened immediately, and I tore off a small piece and handed it to her. “No!” she exclaimed with a look of horror. “Don’t tear it! Let me have it!” What on earth was Mummy thinking, feeding her little pieces like that?
But I’m no fool. “Drink your milk first,” I said, and watched her weigh up the options. Then she picked up the sippy cup and took a good drink. She put the cup down, held out her hand, and I deposited a small square of fruit. She protested again that she wanted the whole thing, but I stood firm and, before long, we settled into a nice rhythm: milk, fruit, milk fruit… I occasionally pointed out with glee that we were both drinking from cups and her enthusiasm grew. Eventually she broke into a wide milky grin despite herself, dribbling a bit onto her dress. We were both enjoying this now, and she was downright excited by the time we got in the car to come home. “Mummy, we had coffee together!” I was just as pleased, and it showed as I praised her profusely: Yes, my dear, we certainly did!
When I woke her from her nap later in the afternoon, her first words were, “No cup. Milk in a bottle!” She protested at first when I told her it was in a cup, and then gave up, happier to do without it altogether than to drink it from a cup again. At dinner, I quietly put the sippy cup on the table and we both carefully ignored it all through the meal.
And then, after dinner, she picked it up and began drinking — and carried on drinking (with the occasional prompting) until it was done. Just like that. I praised her more casually this time — as if this was exactly what I’d expected all along — but, inside, I was over the moon.
So now, three cups and one bottle are filled and in the fridge, ready for tomorrow. No doubt there will be more battles before this is finally over, but today was a good start — a better start than I’d expected. And hey, if it takes me going to the coffee shop for a nice relaxed cuppa with my daughters every single day, that’ll be just fine too.
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