toddler doesn't like to eat !!!

I fed my daughter her lunch in the bathtub today.  Yup, right in the tub, while she's bathing.  I don't know what it is or where we went wrong, but for a few weeks now, Bee doesn't like to eat !  She would rather play than eat.  And if she's really hungry at dinner (seldom), she'll have a bowl of plain white/brown rice !  I was told it's just a phase and it will pass, but I'm exhausted, too impatience to wait for it to pass :-(  (you'll know why I'm so tired in the 3rd paragraph).

I've tried everything I know of, to encourage her to eat, and none worked successfully.  She'll have a bite or two then refuses to take another.  She'll sit at the table with us though, and watches us eat, asks about our food or just sings.  I've tried making all types of food, tried cutting food into various interesting shapes, ordered take outs, let her pick out what she wants to eat > and nothing worked !  there's no sign of interest from this girl :-(  she used to love to eat !!!  what happened ???

I'm all for the "they will eat when they're hungry.  They won't starve themselves".  But that doesn't work for my dear sweet Bee.  We would run around the house (I'm hoping by burning her energy she would get hungry and eat), and still she doesn't get hungry.  However, come night time, when we're all in bed snoozing away, I would feel a tiny hand touching my face, "mommy, hungry, milk?" is what she would say to me.  ARRRRrrrrgggghhhh, really baby ?  why now ?  mommy just got baby sister to sleep !  mommy just fall asleep !  oh man oh man oh man !!!  And since I can't just leave her in that state of hunger, I force myself up to get her milk and some crackers or make her an egg (because I know milk will only temporary hunker down her hunger for a short time, and soon she will be hungry again IF I don't give her something else to eat with the milk).  I would wait for her to finish then we go and brush her teeth again, before we both hit the hay.

Don't know about you but I love my sleep.  Now with 2 kids, sleep is evermore so precious to me.  I need it to recharge myself, so that I can function and keep up with my 2 princesses.  So after a few nights of her waking me up (me = zombie the next day), I decided I have to take the "meany" route !  I can't think of a better & faster way to deal with this OTHER than, I have to force her to eat.  I have to do whatever it takes to get her to eat !  her belly needs to be filled in order sleep through the night.

I don't know what the long term effect is on kids with parents forcing them to eat (they might hate eating time even more ?) so I am trying my hardest not to force her, or try to make it bearable :-S  key word here is "trying" because, well, some day I loose my cool !  my patience wears thin !  It's frustrating sometime watching her lick the food then saunters away.  What's wrong with the food ?  It's not so bad !  It's not poison !  I want to pull my hair out when she's like that.  Aaarrrrggghhhh!

So far "distraction" kind of worked !  She usually finished about 75% of her food.  And if I know she didn't consume much food throughout the day, I then will have to do the unthinkable >>> I would threaten her !  yup !  I thought long and hard on what she likes most and go from there.  I really don't want to scare her, but more like I just want to coercion her into it !!!  I would tell her if she doesn't eat, she won't be strong, and if she's not strong we can't play game today.  If we're at a friend's house or out in public, and she rather play than eat, I would simply say "if you don't eat then we will have to go home, you need to be strong to play".  Bee pride herself on being strong and loves to play so this tactic works well.  However I try not to use it all the time.  I remember some "experts" said it's not good for them, long term effect on something - they didn't say !!!  and have no data to back up their opinion.  But really, I wonder how much harm can it do ?  My mom told me she threatened me all the time when I was a kid.  I don't remember any them.  I don't remember ever disliking food so I really don't think they impacted me.  But I'm no expert, maybe they have some other effect on me that I'm not aware of :-S  eekkk !

Right now, most days, meal time is a battlefield !  I dread going into it but glad I came out on the winning side most of the time.  Yay me !  and she's been sleeping through the night, most nights.  I think I'm getting better at coming up with different "distraction" strategy to get her to eat, to remove her attention on eating elsewhere > like watching cars, spying on our neighbour's cat, follow the ants, etc !!!  When I noticed that she's noticing the food in her mouth and starting to make faces (ready to spit out the food), I would quickly yell "Hey, oh my, look at that !!!" and point frantically at something, anything to distract her.  I look like a crazy woman O_O  I pray and hope this phase shall pass.  I know it will !  Just don't know when.  Every wild ride will come to an end.  Right ?

If you got a tactic to get your kid to eat, please do share.  Being a parent is all about trials and errors, sharing them, laughing at them and learning from other moms !