And Now, Introducing…Food

This post could also be titled “What Will Our Daughter Learn From Us About Eating, Part 1/xx?” Already, we are in constant negotiations about eating. The current challenge is sitting down. We’d like her to “sit down, please” while she eats so she doesn’t teeter and fall painfully out of her high chair. But about a quarter of the way into what we were imagining was her meal, she’ll stand up and want to keep eating, standing up. How big of a deal do we make of this? What’s really important to teach or insist upon, here?

Already, we are starting to see our Little Bean indicate her likes and dislikes. When we first introduced solid foods (eons ago, now — as in, more than six months), she would be absolutely delighted by a particular thing (avocados, say, or pureed sweet potato) and eat it in mass quantity at every meal for days. All I had to do back then was keep up with the purchase and/or production of The Food of the Week. Now she enjoys some new something for a few meals and then tires of it. The Broccoli Trees that were so delicious yesterday get tossed today, well beyond the high chair tray.

Which brings me to one of my next conundrums. The “finishing your plate” conundrum. I know that these days we over-educated, over-anxious, often-white, pretty-privileged, 21st-century parents are taught not to stress our kids out about finishing their plate (’cause that could lead to obesity or, even worse I suppose, “food issues”). But am I supposed to just not say anything when half of the food I’ve prepared gets tossed off the food tray into never-never land (as in, never to be eaten again)? Isn’t that teaching waste and disregard for the precious resource of healthy, often organic (as in, not free, kid!), carefully-prepared food?

And don’t get me started (at least not tonight, anyway; I’ve got too many other things to do!) on the strange size-ism I’ve noticed throughout our kid’s infancy. For her entire first year, the first thing most strangers would say about our baby was “she’s so tiny!” Well, I’d say, she was born small, but she’s healthy and she eats plenty. At that point the conversation would usually stop because, from what I could tell, the other person was still marveling at how tiny our babe was for her age and thought I should be feeding her butter or something or was quite probably secretly starving her. Yes, she was small, and she is still small. Maybe she’ll be a smaller-than-average adult. But in the meantime, somewhere along the line, she and we will start getting messages about how important it is that she be skinny, thin, slender, petite, and so on (I know this, because some people have already said, after I say “she’s a healthy eater,” “well, I hope she’s not eating too much.” Omg, she’s one! All I want to be worrying about, and this is plenty, are the age-appropriate things like: is what she’s putting in her mouth actually food (or is it dirt, a quarter, or a nail? and is she chewing before she swallows so that she doesn’t choke?) The constant focus on size just bugs me, all around; why is there so much emphasis on size and so little conversation about actual health? Yes, it probably bugs me because I grew up in this world and in this culture, too. And I’m sure she already sees me glancing in the mirror or muttering about trying to lose weight. Already, I worry about what she absorbs from my own self-talk and struggles with food. Are all the questions about eating that I ponder, like those in this post and so many more, are these questions teaching her to be thoughtful about food, or neurotic (um, like me?)?

I am grateful for some of the resources I’ve stumbled upon so far about creating healthy eating habits and rituals with our children. In particular, Super Baby Food and The Family Dinner offer very different and equally valuable tips and tricks for creating positive, meaningful mealtimes. How have you wrestled with introducing foods to your kids, and what have been your best guides? Let’s have…uh…a glass of water, and talk about it.

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