It’s amazing how much of your self-worth as a mother is wrapped up in how your child eats. For example, take my friend Jayme. Her daughter Sophia eats...a ton. Like a whole avocado for lunch. Or Jayme will roast an acorn squash, fill the half with applesauce and sprinkle cinnamon on top...and Soph will eat it all. Because of Soph’s voracious appetite, coupled with the fact that she eats a ton of healthy items, Jayme is considered a great mom. (Which she happens to be, for many other reasons than Soph’s eating habits.)
Now take my little man, Raines. Up until recently, he would only eat breastmilk. Which is healthy, right? The ultimate, most perfect food? One would think I would end up in the “great mom” category. Instead, we were regarded with a mixture of curiosity, pity, and sometimes even a little disgust. I think some have been comparing me to the women who breastfeeds her 8 year old. (I will admit, that 20/20 special did make me feel a bit faint...) But Raines clearly wasn’t ready for solids. He would press his lips together, push the spoon away, and on those rare occasions when he would try solids, he would often vomit it back up. Spewing peaches down the front of my shirt is a pretty good way to tell me to lay off. Message received.
“Have you tried peas?” people would say. “My son just LOVES apples.”. I think people can’t help themselves. I mean seriously - when I say the kid won’t eat ANYTHING, do they really think I haven’t tried peas or apples? Like I’m suddenly going to say, “OMG - PEAS!! I didn’t even THINK of PEAS!” I tried really hard to not cut people off when they started asking....”have you tried babyfoo--” YES. “have you tried finger foo--” YES. “have you tried green be--” YES. I have tried it all - tofu, baby food, baby cereal, whole banana, mashed banana, peas, carrots, apples, applesauce, cinnamon applesauce, sweetened an unsweetened applesauce, avocado, guacamole, ground hamburger, veggie burger and once, in desperation, an Oreo. Which worked of course. But clearly wasn’t a lasting solution.
The medical community has been...somewhat unhelpful. Raines’ first pediatrician wanted me to withhold all breastfeedings until he ate something. Seriously? That sounds like a perfect way to create a losing battle of wills. How much am I paying this man? I mean, he has been working in pediatrics for like 50 years and after all of that time and experience the only idea he had was to starve my son until he ate? Whatever. We moved on. The next pediatrician agreed that Raines was perfectly healthy, and was probably fine. She just wanted to do a few more weigh-ins in the upcoming months to make sure he was gaining weight properly. Cool. Then she suggested that I take him to a specialist to make sure there wasn’t something that prevented him from swallowing. OMG. Guilt. Stress.
So I made the appointment. Then my sister showed up for a visit, bringing with her this nasty, trans-fat full cheddar flavor Chex Mix in a bag. As we’re all sitting around gabbing, I notice Raines reach into the bag. He pulls out a pretzel and puts it into his mouth. Chews. Swallows. Reaches for another. WHAT? He keeps going - pretzels, cracker bits, chex cereal - it all goes in. He’s loving it. He shovels it in faster and faster, storing the unchewed pieces in his cheeks, hamster-like. I’m horrified at the artery clogging I know is happening at such a young age, but too excited that he is eating something to stop it. He ended up eventually getting ahead of himself, so I had to finger sweep the chex mix out of his cheeks (which REALLY pissed him off -- he ended up trying to stuff the partially chewed food back into his mouth. Babies can be seriously gross at times). The next morning, he reached for my toast. That night, pizza. The following night, curry noodles and pickles.
The kid is now eating everything. He doesn’t always eat a lot, but he tries just about everything. The other day as I watched him scarf down beets and pumpkin seeds, I felt a slight smugness coming on. Like I must have things figured out. My child eats beets and pumpkin seeds - CLEARLY a result of my superior parenting skills. I am a great mom. So now, if I meet some poor new mom who is stressed because her kid doesn’t eat, I can give her a pitying look, wave my hand vaguely and say, “really you MUST try Cheddar Flavored Chex Mix. It works every time. And if that fails, an Oreo is a sure bet.”
On second thought, perhaps I’ll keep that thought to myself. In organic-crazy Denver, I might as well say I’m raising my kid on Mountain Dew. They’ll have the cops after me.