Friday, August 25, 2017

My daughter is picky (and it's not my fault)

Before I had a child of my own, I thought picky children were always picky because their parents made them that way. In fact, much of the information I read about feeding children seemed to corroborate this view. Children eat what they’re fed. Indian children eat curry. Japanese children eat raw fish. There’s no such thing as “kid-friendly food”--we just feed kids the same thing over and over, never exposing them to new flavors and textures, and then they learn to be picky.

If there was one thing I was absolutely determined about when I had a baby, it was that my baby would never, ever be picky.

As my newborn lay asleep in her crib, I had visions of The Child Who Eats Everything. My child would like spicy food! We could take her to ethnic restaurants and she would want to order the wildest thing on the menu! She would eat octopus and kimchi and live crickets! She would put the other children to shame!

I would do everything possible to make this happen. I read books and pinned healthy baby food recipes to Pinterest. By golly, I would be the mother to The Child Who Eats Everything.

The first year my child started eating solid foods, the vision seemed to be realized. Unlike other babies, my baby would eat any puree I put in front of her. When she started eating regular table foods, she was a curious eater and was willing to try just about anything. I was beginning to be very smug about my baby, the product of my months of research and careful honing.

You can see where this is going.

One day, she suddenly wouldn’t eat her normal foods. I’m not exaggerating; it was an overnight change. She even refused blueberries, which she’d eaten with vigor the entire previous week. It was baffling.

I wasn’t worried at first. “It’s just a short phase,” I said confidently. “She’ll be back to her regular eating habits soon.”

But she never returned to her “regular” eating habits. Now, she is one of the pickiest toddlers I know, no exaggeration. There is not a single fruit or vegetable she’ll eat in its raw, unadulterated form--unless it’s pureed into applesauce or a smoothie, no dice. Contrary to the assumption that kids will only eat the foods they’re served most often, Rhonda will gladly chow down on macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets every chance she gets, despite the fact that I hardly ever serve them to her. (Oh, and no, she does not like homemade chicken nuggets--only the mystery meat, soggy, store-bought kind.)

I continue to stoically follow the advice from all the nutritionists I’ve ever read and offer her healthy food often. At dinner, I always serve her the regular adult food that my husband and I eat (which she almost never touches, opting to eat nothing but plain whole-wheat bread, which is the only other option I give her). I’ve finally gotten to a place where I mostly feel good about myself as long as I serve the healthy food, even if she doesn’t eat it, so I don’t pressure her to eat anything. I follow the advice, gosh dangit!

And I’ve come to the conclusion that while some picky children may have entered into pickiness because of their parents, most children are probably just going to be picky or not and there’s nothing we can do about it.

As for Rhonda, I can easily see how her pickiness plays into her personality. She’s a naturally cautious child and doesn’t like to take risks. She’s detail-oriented and notices if something is slightly out of place--she regularly picks up tiny crumbs from the floor and puts them in the trash. She’s more sensitive than other kids her age. It only makes sense that these traits apply just as much to eating as they do to the rest of her life--and I didn’t make her this way; it’s how she was born. I think she’s just more sensitive to unusual textures and flavors than other children are.

We like to think that we parents dictate what our kids are going to be like. But in many ways, there’s only so much we can do. I still believe in the approach I’m taking to my daughter’s eating, but instead of believing that she will ever be The Child Who Eats Everything, I just hope that she’ll grow out of her pickiness a little earlier, and that she won’t have the kinds of emotional food issues as an adult that many others have. And if I can achieve that, then I’ll count it as a success.

And if I don’t achieve that...well, blame the experts who gave me the advice.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Baby hair.

It's funny, but it seems as though hair is rather important when it comes to babies.

I'm talking about baby hair. How much were they born with? How much did they then almost immediately lose? How much grew back? Is it blond? Curly? Long? Thick? Is your child basically Shirley Temple at 6 months old?

I mean, obviously, babies themselves don't care about this crap. It's their parents that lose or gain pride based on baby hair.

Rockin' the Donald Trump 'do.

