I want to talk to you about my journey of feeding a toddler.
It's a challenge, guys. But it's also so illuminating.
I was doing so good for a while there. I was exclusively breastfeeding my babe, and once my son hit 6 months old, I started feeding him solids. Oatmeal, bananas and apple sauce. Once he had a full belly, he finally, finally finally began sleeping through the night (YES LORD) and the world - it was suddenly happier and brighter. It wasn't such a mean, sleep-stealing kind of place. It was like, really nice out there. So many other nice mommies to talk to. So many cute babies. I could feel the warmth of humanity again. Instead of the ever-occurring mean rants of sleep-deprivation that were on auto-play in my mind.
You could say I struggled a bit with sleep deprivation. That's another story, another time.
But at that 6-month mark, I was making ALL my own baby food (following this book's recipes), and my son gobbled it up like I was the greatest chef on Earth. I shared a few winning recipes here. Talk about a stroke to the ego - there were even moments where I felt like super mom. Like a feeding HERO. He ate everything I put in front of him! Eggs! Chicken! Grapes! Mashed carrots! Steamed peas! There was no food that Everett met that he didn't agree with!
You can probably see where this is going.
One day, he just stopped.
Stopped eating everything I made. Stopped liking everything I made. Stopped eating everything HOME MADE.
Suddenly, my darling boy wanted packaged food. Things only from a can, a tube, a POUCH. Oh, you fellow mamas know what I'm talking about. Those tasty, treasured, expensive pouches, blended perfectly with fruits and vegetables (and sometimes meat and grains) to create a perfectly balanced meal or snack for little ones. The people who came up with these recipes are geniuses, because it is seriously so hard to achieve the perfect consistency and texture. I mean, I tried. And clearly, whatever mommy was blending up in the Vitamix wasn't nearly as decadent as Happy Baby, Earth's Best and Plum Organics. Sigh.
Sure, you could blame me. You could say, "Well, why did you ever expose your child to instant oatmeal in the first place? Why did you ever give him a pouch in the first place?" My answer is simple.
BECAUSE I'M HUMAN.
Everett screaming in Target? Give him a pouch.
We are traveling and only have access to hot water from the coffee pot while staying in a little hotel room? Instant oatmeal.
Um, mommy having a sort of stressed day and it's lunchtime? GIVE HIM ANYTHING FROM THE PANTRY.
I know there are super mothers out there who only feed their children organically-grown everything, and I strive to do that 90% of the time. I really want him to have the best. But I also have grace on myself. If we are traveling, or he is going to see his grandmothers, or he is with a babysitter, sometimes I have to let go of the almighty standard of perfection. And that doesn't make me a bad mom. Actually, it makes me a better mom. Flexibility is the key to happiness with littles! But I do wish that Everett wouldn't reject so many home made meals. It hurts my heart a little.
This is vulnerable mom stuff and I'm sharing my struggle because I believe that there are so many parents out there who have battled with this, too. We want to give our kids what's best, and oftentimes we do, and oftentimes we try so hard, only to have our kiddos reject what's best. I have made multiple courses of a meal for Everett, and had him reject everything. And endeared his beg for pouches. So what am I left to do? Give in and give him what he wants? Or play hardball and not give him what he wants, which will result in him eating nothing? That feels like a crappy mom move.
I have tried both methods.
I haven't really "won" at either one.
I'm sharing this with you today because I've gotten a lot of questions about how I feed Everett and what I feed him, as if I have all the answers. Friends, I do NOT have all the answers. I love to cook and I love to share my recipes and my son has tried maybe 2 of my "grown up" meals. Most of them he won't even touch with a fork., let alone his bare hands. So all I know to do these days is keep offering him the good stuff along with the few items he will consistently eat. We make a lot of tortillas over here (only with cheese, he rejects them if there is anything else inside), along with almond butter and jelly sandwiches, chicken nuggets, apple sauce, oatmeal with bananas, smoothies (God's grace on me, it's the only way I can sneak in some greens without Everett knowing the wiser), sweet potatoes and... um. That's about it. That's pretty much all he eats. Smoothies and fruit/veggie pouches are my nutritional lifeline.
Oh wait. I forgot about the Chick-fil-A fries. He eats the french fries. #freemefromyourjudgement
So the eating thing has been a struggle. But I did want to end this little confessional with a hilarious new twist to the ongoing mealtime shenanigans. Because it's actually given me a bit of perspective and hope.
For the past two days, at every meal, Everett insists that I feed his stuffed animal dog, Oscar.
Oscar. The toy. The stuffed animal. The one I'm feeding.
Oscar is living a pretty good life. And so am I, getting to experience Everett's imagination igniting with each passing day. He loves his Oscar (a gift from his Mimi and Papa!), but these days, he is really attached to making sure that Oscar experiences everything that Everett does. He wants Oscar to brush his teeth, he wants Oscar to take a bath, and yes, he wants Oscar to eat every meal with him.
You guys, he almost tossed Oscar in the toilet to "go potty". Thank goodness I was quick to the game for that one.
We went ahead and taught Everett that Oscar is a homebody and likes to stay at the house most of the time when we leave go out - because I can't imagine what that child would do if we LOST Oscar.
But when we are at home, Oscar gets a seat at the table, a bib of his own, and yes, his very own slice of pizza. Everett's absolute favorite food.
I could remain focused on all the things my child isn't eating. Or all the ways he isn't like other kids his age. But you know what? He's healthy and strong, and I know that as he grows he will eat a greater variety of foods. But what I'm choosing to focus on is the fact that mealtimes with my son are a continual revelation of my own shortcomings, my own stubborn behavior, and my own blindness. Everett won't dare even taste a strawberry, and it makes me wonder if there are areas in my life lacking an open mind to try something new. To experience a joyful taste I can't even imagine. The beauty I can see in this scenario with my son's behavior is the fact that he is inviting his loved one (yes, a toy) along for the things that he does he really enjoys. He wants to share his slice of pizza with his companion. And I know that on the inside, he is cultivating love and tender care in his heart for his buddy Oscar. These are important milestones, memorable lessons that he will accumulate in his storehouse of character for a lifetime to come. My son might not eat a strawberry, but he will share a pizza with his little best friend. And for now, I'm really, really good with that.