Attempts At Adulthood

The Best Part of Parenting is that Everything Always Goes Flawlessly

I was kind of excited to give my son food for the first time because I love food.  Not making it, but eating it.  And also because the books you read about having a baby portray all of the milestones as being kind of magical.  “Giving him his first solid food?  It’ll be magical!  Experimenting with different tastes?  It’ll be magical!”  And then I got all excited going, “Oh great, this will be one of those heartfelt, magical moments.  It’ll be totally magical!”  And then I actually do it and it isn’t magical at all, and I’m sitting there going, “THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE MAGICAL! WHEN DOES THE MAGICAL PART HAPPEN?  WHY WAS THIS NOT AS MAGICAL AS PROMISED?!”

Fantasy Forest


Exactly like having children.

I had read books talking about how to encourage children to try different tastes—how to get them used to eating a more adventurous, more varied diet.  I had heard mothers cooing with pride over their children’s love of avocado or their children’s constant requests for sashimi.  I once watched a small girl in a restaurant order and devour escargot.  I loved the chapter in “Blood, Bones & Butter” where Gabrielle Hamilton unknowingly serves the enthusiastic, food-appreciative daughter of Mark Bittman at a summer camp.  And I remember thinking, “That could be me!  I could have a kid like that!”*

(*A child like the avocado-eating kid: There’s no way a child of mine is going to be as culinarily-advanced as the child of Mark Bittman, since most evenings my own dinner is Cream of Wheat, snap peas, and a cupcake.)

And so when he reached 6 months of age, I sat my son down in his highchair with a spoon and a small container of pureed sweet potatoes.

“Are you taking a video?” my sister asked.  She mentioned that when her son had tried food for the first time she had taken a video.

“Oh, Ok, I’ll take a video,” I said.

HOW THE VIDEO WAS GOING TO GO IN MY MAGICAL DREAM FANTASY OF “FIRST TIME EATING” VIDEOS

1.  As a couple, we lovingly say the date, which also flashes in the bottom corner of the screen, the way it did in the old VHS videos my dad used to take.

2.  Jonathan playfully turns the camera toward me and I nervously wave it away, going, “Don’t get me on camera!  I look terrible!” even though in this fantasy dream video I look totally great and I’m just being modest.

3.  Jonathan and I both go, “Ok, so this is his first time eating solid foods!”  and sort of talk over each other, which causes us both to laugh goofily at the charming clumsiness of our video attempt

4.  I go, “Airplane!  Here comes the airplane!” and the baby smiles and opens his mouth.

5.  I get most of the food into his mouth, but a whole bunch of it gets on his face (What a mess!  Babies are the craziest!) and it gets all over his hands and on my shirt and the three of us all laugh and laugh.  I try again with another spoonful, and he eats it and enjoys it but makes a huge, hilarious mess.

6.  Jonathan turns the camera toward me again and there’s food everywhere (but it’s fine!  We are laughing!) and maybe there is even a little bit of food on the lens of the camera, and Jonathan goes, “Is that a wrap?  All done?”  And I do a pretend angry smirk at having to clean up all these sweet potatoes, but secretly I think the whole thing is adorable.

7.  Sunlight streams in through the windows, lighting all of our faces perfectly, as if we were a family of models in a high-end photoshoot for a design magazine.  The baby gazes up at us and smiles, overjoyed that we are his parents.

8. We immediately e-mail the video to my mother, which is what we do with all videos of the baby.

 

HOW THE VIDEO ACTUALLY WENT

 

1.        We go, “Ok, this is his first time eating solid foods!”  And we “airplane” the spoon into his mouth.

2.       The baby promptly spits out everything we put in his mouth.

3.       The baby then refuses to open his mouth again.

4.       I try to trick the baby into opening his mouth.

5.       The baby is not tricked.

6.       I try to trick him another way.

7.       He is briefly tricked.  I get half the spoon into his mouth before he realizes what is happening and begins to cry hysterically.

8.       Baby cries hysterically and does not stop.

9.       I feel like two cents.

10.   Baby continues to hysterically cry and Jonathan goes, “Ok, let’s stop filming?”

*                 *                 *

I was worried.