Nobody would ever say that babies with more, longer, curlier, thicker hair are cuter (at least, not in front of moms of little baldies), but the amount of hair one's baby has seems to be a badge of honor. Whenever a picture is posted on social media of a newborn with thick locks, everyone oohs and aahs over how much hair this kid has. As though it's a real achievement. "Good job, Mom, you made a child with hair! Everyone else should probably stop reproducing because you have clearly created a perfect human!"

I guess this is the time to admit that my daughter doesn't have a lot of hair. It's thin and wispy and somewhere between brown and blond (in other words, neither angelically blond or exotically dark), and it sticks straight up. My niece told me she looks like a boy. (My niece is only 7, but still.)

Maybe I'm just jealous. Maybe I wish my daughter had longer hair.

But I have a little confession to make. When she was younger, yes--I did secretly wish she had more hair. But now, when I see babies her age with gorgeous Rapunzel hair, I kind of think that they look a little too old and austere. I far prefer my baby's little wispy hairs that stick straight up.

Hey, why not embrace this? I will rebel against a culture that thinks more hair is more beautiful than no hair! I will defy a society that spends outrageous amounts of money on products that claim to make hair longer, thicker, and silkier! Less is more! We are all beautiful!

Or maybe I just think my baby is the cutest of all the babies.

Well, whatever.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Personality clashes

Nine-month-old babies have no personalities. Right? Right.

I mean, that's what I thought before I had one.

Of course, I heard what people would say. "Oh, it's amazing how they have their own little personalities right from the start!" Sure, I would think. You think that. You're pretending your baby has a personality. But come on. It's a baby. They all want the same thing: to chomp on your hair and jewelry.

(Don't get me wrong: I've always loved babies. I could not wait for my own little personality-free hair-yanking child.)

But they were right. She really does have a personality.

And it's already starting to clash with mine.

Those of you who have met my baby are probably thinking, "Whatever, Emily. There is no possible way your good-natured little angel could ever clash with you." And you would mostly be right. (I'm not being sarcastic here.) I mean, she doesn't really get upset with me. She just gets a little exasperated.

(Yeah, babies can get exasperated. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

I can be kind of an intense person. I try to tone it down around other adults, because I don't want to seem like a crazy lady, but I let loose when it comes to my daughter. I mean, I've been waiting years to have my own baby to smother with kisses, and goshdarnit I'm going to kiss that baby! I'm going to kiss her all I want!

I can tell that, while there's not much she can do about my kisses, she's sometimes thinking, "Please, Mom. Just give me some space. I can't work on chewing this fascinating toy when you're smooching my adorable chubby cheeks."

It's a glimpse into her teenage years. I'll be crowding her, trying to cheer her on in everything and asking whether she's done her homework and giving her more chores to do to build her character. I will be obsessed with molding her into a wonderful human being, when she'd probably be wonderful all on her own if I would just let her be.

Call me crazy, but I think I already know what she's going to be like. She's focused, but quite easygoing. She already thinks about other people--since she was born, I've had the sense that she tries to be cheerful even if she doesn't feel it. Although I believe in firm discipline and character-building and whatnot, I can't help but believe (maybe just because I'm her mother) that my daughter is naturally a perfect person.

(Hey! You parents of older children--stop laughing!)

But I can't help it. I'm obsessed with her. As much as I believe in hands-off parenting, I can be a bit of a smothering mom. It's not because I'm worried about her; it's because I just can't stop myself.

I'm a bit of an extrovert, and when I'm cooped up in the house with a baby most of the day, a lot of my energy lands on the baby. My daughter, on the other hand, is a very low-energy person. She has plenty of excited moments like any other child, but she likes to play alone in her crib, she sleeps a lot, and she get overstimulated and overtired easily.

It probably doesn't help that her mom is constantly trying to make life more fun and get more stuff done and enjoy every moment with this darling little baby. I just can't leave her alone.

I never thought about this stuff before my baby was born. I just thought that she would automatically like me, because, you know, I'm her mom. But I have to consciously think about how to meet her needs and get along with her. I have to tell myself to take a step back every once in a while.

It's almost like she's a real person, or something.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Why making friends as a young mom is so hard.

Probably my biggest complaint about life these days is how hard it is to make friends.

