I never thought I’d get such immense gratification from watching my children eat their food. Why is it so important to us moms?
At family gatherings we always laugh about how my husband’s grandmother, with her thick Austrian accent, tells us all to “go on and eat something” as if we’re just wasting away to nothing. But I get it now. I can be having the crummiest day, but when I see my child devour a sandwich, or hand me an empty plate, it’s like I just won the lottery. And if it’s something healthy they ate? Jackpot!
For me, it goes back to that first day I became a mom. I was sitting there with this tiny new person who was looking up at me with such faith and dependency that I would provide all the nourishment and sustenance he was going to need. No pressure, right? It wasn’t very comforting to have all these different lactation consultants man-handling my sensitive ta-ta’s to show me just how “easy” and “natural” it was to nurse my child. One literally said, “your baby knows what to do, you just need to get out of the way and let him.” I busted out laughing.
During those early months, I had a great friend who described breastfeeding as “the most selfless act you will ever do for the tiniest person who will totally forget this game and never thank you for it.” Not exactly the magical happy bonding I had envisioned. I spent months battling to perform the basic task of feeding my child. He had problems with latching, acid reflux and a dairy sensitivity. It didn’t matter whether it was breast milk or formula, it was challenging getting our son to eat. Many nights I spent crying my eyes out. Interestingly, our second born son had no problems at all, and it was actually extremely difficult for me to give up breastfeeding with him.
Then comes the fun part of introducing solids. How ecstatic I was when our firstborn took that much anticipated bite of Gerber goo. He was eating! Yay!
And then you blink and your child is 3-years-old and you’re having a battle of wills at the dinner table over taking that last bite which sometimes is also the first bite. Or suddenly it’s a growth spurt and your child is asking for seconds and thirds of everything and you look at him in bewilderment wondering “who IS this kid? And where is all that food going?” You end up buying bulk boxes of Pirate Booty and any snack with an Annie’s label on it because you can’t drive from your house to the end of the driveway without them begging for a snack.
I drove myself crazy trying to enforce some kind of balanced diet with little ones until I attended an informative seminar on the eating habits of toddlers. I learned that children that age receive a “balanced diet” throughout a month, not just a day. So those times when my kid only ate grapes for a week, but then only pizza the next, it’s all cool because in the long run he got everything he needed. Oh and apparently it’s not necessary to force high-energy children to sit still and eat huge meals at the end of the day because their bodies don’t need a ton of nutrients and protein right before going to sleep. Who knew? Boy did that epiphany make dinners more do-able around here!
Though I feel I’ve matured in my neurotic need to feed my child since that first floundering day in the hospital, I imagine I’ll be like our beloved Grandmommy, yelling at my great grandchildren to “go on and eat something.” Not because I think it’s good for them, but because it makes me feel better.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 3-year-old James and 1-year-old Luke.