Maybe he doesn’t like sweet potatoes, I thought.  Maybe he likes peas.  WRONG.  You know how much normal people hate genocide and the horrors of human cruelty?   That is how much he hates peas.  But wait, what about peas with pears?  No, he also hates those.  “Apples!” you are saying.  “Try apples!”   I tried feeding him apples, and from the faces he made, you would think I was feeding him diarrhea and human hair.  Broccoli?  Didn’t work.  Peaches? Of course not!  For the record, this is a child who enthusiastically eats his shampoo when I try to bathe him, but peaches?  Let’s not be ridiculous.

 "I'll tell you where you can stick your f***ing peaches," is what he would have said, if he could talk.


Gross.

And for a couple months he ate—nothing.   People would say, “He’s so big– has he started solids?” and I did not know how to answer.  No?  Sort of?  If they had asked, “Do you sit him down every day and playfully push a spoon at his face until you both become visibly upset and he begins frantically sobbing?”  I would say, “Why yes!  That is exactly what I have been doing!  Clearly you have been watching the video surveillance footage of my kitchen!”

People suggested tricking him into opening his mouth.  Or putting something sweet at the front of the spoon.  People said to give him formula first so that he wouldn’t be starving.  Or to feed him BEFORE giving him formula, so that he’d eat more because he was starving.  They suggested making the puree thicker.  Or less thick.  Or they suggested letting him feed himself.  I tried everything.  Nothing worked.  He ate nothing.

theuglyvolvo failure

Every day I dreaded trying to feed him.  Some days I didn’t bother.  People would say encouraging things like, “Oh, it’s normal that babies spit up a lot of what they eat,” but I wanted to say, “You are not understanding this.  He is spitting up 100% of what he is eating, and that is when I am able to get it into his mouth at all.”  I am trying everything.  He would have been more amenable to my sitting him down every day to draw blood.  He began to hate his high chair by association.

My dreams of having the well-balanced avocado-eating kid went down the tubes.  This was not a child who would ever request chervil on his eggs.  This was not a child who would enthusiastically ask me to order him a Perigord salad.  Forget about my previous worry of having him grow up into an adult who ate nothing but grilled cheese—I now had a child who refused to eat anything.

I talked to my doctor who reiterated that my son should be eating from a spoon by this point.  He was so big, she said.  He should be eating.  I should try harder.  It went on like this for over two full months.  Sit.  Attempt to feed.  Frantically try to trick him into opening his mouth.  Failure.  Crying.  And baby would reach for a bottle, hoping to drown his sorrows in formula.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

And it was after yet another failed feeding session, tears streaming down his face, that I watched him frantically comforting himself as he drank his formula.  And I saw the relief on his face and realized suddenly, “He’s not comforting himself with his formula, he’s comforting himself with his bottle.  The same way he used to comfort himself with his pacifier.  How was I so much of an idiot that I did not realize this earlier?”  And so after 20 minutes of flatly refusing to eat pureed vegetables from a spoon, I gave him the exact same pureed vegetables in a bottle.  Which he immediately ate.  I tried it the next day, and he happily ate them again.  I immediately Googled, “feeding a baby vegetable purees from a bottle” and was met with the online consensus that feeding a child pureed vegetables from a bottle was slightly less responsible than abandoning your child in the bathroom of a church.  Women responded, saying things like, “Oh no no no no no!  Do NOT do this!  If they’re old enough to eat they should be eating from a spoon.”

Feeling terrible, I went back to the spoon the next day.  He, not surprisingly, ate nothing.

And so I was faced with every mother’s least favorite decision in the world:  Do you listen to what everyone in the entire world says is best for the baby?  Or do you trust your gut, even though everyone will think you are a lunatic and, if anything goes wrong, everyone will blame you and whatever it is you did that you were not supposed to do.

I took the vegetable puree and poured it back into his bottle.

