When my husband and I decided to make another human and care for said human by providing all the necessities — nourishment, safety, love — I made grand assumptions about how that human would interact as part of our greater family unit.
He would sleep here or there and for this long and he would breastfeed for this long and start solid food at this age and he would enjoy being locked in baby jail — the sectioned-off portion of the living room WITH ALL HIS TOYS — and he would eat organic and… the list goes on.
Today, the saga of trying to provide nourishment to a tiny human continues. In case you missed the build-up, read:
- Vol. 1: I made my own baby food.
- Vol. 2: Ain’t no momma got time for that.
- Vol. 3: The poo-pocalypse.
Newborns instinctually know that food comes from the momma but they do not instinctually know how to get the food from the momma.
My son’s inability to latch for the first few weeks of his life and his bizarre head-shaking motion when he did not immediately get food were proof enough of that to me.
Babies, after successfully getting the hang of breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, suddenly need solid food. So when you’re finally comfortable getting them to consume milk or formula, you have to introduce pureed nonsense to the mix.
My son’s first bites were immediately pushed back out of his mouth. Oatmeal, pureed sweet potato, mashed bananas… everywhere.
Invest in bibs. You’re worth it.
Then, after getting the hang of eating and swallowing pureed food, and after getting everyone on a breakfast-lunch-dinner schedule that works for both the baby and the parents, you have to throw actual solid food into the mix.
That you have to cook.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
My husband and I operate in the reality that this baby has to eat what we eat — that we’re not going to make him special food because he’s a baby and doesn’t like tomato sauce — that we’re not going to cave and make him chicken nuggets when he balks at the idea of eating an actual piece of chicken.
We’re operating in this reality.
But we’re not operating well.
I leave work at 5 p.m. — a respectable and perfectly normal time to leave work. Because I am the. luckiest. woman. in the world, 5 p.m. is also when my mother-in-law brings me my son from her house. So my son and I are settled in at home by 5:30 p.m.
I start dinner.
Usually, I need to dice onions, slice up peppers or chunk other vegetables, prepare a salad, get chicken thighs ready for their hour-long oven roast, “salt and pepper to taste” — you know, cooking things. To do any of this preparation, I need two hands and the freedom to move from one end of my galley-like kitchen to the other.
TWO HANDS and the FREEDOM to move.
How do you cook with a toddler?!
What might have taken an hour, now takes nearly two!
I used to trap him in his baby bouncer, but he’s about an inch away from being able to climb right out of it. Plus, he hates it.
So I have to watch him like a hawk.
I tried to distract him with snacks, but the dog always steals his puffs — and he thinks it’s hilarious so he just feeds the dog the puffs.
Which are not cheap and not for the dog!
I tried to ignore him and let him wander around the baby-proofed parts of the house, but he gets bored or something and chases me around the kitchen whining.
Seriously, how do you cook with a toddler?
Plus, he’s hungry at 5:30 p.m. because — back when he was a baby — we trained him that’s his dinnertime by feeding him first omg what is wrong with us we’re so dumb.
So I give him a yogurt pouch and hope for the best (i.e. hope it doesn’t end up in the carpet or his hair or wherever he decides to squeeze it).
And it’s still not enough.
This toddler can toddle himself into a fine hangry rage when not fed in proper time.
On bad evenings, we eat the mom-gave-up-box-of-mac-and-cheese.
On better evenings, Matt and I eat dinner at 7:30 p.m. By ourselves. Henry will have two or three bites of family dinner, and then cry about being in his highchair because he’s full from his yogurt snack, and the follow-up squeeze-y pouch, and the handful of puffs, and the 8 ounces of milk. By then, it’s bedtime, and Matt and I are eating cold dinner at 8 p.m. And that’s like half-an-hour off my bedtime.
HOW. DO. YOU. FEED. TODDLERS. Gaaaaaahhhhhh.
I can’t make his dinner first, and then make our dinner — we’d never eat real food again! Plus, his food has to be monitored the whole way down his throat to ensure he doesn’t choke on it. Because, while toddlers have teeth and can tear and chew and mash up solid food, they’re still terrible at feeding themselves.
Legit, from newborn to now, he did not get better at eating.
Pasta is impossible to pick up. Spoons are for the weak. Toast is an olympic event.
On the nourishment front of parenting, my son is fed and happy and healthy. On the nourishment side of adulthood, my husband and I eat bunny-shaped macaroni and cheese more often than I’d like.
But it’s organic so there’s that.