My coffee is brewing, and while I debate the pros and cons of patenting a way of delivering it intravenously, I’m contemplating a menu for the day. But despite my best intentions, plans and caffeination, I also need to prepare for at least one mealtime power struggle. I’ve read all the websites, blogs and books that I have time for, and while the general consensus is “don’t let them see you get frustrated or make mealtime frustrating”, I can’t help but believe these morons have only had to feed their cat. My son is by no means a picky eater, but he has his days. And regardless of what justifications I use (teething, stuffy nose, lunar phase, barometric pressure, Red Sox loss/win), I’m re-learning how to eat while teaching my son.
Feeding a baby is an interesting study in development, patience and waterproof mascara. Before I had ever considered children (I should probably send a letter to my 18 year-old self with that wake-up call), I saw a device that could only be described as “green and pretty cool”. (My passive-aggressive 18-year-old self) I was talking about the Beaba (pronounced bee-AH-bah), a system for preparing baby food that would ultimately save us a great deal of money and time. It’s basic function is to steam fruit/veggies/meat, then purée them, all in one contained unit. Far less time and counter space consuming than pots, colander and a food processor. It was very important to me to make my son’s food, especially with the cost and taste of canned foods. A bag of carrots cost $0.75 and would make food for WEEKS when portioned into ice-cube trays and frozen. But the painful side to that double-edged sword was anything I made that my son refused felt like a direct attack on my culinary skills. I couldn’t blame him for rejecting some canned food (and could thus blame the manufacturer), but when the carrot purée I made was met with screaming and tears after 2 spoonfuls, that hurts.
To this point, my son refusing to eat has been the most painful new parenting experience. (More pain to follow, I’m certain.) It’s instinctive to eat, and as a parent you want your child to eat. I would try everything: giving him with a spoon to play with, adding herbs and spices, choo-choo/airplane/Millennium Falcon noises and even saying “look over there!”. As they do at this age, they learn fast and my attempts at coercion or deception were thwarted. (And I’m not good at Tie fighter noises.) It was hard enough some days to get him his 2 meals, but adding the lunchtime meal presented another challenge. When it was breakfast and dinner, I had support from my husband for 1/2 of mealtime. Adding lunch meant I was going solo on 2/3 of his meals and that I would have to learn to eat a decent lunch. Correction: feeding my son meant I had to re-learn how to eat. Before I was feeding him solids, I would shovel something into my face in between his feedings. But now, he’s not interested in eating unless I am. Any weight I lost from the pregnancy was being put back on to teach him how to eat. And while the French continue to write the books on how much better their kids are when it comes to eating, there is a fine-line between “you will eat what I put in front of your face” and unloading the pantry to find something he will eat so maybe we all get some sleep tonight.
So, now my son requires I eat at least 3 square meals a day, but that is no guarantee he will participate. Some days eating becomes a psychological battlefield, coming down to what is being perceived as his food and my food. If it is his food (meaning portioned on a plate and put near him), he isn’t terribly interested. Even if we are eating the same thing, if it in any way looks like it isn’t coming directly off either my or my husband’s plate, he isn’t interested.We used to feed him before we ate with the idea that we may get to enjoy a meal in peace. It worked for a week. He would eat less and less and it wasn’t until we were at a family member’s home that we learned he wanted to eat socially and the same things we were. Well, that presents an interesting question: just because we eat it, would we be ok feeding it to our son? Let me make sure I understand: not only are you dictating when I eat, but now you dictate what I eat? It isn’t like we are consuming deep-fried chicken sandwiches, but we do have a proclivity for Vietnamese and Thai food. Now, I find myself thinking about MSG, and am also learning that Poncho is open to trying That green curry chicken. The sword gets more edges.
Unfortunately, preparing his food from fresh meats, fruits and veggies does not eliminate the chance for something to make him sick. I can understand why some parents choose to use canned baby food when there seems to be a recall on produce and meat once a week. And with the ill-defined and wrong perception of what organic truly means, the news of the existence of pink slime and the FDA allowing BPA to remain in products that come into contact with our children every day, it becomes easy to second guess every nutritional decision we make for our family. On some level, we have to trust the people who grow our fruits and vegetables, raise our meat and manufacture the products we give to our children are doing the best they can.
The carnage…avocado and hard-boiled egg everywhere. A few cereal puffs crushed into oblivion in the seat of the high-chair are all that is left of the battle of lunch. I think we were both uninterested and exhausted from last night. Despite his initial protest, I cleaned him up and put him down for his nap early. Even if he wasn’t ready for a nap, I was ready for him to take a nap. We may not have seen eye-to-eye on lunch, but I managed to get a few morsels in his mouth and today he didn’t push any of it out in protest. It’s a small victory for both of us. And as we are getting ever closer to him learning how to use utensils to (in theory) feed himself, I’m contemplating on how to incorporate black trash bag covered walls with my decor.