He happily drank it.  He would drink anything.  Sweet potatoes.  Peas.  Broccoli.  Apples.  Where before it would take me 30 or 40 minutes with no success, suddenly he was the wonderful baby who would try anything.  I mentioned to my doctor what I was doing and she said, “He really should really be eating from a spoon,” and my husband and I nodded, and as soon as she left the room we  looked knowingly at each other.  Yes, he should be.  But he wasn’t.  So rather than force the issue, we continued to give him different foods in his bottle, which he continued to eat.  I always supervised his eating in case anything strange happened.  Nothing ever did.  But I supervised it regardless.

My son didn’t hate food, he (for whatever reason) hated eating from spoons.  Once I figured that out, he was more than willing to try different things.  And maybe I am a terrible mother and should have listened to the doctor and the random women weighing in online.  Or maybe I am totally fine with what I did.  Or maybe I am somewhere halfway between the two things, which is usually the answer.

My son is eating more and is trying more foods.  He doesn’t hate his high chair anymore.  He doesn’t resent me for wanting him to try pureed carrots or bananas.  He doesn’t cry when I feed him.

And the other day, just to see what would happen, I took a little of the puree out of his bottle and put it onto a spoon.  He looked up at me curiously, and I waited for him to open his mouth.  And he did.  And I put the spoon into his mouth and he ate everything that was on it, getting only a little bit on his face.  And I smiled, because I was so thrilled, and he smiled back at me.  And I gave him another spoonful, which he also ate.   He was so sweet and so happy, and I was so proud of both of us.

I opened the bottle and fed him the rest of his vegetables from a spoon.

It’s such a shame that I didn’t manage to catch it on video:  The sunlight was streaming in through the window and my hair looked great that day.

*          *          *

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40 Responses to “The Best Part of Parenting is that Everything Always Goes Flawlessly”

  1. mamabro

    Love it! I say you should always do what works best for you and your baby. If he didn’t want to eat from spoon at that time then there was no reason to force the issue. Just because a child should be doing something at that age I don’t think its necessarily something that NEEDS to happen. If what you are doing is working out and the child is happy and healthy then that is all that really matters. You will eventually get to the point where he eats from a spoon, who really cares that it was later then they said he should be eating from a spoon. All that matters is that he is happy and you are doing your best to raise a happy healthy baby 🙂

    Reply
  2. Enydan

    You just described my whole feeding experience to a tee!
    The one difference was, we were both crying by the end of our “feeding sessions”. The more it goes, the more I realize that sometimes you just need to do what works, no matter the technique and screw the naysayers. It’s your baby, your home, your sanity, YOUR way!!! Whatever works. I wish I would have learnt this lesson sooner, like as soon as my son was born. I would have spent a lot less time beating myself up about stuff!
    p.s. you are awesome!

    Reply
  3. Alex

    My mum always said I should sit my children at the table for meals. That the best manners are learned at home. I doubt she intended that I let them sit ON the table – but what’s a gal to do? They need to eat; I need to eat; these things need to happen at a relatively normal pace (i.e. not two hours of screaming and fighting); food needs to be ingested rather than flung with gay abandon all over my dining room and living room. On the table it is! Up ya go, baby! 😉

    Reply
  4. pensitivity101

    Brilliant post. Just goes to show that the so called experts can get things so very wrong. Whatever works for one, won’t necessarily work for another and we can’t all work from a book! I never had problems feeding babies (none), it was the older kids in my care that were the challenge! Happy parenting.

    Reply
  5. Maya Korzhen

    I just teared up reading this (partly because I’m getting my period)…parenting is nuts, but at the end of the day you can really feel awesome at solving some ridiculous little problem and its all worth it.

    Reply
  6. Bonnie Cranin

    have finally stopped laughing so hard that I can compose myself enough to write a note thanking you for being so dang funny. Yes I was a similar mother with a son who would SHRIEK at the top of his lungs at every public barbecue to take the skin off his hots dogs (oh you who sit in judgement over hot dogs, just wait) or at the mere sight of parsley that some well meaning chef thought to add to the plate of PLAIN, yes JUST PLAIN pasta. Enjoy this, because believe me the teenage and adult children stages are oh so much more”magical”!

    Keep up the amazing writing.