I've never had a problem with this before. Since I was a kid, making friends has been easy. And why not? There have always been opportunities to make friends. I was surrounded by peers in school and in extracurricular activities, and those opportunities tripled when I went to college and all life was about was making friends.

The olden days, when I had friends.

My life now looks like sitting at home with a baby all day. (It doesn't help that we have only one car, and my husband usually needs it for work.)

I really do my best to get out when I can, and it's a lot easier now that Rhonda is older. But it's still tough to have my baby and husband as my sole company most days. It's a big change from college life, when I'd interact with dozens of people every day.

I've tried to find other moms to make friends with, but I seem to be the only person in my town who has this issue. A lot of other women are just busy, busy, busy. Everyone has jobs and kids and activities. People just don't have time for friends.

Sometimes I think, "Why don't I just do what they do and get a job or something?" The trouble is, I don't actually want a job right now. I want to take care of my baby and work on my writing. I can't even bear the thought of leaving Rhonda with someone else while I work, especially when we don't need the money.

I don't want to be busy, busy, busy. I know that I have a tendency to get too caught up in to-do lists and forget the most important things, and I want to take the time to savor the slowness of my life right now. I want to pay attention, because I can already feel this special time with my baby slipping away as she starts to grow into toddlerhood. I want to be involved in things that are important, but not at the expense of the things that are most important.

I guess I am a little jealous that everyone else is so busy. Sometimes it feels like the world is passing me by. It makes me want to get my hands dirty and get stuff done out in the world.

It would be nice if I had someone else around who was dealing with the same kind of stuff. Wanting more than anything to focus on raising her kids, but feeling the internal pressure to be more than just a mom.

I can't remember ever feeling left out in my life. I could always find a group of friends that liked me.

But I guess no matter how old you are, you can get the feeling that everyone has a life but you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The joys of baby-proofing.

These days with Rhonda are quite an adventure.

I've already told you that she's started learning at double speed, which has emotional implications, but the physical consequences are a little more exhausting. 

The other day we were out on a picnic with neighbors and a woman put a plate of food down on the picnic blanket, not two feet away from where her newborn baby was lying. I could hardly believe Rhonda had ever been so helpless and immobile. 

Nowadays, she's all about ripping off my jewelry, pulling books and DVDs off shelves, tearing up magazines, and putting electrical cords in her mouth. It's exciting that she's so curious and clever (I'm trying to focus on positivity here), but it's all I can do to keep up with her.

Baby-proofing used to seem like a pretty simple task, consisting mainly of putting up baby gates, fastening child locks to doors, and putting those little doohickeys in electrical sockets. 

Not so, people. NOT SO. 

It started with my efforts to protect her from electrical cords, which are probably her favorite things in the world. (What's so exciting about a stupid cord, I ask you?!) Unfortunately, since my husband is an electronics junkie, we have cords lining every wall. My solution was to lay blankets on top of the cords, but I have no idea how long that brilliant idea is going to last. 

It only escalated from there. I've tried to protect the bookcases by putting various furniture and her old infant car seat in front of them. (It sort of works, but she's becoming quite deft at getting around the obstacles.) I tucked a blanket around a particular electronic that she couldn't leave alone, and it seems to have tricked her into thinking it's not there anymore. When I suddenly found her on the third step of our stairs, it was time for a baby gate--the first truly obvious solution to a baby-proofing problem. 

So my living room is a lovely mess of strewn blankets and caddywompous furniture and baby toys. 

It's not because I don't clean. It's because it's the only way to keep this child safe.

With an infant fast turning into a toddler, I'm starting to think that having a pretty house isn't within the realm of possibility.

Well, since becoming a mom, it's not like I've had a lot of time to decorate anyway. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Making baby food.

I make my own baby food.

But before I begin on my baby food tirade, I want to say this: While I have my own reasons for making my own baby food, I'm not going to tell you that you should do it, too. Some people act as though you might as well feed your child poison as give them jarred baby food. You know, like with formula. What kind of a monster would give her child formula, I ask you?!

(Oh, yeah. Me.)

Anyway, moving right along. I don't care if you feed your baby carrots from a jar.

But can I take a moment to commiserate with my sisters (and maybe some brothers too) out there who are making their own baby food?

