Tag Archives: feeding children

What To Really Expect

12 Sep

When I was pregnant with my son, I read that “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book. It did a very thorough job of informing me about what I might expect, month by month, as my pregnancy progressed. I, of course, zeroed in on the things that could go wrong in any given month and spent the entire pregnancy wondering when disaster would strike. I came to think of the book as “What Terrible Thing To Expect When You’re Expecting” but had a hard time keeping away from it nonetheless.

My son was born and no terrible things happened. So, I immediately purchased “What To Expect The First Year.” I have since renamed the book “What Your Baby Should Be Doing This Month That Every Other Baby But Yours Is Already Doing.” I subtitled it, “All The Exotic Diseases Your Child Probably Won’t Get But It Couldn’t Hurt To Worry About Anyway.”

Still, very soon into parenthood, I realized things were happening that no one had warned might happen. It began with the nurse placing my son in my arms and I felt . . .confused. When I first saw my son, I thought, “Wow, his head is cone-shaped on one side and block-shaped on the other.” Oh, I’d heard that babies weren’t particularly cute when they first come out, but block-and-cone headed? Nope. I’d also heard that childbirth was beautiful. Sunsets? Those are beautiful. The prairie on a crisp, fall day? Yup. Childbirth? Not so much.

Many people in my life happen to have babies either coming soon or already in their arms. I have gathered together the things I learned the hard way; things I wish I’d known before the babies hit the fan. You can thank me later.

You will be covered in truly grotesque substances on a regular basis. You probably have cute little fantasies of changing the diaper of a smiling, gurgling cutie. But if you have a boy, prepare yourself for projectile urination. Keep that little firehose covered or you’ll wind up the subject of ridicule for years to come. My son still gets a kick out of having peed all over his aunt when he was just five days old.

While we’re in the diaper region, I should mention that poop from breast-fed babies doesn’t really smell all that bad. Kind of like old buttered popcorn. Poop from bottle-fed babies is another story. Think standing downwind of a thousand camels.

The other end of your child is dangerous, too. I know of a dad who held his six-month old above his head so he could see her darling face smiling down at him. She had just been fed. She spit up just as he opened his mouth to smile back.

Your child will hurt you. My dad is a Republican. His child (me) grew up to become a Democrat. But that is not the kind of hurt I am talking about.

Your child will quite literally hurt you. When she was about 13-months old, my niece was standing on her changing table facing her mother, who was dressing the little darling. My sister says that my niece started shaking excitedly then dove into my sister’s shoulder and took a gigantic bite. Because my sister is sensible, she screamed then said, “That hurts Mommy.” My niece pulled back, started shaking again and dove for the shoulder again, probably thinking, “I can make Mommy scream!”

My son made Mommy scream when he was about two. Toddler hands are generally covered with a toxic mix of germs and sticky things. On top of that, they tend to be sweaty in the summer. My son grabbed a handful of my hair one day and wouldn’t let go. I screamed. I said, “That hurts Mommy.” He kept pulling. I screamed, “You’re hurting Mommy.” Maybe he was thinking, “I can make Mommy scream!” or maybe his sticky, sweaty hands were glued to my hair. He did not let go. I screamed, “Let go of my hair! Now!” He did not. This lead to . . .

You will hurt your child, once. I smacked his sticky, sweaty toxin-covered hand. He let go. He cried. This lead to . . .

You will feel like the worst parent in the world. I have felt like the worst mother in the world many times since the hair-pulling incident, but have never smacked my children since. I know other parents who have smacked their children once; they felt like the worst parents in the world.

You will feel like the worst parent in the world, even when you are being the best parent in the world. When I worked at a full-time, permanent position in Chicago—otherwise known as a real job—I got to talking about disciplining children with some of the African American women I worked with. They told me that white parents are wimps. One of them even mimicked a white parent, saying, “ ‘Now, Timmy, don’t touch the crystal vase again’.” “You know,” she said, “that Timmy is going to touch that vase again.”

I vowed that I would not be a pansy parent. So, when I was in a store with my son one day and I told him that we would be leaving the store if he did a particular thing again, we left the store when he did the thing. My son did not go gently. He screamed. He kicked. He threw punches. I didn’t even try to make him walk; I dragged him by one arm out the door. People stared at us. People thought I was a terrible parent. I felt like a terrible parent. But soon, I was able to take my child to the store and have him behave appropriately.

Maybe someday, I’ll gather all the wonderful things to expect with your wee—and not so wee—ones. I’m pretty sure you’re ready for those, though. But there was one truly wonderful, absolutely amazing, totally unexpected thing no one told me about.

You will fall completely in love with your child. I don’t mean that you will love your baby; you will. I mean that you will hold your child and wish you could inhale her. You will touch your baby again and again just to feel his warm fuzzy head. You will be fascinated by toes, cheeks, hands. You will tip toe into the nursery just to get another peek at the little person who has changed your life forever.

Liver Makes Me Quiver

18 Oct

When I was a kid, I ate liver.