    Reply
    • theuglyvolvo

      I don’t remember everything about being a kid but I do remember that “hating parsley” instinct. I feel like it’s probably written into children’s DNA.

      Reply
  7. dswidow

    You are a great parent because you’re able to do what makes sense for you and your family, and because you can keep laughing.

    Reply
  8. bardot wells

    Isn’t it really all about being creative enough to solve the problems in the moment? Sounds like you did this flawlessly. Well done.

    Reply
  9. about100percent

    This is wonderful. Babies don’t follow any food rules. Neither do kids. My ten year old hasn’t touched fruit in 8 years. OK, she did that one time I forced her to try a peach and she vomited. She prefers celery over apples, and for me that’s just fine.

    Reply
  10. paulbeforeswine

    Excellent post.

    Approaching the 4-month age, The Misses and I have been discussing when to start solid foods. Did you know there are parents out there who start at 4 WEEKS? Madness. Six months, no sooner, for our little Piglet!

    Reply
    • Kelly

      Some parents /have/ to start at 4 weeks… I actually had to start my first boy at 2 weeks. He needs pills with his food in order to digest it properly since he has cystic fibrosis. Only way to do that was to open up the capsule over applesauce and get him to eat that. But he was GREAT with it. Absolutely no problems… But I lucked into it. I don’t think I’ll have that much luck with baby #2…

      Reply
  11. Rafael

    And I thought only my 10-months daughter would revolt against the spoon… What I did was feed her with my finger, and she ate all I offered her. After a few days she simply accepted the spoon back.

    I did not even bother to look around if this was “good” or “bad”, I did what had to be done to feed my child, just as you did. Of course there is the ideal way of raising a child, but there is no ideal child, only children.

    Reply
  12. bluesabriel

    This post is a comfort. My daughter took to purees from a spoon like a champ, but at 10-months, everyone is telling me she should be doing finger foods and cookies and chicken, and . . . . nope. She loves puffs. She’ll eat puffs all day long. But real mashed bananas? Nope. Pieces of bread? Nope. Stage three food with chunks in it? I thought she was mashing them with her jaw, but after a few tiny, reluctant spoon fulls, she gagged and threw up on her bib. I thought I was the worst person on the entire planet. This helps, though. She may not be ready for chunks. Maybe we need to slow down. And maybe I need to stop trying to follow that magical feeding stages chart to the letter.

    Reply
  13. sunshinehomeschool

    three words. baby led weaning. the spoon is a no go for so many babies, putting it in a bottle is obvs not a good idea, so just put some soft food in front of them and let them have at it!

    Reply
    • Rafael

      BLW is beautiful when it works, but it’s not for all kids either. Mine would never eat enough so we had to go back to soups. Just in case someone thinks that if they can’t use BLW it’s their fault.

      Reply
  14. Natalie

    you are a great mother! you adapted to a situation that was uniquely yours and your baby was happier for it! sure there are other ways that more people try, but they weren’t in your situation. I can only hope, faced with the same circumstances and challenges, that I would have caught on like you did and tried something different. don’t let anyone make you feel bad for the decision you made!

    ps – I will be following you because I think you’re very funny but also very ‘real’ which I know is an odd thing to say. Get ready to expand your toddler’s wish list btw, at 16 months my twins would like to add to their list: iPad, tv remotes, computers, splashing the dog water, obsession with going up and down stairs, get out of jail free passes for baby gates, diaper cream (to use tube as teether), making all of the diapers in the diaper caddy ‘rain’, books to pull off shelves – not read, buttons on anything like cable box, and an unlimited supply of goldfish crackers

    Reply
  15. Bridget Manley

    This was totally my kid. This made me feel so much better. Our doc had us hold off on feeding for a month – this was at month eight, when he STILL wouldn’t take any food – and we did. A month later we tried again, and it went much better. Now he’s a pro.

