The thought that most often came to me in the first forty-eight or so hours after my daughter was born was, “Is she breathing?” Every fifteen minutes, I felt (and acted on) the urge to go over to her hospital bassinet to make sure. I don’t know if that’s weird or if that’s something all parents experience, but for the first couple of days she was around, that was pretty much all I could think about. Eventually, that feeling went away, although I can’t remember exactly when. More recently, I’ve found that eating is the life function I worry about most. Namely, I wonder, “Is she going to starve to death?”
The answer to that ridiculous question is no, obviously, but sometimes, my feeling of helplessness in the face of toddlerhood can’t be helped. The baby that so easily opened her mouth to all kinds of nutritious goop, prepared from scratch by her mother with her fancy food processor, is now a picky, finicky, hard to please toddler who is prone to the occasional tantrum if you offer that sippy full of milk one too many times.
Apparently, there is some normality to be found here. According to The Books and The Internet (capitalized because they have all the answers), toddlers don’t grow as fast as babies, so they need less food. They have some teeth, working fingers and an independent streak, which means they want to feed themselves, which means the food can take a circuitous root from plate to mouth—if it gets there at all. They are becoming more discerning about tastes and textures, and figuring out what they like and don’t. (I’ve read that by age two, kids’ food preferences are more or less set, which makes me feel like I’m working on a deadline to have her at least try everything once.) Finally, they are starting to figure out that their behavior (crying, for example) affects the world around them (leads to mom brandishing a binky).
All of that apparently means that my daughter isn’t just trying to mess with me when she eats four bites of pasta and declares, via baby sign, that she’s done. Or maybe she is. I don’t know. I’ll give her the same pasta a week later she can’t get enough of it. These random changes of mind have been hard to keep up with. Change in general—and this has been true from the beginning—has been hardest thing about feeding her. As soon as I think I have it figured out something changes.
It’s a weird regime to live under considering that despite the numerous diets I’ve tried, my own eating habits haven’t changed significantly since I graduated from college almost 13 years ago. I guess it makes some sense that only when you reach full biological adulthood and your body becomes more or less what it’s going to be for the rest of your life, minus the aging process, do you feel ready to bring a little person into the world for whom the next eighteen years are nothing but change.
And when it comes to baby feeding, these days, everything seems to change from one day to the next. I’ve read that this reality is why we shouldn’t look at how and what our kids eat one day at a time, but one week or one month at a time. They won’t eat everything they are supposed to eat over the course of a single day, but if they do over the course of a week, they (and you) are doing fine. In that spirit then, here are five amusing things, we’ve discovered at the proverbial dinner table recently.
1) In the great battle of pinto vs. black, it’s pinto in a landslide.
2) Spinach will be eaten if hidden between two slices of cheese.
3) Gravy makes everything better. (But not leftover gravy.)
4) She is open to both savory and sweet content if it comes in a pie shell.
5) Her hair is her favorite napkin.
I’ll report back to see if any of it remains true next month.