My mother made it; I ate it, no coercion necessary. One night, my sister leaned close to me and whispered in my ear, “You know you’re eating an organ, don’t you?” I haven’t eaten liver since.

Now that I am a mother, I am astounded that my sister wasn’t grounded. Instead, my mother made hamburgers for my sister and I whenever she made liver for herself and my father. I don’t recall where my brother’s sympathies lay in the liver war.

I am nowhere near as accommodating as my mother was. If you don’t like what I made for dinner, you are welcome to make your own. But here’s the tricky part: my feelings will be hurt. My husband knows this and so chokes down whatever I’ve made. My daughter whines but eats what she’s been given because she is too lazy to make her own dinner.

My son is a special case. His reactions to dinner range from “I’ve had better” to running to the sink to violently spit out whatever vile substance I’ve asked him to eat “just one bite of.” One night last week, he asked what was for dinner. I said, “Fish.” He said, “Lame.” I asked what would be NOT lame. He said, “Sloppy Joes.” I went to the store, I got the things necessary to make Sloppy Joes. I made the Sloppy Joes. The fish stayed in the refrigerator. When confronted with the Sloppy Joe, my son said, “I thought we were having fish.” He wasn’t hungry; he had already eaten.

No matter what I make, my son never says, “Mom, this is really good.” He probably never will. His favorite cookies are sugar cookies. I made very excellent sugar cookies recently. Everyone concluded that they were excellent cookies. I knew my son concluded they were excellent cookies because he didn’t say, “I’ve had better.” He took the entire plate of cookies, went to his room and locked the door.

My son’s favorite cake is yellow with buttercream frosting. Plain buttercream frosting. I made a devil’s food cake with coffee buttercream about a month ago. It was delicious. My son wouldn’t speak to me for the rest of the day.

My daughter has her own eating eccentricities. They center more on how foods are prepared and presented than on the actual taste of the foods. Apples must be sliced and any bit of the core must be removed. Oranges must be sliced as well and all bits of pith must be removed. Recently, she asked to have her strawberries de-seeded. Because I am a curious kind of person, I attempted to remove the seeds from the strawberry. It is possible. The resulting strawberry looks almost obscene in its seedless nakedness. When we have three or four houseboys, I will have my daughter’s strawberries de-seeded. Until then, my knowledge of strawberry de-seeding is between us.

I have discovered that, no matter how heinous children find a particular food to be at home, they will eat it with gusto somewhere else. My daughter eats macaroni and cheese at the neighbors, she claims to hate it here. Her best friend eats vegetarian sausage at our house. I’m sure she spits it out at home. My son doesn’t let a vegetable cross his lips at home; he eats them readily at my sister’s house. I am sure he would eat eggplant there.

Like many mothers, I have tricked my children into eating things they dislike. I have put finely diced beets in the spaghetti sauce and whole wheat flour in the Snickerdoodles. Whole Grain White Bread is my new best friend. As long as the children don’t see the label, all they taste is the white bread. If they see the label, all they taste is whole grain. My neighbor deceives her children about food, too. They don’t know it, but they like fish sticks. They call them “sticks.” If mom calls them “sticks” they get eaten. If mom calls them “fish sticks” they go in the trash.

Packaging is tremendously important to my daughter. Mandarin oranges are terrific in the little cup, but won’t be touched if they come from a can. The little cup is not entirely reliable, however. Peaches must come from a larger can. Put in a lunch box, the little cup of peaches comes back home unopened every time. Applesauce in the little cup was a treat for a while until some little girl in my daughter’s class started bringing in applesauce in a squeeze pouch. “You can get them at Costco,” said my daughter.

I no longer shop for my children’s favorite foods at Costco, though. There are few guarantees in life, other than the one about death. Another is that whatever favorite food you finally find in a 48-pack will become a “no eat-em” the minute you bring the case into the house. No Eat-ems abound in the back of my food cabinets. I have three packages of cinnamon cereal, 12 packages of Mini-marshmallow cocoa mix and numerous individual serving size boxes of Cocoa Puffs. For a long time, we had frozen beef pot pies on every shelf in the freezer when my son decided that only chicken pot pies were worthy of his gastric juices. It took us nearly a year to work through a 36-pack case of microwave popcorn. Do any of you need applesauce in the little cup?

Color seems to make a difference for my children. When he was tiny, my son would only eat white foods. Mashed potatoes, cooked chicken, even tofu were eaten happily. His diet is still pretty colorless. Meat can be red, but vegetables can only be potatoes, preferably mashed. PopTarts, which must be of a brown flavor, seem to be a major food group, but they are best consumed alone in his room.

Blue food gets my daughter in an eating mood, particularly ice cream. Normal-people ice cream flavors, like chocolate or vanilla, can easily be passed up, but blue ice cream, no matter the flavor, gets her vote every time.

I’m thinking I’ll invent a new ice cream flavor. “Blue Liver.” Whatcha think?

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