    Reply
  16. Karen

    I know a young child with great aversion to eating actual food, but boogers and Chapstick? All over it. Actual food! Silly adults

    Reply
  17. Olivera

    I am a second time mum, first time i started weaning at whooping 20 weeks, as everyone was telling me milk was not sufficient for my nearly 20lb baby and i started making purees and passing through same non acceptance spoon phase. At around 7 months old he was finally ready to be spoon fed. This time with second son I waited until he was 6 months old to start solids, and again started with puree, and to my ‘surprise’ he didn’t want to be spoon fed, so i googled and discovered baby led weaning and my entire feeding experience changed. Now at 8 months old he eats everything, including pasta and homemade pizza, some meat but only if i cut it in small pieces and put it in his mouth. With baby led weaning the main statement is that food under 1 is just for fun, so if your baby does not want solids at 6 months its because it is not yet ready for them. Doctors just speak what are the averages, but every baby is different and needs its own approach, and you as a mum knows the best.

    Reply
  18. Christy

    This is going to sound really weird, but I used to have a horse who hated having the bridle pulled up over his ears. So I used to unbuckle it, put the straps up around his head, and buckle it back up. It took an extra minute or two, but big deal. After a while I just dropped the unbuckling and began to put it on like I would with any other horse, and by then it really wasn’t a big deal anymore.

    Sometimes it’s just easier if you don’t make a “thing” out of it.

    Reply
  19. Megan Cuthrell

    My son wasn’t thrilled with ANY kind of baby food. He hated being fed. So, I started with one of those mesh feeder things and let him go to it. Now, he eats everything I put in front of him and enjoys sharing my meals as well. Spoons are apparently for making music, not eating.

    Reply
  20. Pauline

    This was so lovely! Thank you for writing this. 🙂 My little one loves eating, but nothing from a spoon – only handfuls she can help herself to with her tiny little hands. We started out with purrees and she was at the point of conditionally hating her high chair very soon – until we tried BLW. If the bottle worked for you, awesome. I have to repeatedly tell myself, but I know it to be true: follow your intuition, and it’ll be the right thing to do.

    Reply
  21. Carole

    I think it’s helpful to consider that many things in our modern life are relatively new inventions, spoons included, whereas babies have been around for millions of years. What else do babies have to go on but instinct? If they don’t like spoons, or lights, or sleeping in a separate bedroom (our early ancestors didn’t put their babies in separate caves!), or other manufactured accoutrements, I think that’s more to be expected than not, if you really think about it. Kudos to you for backing off and letting baby get his food in a way that seemed more normal/natural to him.

    Reply
  22. Jendra

    I relate to this. Not the bottle part, but the non-eater part. Dude had the tongue-thrust reflex until about SEVEN months. The hell? Then he only wanted apple oatmeal cereal. Every other baby I met was enthusiastic about food from five and a half months.
    He’s eight months now and eating a small variety of stuff. But no avocado. Tried it yesterday again. Nopenopenope. But one day. Hopefully.

    Reply
  23. Three daughters

    My second child refused solids in all shapes and forms until she turned one. It wasn’t the spoon bothering her it was the food in general which pretty much made me want to buy her a one way ticket to the moon, cause she cried – a lot. And it was not small sobs, it was eartearing screaming that pretty much made all my family and friends disappear for a year. Anyhow.
    She’s now a vealthy 7 year old who loves broccoli, olives and salted herring (go figure) and eats more than her dad.
    I think that every mother should go with their gutinstincts, as long as the child is not in danger or neglected it works. If your son eats his food from a bottle at age 7, I’ll probably raise an eyebrow though :p

    Love your blog by the way, greetings from Finland 😀

    Reply
  24. helene

    So hilarious. My kid also hated everything I tried. So I read more advice and tried all the right ways and we had big cry-fests and only when I let go of all my good-mom intentions we came somewhat further. So stupid to fall for this expectation-trap every single time, with every single advancement in his life hehe. I do believe that they sense it every time you sit there and think ‘I’ve read how it should be, now I’m going to be a Good Mother’. And they refuse to collaborate. I am as of yet undecided whether babies are adorable evil creatures, of if they are only expressing ‘I do not want a Good Mother, I want you with your smart-ass solutions and silly tricks that you’ve invented especially for me’

    Reply
  25. Jeremy Shapiro

    “And so I was faced with every mother’s least favorite decision in the world: Do you listen to what everyone in the entire world says is best for the baby? Or do you trust your gut, even though everyone will think you are a lunatic and, if anything goes wrong, everyone will blame you and whatever it is you did that you were not supposed to do.”

