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Sufficient Unto The Day

As I think I’ve mentioned a dozen times in the past week or so, Maddie’s
heavy into finger foods right now; they are her favorite new game, new
learned skill to show off. Finger foods make mealtime go much more
smoothly. I’ll also confess here that I will occasionally offer Cheerios
or diced fruit if I need her to sit still while I get things done, even
though it’s not a meal time. Since the booster seat is now where she
sits when she “helps” Mommy cook, Maddie will sometimes cast her eyes
downward, expecting to see a food tray, and then look at me as if to
say, “I’m bored.” What do I do if she’s exhausted all her kitchen toys
and I’m a good 15 minutes away from being able to let her loose? (Nope,
haven’t finished babyproofing the kitchen yet.) Crack open the dried

Now this’ll seem off-topic, but bear with me for a second. When Maddie
went for her 9-month checkup she had blood drawn to test for lead
poisoning, standard here in New York. Since we just had construction
done, I was convinced I had released irretrievable lead dust particles
into the air and permanently damaged my daughter, though there was no
factual evidence for this theory

whatsoever. We got the blood results back last week, and Maddie’s
completely clean.

So I’ve been casting about trying to find something new to worry
obsessively over and came up with the whole “feeding her when she’s not
hungry” thing. Am I teaching my child that food is a place to turn for
comfort when she’s crying and I offer her a Cheerio? If she’s bored and
I give her a fruit puff, am I setting her up for a life with an eating
disorder or an unhealthy attachment to food? Am I being a bad mommy by
using food to baby-sit my child? After all, these first couple of years
are laying the groundwork for how she views and enjoys food for the rest
of her life. No pressure.

I used to see harried women in department stores, bored toddler in tow.
When the babe became too demanding, the woman would distractedly pull
out a tub of Cheerios and offer them to the child. Sidetracked, the
toddler gave his mother a few more minutes of peace. I, of course, vowed
never to do this – never to use food as a pacifier rather than listening
to the baby and giving her what she really needs.

But I realize now that it’s not the food that delights Madeleine; it’s
the act of feeding herself. Eating is not a hobby for her the way it is
for adults; she doesn’t turn to the taste of Cheerios the way we turn to
Double Stuff Oreos. For Maddie, it’s all about the new skill she gets to
practice. Every time she eats a finger food, she picks a piece up with
her left hand and clutches it there the rest of the meal while she feeds
herself with her right hand. At the end, she’s honestly surprised to see
the half-dissolved Cheerio or mushy piece of mango in that hand; she’d
forgotten all about it after making sure her left hand would do what she
wanted it to. The sight of her delighted little left fist waving her
found treasure gets me every time.

When we were on an hour-long car drive recently, I fed Maddie dinner in
the car to save time. For the end of dinner I gave her a small
Tupperware of grated cheese to pick at, which she promptly upended into
the crumb-catcher of her bib (can’t believe I didn’t see that coming).
She then spent several ecstatic minutes grabbing whole fistfuls of
cheese and cramming them into her mouth, smiling and gurgling her
delight with strands of mozzarella hanging out like straw from a
scarecrow. She was so pleased she could go back and forth between whole
fist and two fingers that I let her go to town. And you know what? When
she was full, she just – stopped eating. No big deal.

So for now, I’m not going to worry about the long-term ramifications.
When my daughter’s bored, I’ll let her practice her new skill without
fear of this coming back up when she’s 16. If she’s genuinely not
hungry, she turns away from the snack. And if she’s eagerly devouring
everything I offer her, it makes me rethink how long she’s got until her
next nursing time. What a concept – my child eats when she’s hungry, and
stops when she’s not.

So let’s keep food as uncomplicated as we can, for as long as we can.
I’m not saying I’ll be turning to snacks the minute she starts whining,
and I’m guessing that what works now won’t fly when she’s, say, a
three-year-old. But that’s way in the future. Truthfully, I can’t
believe she’s old enough to be feeding herself already. Just the smell
of Cheerios on her little breath makes her seem somehow older, and I’m
in no rush to run ahead to the next mile marker. I’m going to relax,
enjoy her babyhood and newfound independence, enjoy the moments of peace
it buys me, and refuse to worry.

I’m sure there are plenty of other ways I can screw my kid up, if I just
set my mind to it.


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