Lately, (as in, ever since Ben learned the word, “eat”), we have heard the word “eat’ pronounced repeatedly more than any other word.
When Ben comes into our bedroom in the morning, he starts in first thing with “eat, eat, eat, eat.”
While we take him to the potty, while we’re driving in the car, while we’re waiting in line to pick up the kids from school, while we’re at the grocery store, while we’re at the park, while we’re at the doctor’s office, while he’s playing by himself with toy cars – if an adult walks into the room, it’s “eat? Eat? Eat?”
If you utter a food word, like “grapes” or “sandwich” or “pizza,” regardless of the context, Ben will say, “Ben grapes?” or “Ben Sandwich?” or “Ben Pizza?” followed by a long train of “eat.” You could be standing outside and say “Look, the moon is shaped like a wheel, or a pizza,” and Ben would say, “Ben Pizza? Ben Pizza? Eat, eat, eat, eat, eat pizza, Ben eat pizza, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat,” until you are drained of all your humanity.
Recently, during a high concentration of “eat”, my wife Amy muttered to me “I’m about to tell him to eat his shirt.” And I thought that was spectacular. I turned right around to Ben and said in my sweetest, sing-songy voice, “eat your shirt.” And Ben stopped. He looked at me and smiled real big and said, “nooooo.” And I said, “ok.”
I now use it all the time, because it has worked like magic! It’s like “eat your shirt” jars him from his repeating stupor and his brain is forced into a different direction. He sometimes tries to work me around it and get back to food, but my commitment to thwarting him with nonsense is unwavering.
And I cannot TELL you how satisfying it is to say. I almost can’t wait for him to say “eat” now. It is such a rare, sweet, and joyous occasion when you find a parenting trick that works that way. Eat your shirt. I might try it the next time J-Bear asks to watch a movie as we’re getting him ready for bed.