Whenever someone encourages you to make your own baby food--whether in person or in some book you read, if you're like me and read way too many books that make you feel guilty as a parent--they always talk about how "it's so easy!"

I mean, all you do is cook up some veggies, fruit, or meat, and toss it in the blender. What could possibly be easier? Why wouldn't you do such a simple thing that could give your child such wonderful benefits in both nutrition and taste?

Well, I've been sold on the nutrition and taste thing (obviously, since I continue to soldier on), but I would like some credit for the time and effort I put into this gig, thankyouverymuch. 

I mean, okay. Is it hard? No. You don't have to be a cook or anything. Do you know how to cut vegetables and boil water? Then you can make baby food.

But it feels awfully time consuming. If you're making anything that has to be peeled (carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, apples, etc.), then you have to spend all that time peeling. And then you have to cook it, which can sometimes take forever to get it to a puree-able state.

Oh, and by the way, people seem to have an awful lot of opinions about how to make your own baby food. All fruits and veggies must be steamed in order to retain the most nutritional value! (Really? I can't just boil it? It's not enough that I'm making the darn stuff from scratch, I also have to cook it in the perfect way?) Some people say to cook it into oblivion, while others say you should cook it to the same doneness you would for an adult, otherwise the child is losing out on all the wonderful flavor.

Plus, you have to be careful about which foods you give your baby. Some people will tell you that you can just take whatever food you're eating for dinner and whiz it in a blender. Wa-la! Perfect for baby!

BUT! You have to make sure it has no salt in it. (Of course, you should really eat less salt anyway, so while you're at it, you might as well cut all the salt out of your diet. Major lifestyle change? No biggie!) And no honey. And no nuts. And no citrus. And no egg whites!

Hey, here's an idea! Why not just make baby puree for the whole family? Easy peasy! And homemade baby food is just so darn delicious, anyway!


Anyway, I guess I don't mind making baby food too much, but one of the worst things about it is that you always think your batch is going to last longer than it does. It feels like you have just cooked up the world's biggest batch of carrots, and then it yields a woefully small amount of puree. Before you know it, your child has gobbled it all up and it's back to the drawing board.

You know, some days I actually kind of enjoy making baby food, which is probably one of the reasons I keep doing it. It's fun to try new things and see how they turn out as a puree. And there's a real satisfaction in knowing that I make all the solid foods my child eats and I know exactly what goes into them.

But most days, it's a chore.

This is why I don't judge people for buying baby food in jars.

That stuff is starting to look pretty good, man.

Monday, August 24, 2015

When we're not friends with our kids.

Remember when you were a kid, and you were playing with your best friend, and you said you wanted to pretend to be a magic unicorn and then she said she wanted to be a magic unicorn too, and then you told her not to be such a copycat, and she said, "If you don't let me be a magic unicorn, I'm not going to be your friend anymore!"

I feel like saying that to my kid sometimes.

I mean, outwardly I'm always very loving and patient and whatnot (obvs), but when I'm going downstairs to get a bottle ready at 4:00 am while my child whines mercilessly, I'm inwardly screaming, "I'M NOT GOING TO BE YOUR FRIEND ANYMORE!"

I love my daughter at every moment of every day, but I don't always like her.

Beets, not blood.

In the blissful, pre-teething days, I could hardly conceive of not liking Rhonda. She was so angelic nearly all the time, and slept so much, that I actually liked her almost all the time. Even when I was teetering on the edge of being a little sick of her doing things like sinking her little nails into my face, she'd go down for a nap, I'd get a little reading time, and we'd be pals again. No harm done.

But these days--although she's still probably sleeping more than most babies her age, for which I should be grateful--things can get a little tense between us.

I try to empathize, I really do. I mean, she basically has little razors poking through her gums. And she can't feed herself, and therefore has no proof that she will actually be fed when she's hungry (despite overwhelming evidence). Who wouldn't be upset about that? She probably cries less than I would in her situation.

But still. I'm kind of looking forward to the days when I can say, "I'm going to get you some food now," and she'll believe me and just sit quietly with her hands folded in her lap. And then eagerly chow down on a plate full of fruits and vegetables with her full set of teeth.

It's totally going to happen that way, right?

And then we can be friends again.