Wednesday, August 02, 2006

on the feeding of toddlers and oneself

I remember being excited when Henry started showing an interest in “solid” food. It was around 6 months or so and I was eager to introduce him to new foods in the way that I though was best. I cooked and mashed up sweet potatoes and winter squash and thought I had it all figured out. Not so much I discovered as I am still learning every day how to best keep the kid well fed in a way that works for both of us today.

This is not a tale of woe though. Henry is a relatively good little eater in general and is on occasion enthusiastic about trying new things. Food is somewhat of a loaded subject for me. I think that I am pretty balanced what I eat and how I feel about food these days but that wasn’t always the case. I grew up in a house where sugar and processed foods were off limits for the most part and stereotypically I went nuts at friend’s houses when I got older. The joys of “sugar cereal” and cake mix and ice cream for snack and white bread and cookies always available. The story is pretty predictable and I went through lots of ups and downs regarding nutrition as I got older. I became a vegetarian when I was 14, which lasted for almost 14 years. As a high school athlete I was obsessed with being healthy and gave up wheat and dairy. In college I was vegan for a while and dogmatic about vegetarianism. The whole time I battled my desires to eat crap and only won some of the time. Hmmm. I didn’t mean to go on about me so much but there you have it.

In any case, I like to think that I have a pretty balanced and sustainable relationship with food and eating these days. I have always loved to cook and feed people and must admit that I enjoy making good food and receiving positive feedback for it. That’s where the rub with small children seems to come in. No matter how much effort I put into making something I think Henry will like, there is always a good chance that he will reject it upon sight. So, I tried harder and focused on things he had proven he likes. Anyone who has a child over 18 months or so is probably laughing by now. It just doesn’t work that way. The boy may love something one day and hate it the next. He may even ask for it and then reject it with a head shake, rolled eyes and noooooooo minutes later. One day he may eat a plate of beets or raw zucchini and the next he will reject his favorite toast. There was a phase many months ago during which the kid ate way too many hotdogs (free-range, organic turkey, blah, blah) and I felt like a failure. I won’t even get into the days he hardly eats at all. I’m not particularly worried about his health or the variety of foods he is eating but I am frustrated with the seeming randomness of it all.

I try not to make special meals for him and usually that works fine until it doesn’t. It can all be maddening. But, I think I have somewhat figured out the issue and it’s mine not his (surprise, surprise!). My approach has been flawed emotionally and logically. For one, I am too eager to please and have been trying to avoid that pang of rejection when he refuses something (how’s that for self analysis?). Second, there is no fucking logic here and I just need to get used to it. I need to embrace the randomness of his whims and just keep trying the same things whether he liked it the last time or not. He just may like it this time. Food cannot be a battle. The newest realization on all of this is the wildcard of context. Henry will eat things at other peoples’ houses that he won’t eat at ours. It fits in with the whole toddler exploration mindset. He’ll eat something while I’m eating it but not alone. He wouldn’t touch slices of tomato on his plate at dinner the other day but when he climbed up on his stool at the counter he ate an entire half of a tomato bite by juicy bite. I think the lesson is the same old lesson I have been working on for a long time. Experimentation and variety and balance and moderation. And most importantly, I’m just not going to stress about it anymore. The end (she says hopefully).



If all else fails there are always the fallbacks- macaroni and cheese and sushi (but not together)!

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4 Comments:

Blogger nonlineargirl said...

We keep a box of garden burgers in the freezer, but feel really conflicted about it. On the up side, she'll almost always eat one, on the down it is processed food. Up: has grains and vegetables in it, down: not the same as actually eating veggies.

8/02/2006 6:53 PM  
Blogger Bridgermama said...

Wow, so you mean this goes on forever?! Tonight B had a tofu hotdog, so yummy and totally good for him too...(yeah right!)

8/04/2006 8:12 PM  
Blogger devinemom said...

oh i am always struggling with what to give Miss A. i get into ruts with her and fix the same thing over and over. i need to keep a running list of different ideas it is just so hard to always be thinking of something new.

we should sap ideas with other moms...

8/07/2006 8:31 AM  
Blogger honey said...

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!

yeah, this is us too (surprised? shocked?). My copouts are the aforementioned Mac 'n Cheese that I add a handful of frozen peas to, grilled cheese sandwiches, steamed broccoli and Dino nuggets. Those are our never-fail foods. Everything else is a crapshoot. And since he's still nursing, if he decides not to eat his dinner then I'm in for a loooooooong night of sleep-nursing. Oy!

8/09/2006 10:34 AM  

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