    Good god this. In addition to being hilarious as always, this post really hit on something we’re dealing with constantly. In our case it’s about co-sleeping, a.k.a surely crushing our infant daughter to death with our slumbering bodies. We love our pediatrician, but have already started with the knowing looks like you describe. Had a hunch we weren’t alone.

    Reply
  26. Barbara

    Different strokes for different folks … and even for different babies in the same family. I’m on kid 3, and each one has had a totally different response to food. Parenthood is all about adaptation! Sounds like you’ve already figured that out. Best of luck and thanks for the laughs. I’ve been reading these entries and doing a lot of nodding my head! 😉

    Reply
  27. Ryan

    Loved reading this. This totally took me back to when my son started eating solid food (he is now 3 1/2). I read every book, and believed I could take on motherhood “flawlessly”. I started with making all of his baby food, and he gagged and choked when I put it in his mouth. I thought it must be too thick, so we went to Gerber, Earth’s Best, etc. let’s just say I wasted a ton of money on baby food. He still wasn’t eating solid food by 11 months and wouldn’t drink from a sippy cup, and then one day, really overnight, he was eating what my husband and I were eating. We skipped the airplanes and the baby food, but not b/c of lack of effort.
    I will add potty training has followed a similar pattern from 2 until now, I tried everything. Remember, I went into motherhood being the expert. Also, you will here the advice from parents who feel they know better than you. We have been lucky to have a great pediatrician who has not been an alarmist over the little things. Anyway, back to potty training…. A month ago, almost overnight, my son abandoned the diaper and we haven’t looked back.
    A child knows when their ready, and it’s not always on the parent’s or society’s schedule. Just remind me of this when I start comparing my son to someone else’s child b/c their kid has mastered something before mine. Best of luck!

    Reply
  28. MamaCassi

    BRILLIANT.
    absolutely so parenting.
    my first kid ate everything. but started w/ stealing aged cheese. and eggs. and tomatoes. and broke every rule b/c he was quick, cute, and LOVED FOOD. and people loved to feed him.

    then my daughter was born. and not only did she not want food, she spat out 100% of her food for months. until she was 14 months old, i never got one bite of food in her. Then i got ONE BITE of butternut squash puree into her. I danced around that kitchen, she glared at me. I was so proud. she was gonna EAT. the i look over, she’s gagging, and retching, and vomits up a puddle of breastmilk w/ that one bite of butternut squash i got down in her. and then she breaks down into the most heartrending tears, b/c who likes to vomit? i scoop her up and breastfeed her for another 10-15 min to soothe her. and i never try to feed her again. about 4 weeks later, she starts stealing her brother’s corn chips, salsa, and my steak. that girl would wait w/ loud persistence for bites of rare steak. she still hates squash and loves steak…..

    needless to say, my next 3 kids chose when they ate. i saw my Dr. w/ my last one and at 6 months she asked if i was feeding him. i said he was offered food but didn’t swallow. she said ‘well, how do you plan on feeding him?’ my answer was ‘when he starts swallowing the food, then he’ll be eating! so i guess i’ll keep doing what i’m doing until he does that.’ she looked at me like i had 3 horns growing from my head. but the fact that my other 4 kids were alive somewhat alleviated the horror that was my parenting.

    Reply
  29. dayzofmylife

    Hulloo from India!

    You could have described a typical morning in my house with this post. Everyday we struggle with trying to feed the baby who on most days is cries like hes being sawed in half on seeing the bowl and spoon.

    I want to try feeding him via bottle- just one doubt- how did you get the purees to flow through the teat? Did you move to the largest size or strained the purees?

    Would really appreciate your wisdom

    Reply
    • theuglyvolvo

      I did both. I moved to a larger size and also added a little bit of water (I toyed with the amount). I now do it as his second bottle of the day– he still resists sometimes if it’s not something he loves, but he’s learned that if he finishes whatever it is he gets a bottle of formula and that always makes him thrilled 🙂

      Reply

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