I enjoy practically every moment of my extended hiatus from the work world, except for mealtimes with my kids. Mealtimes and the battles that ensue make me want to head for the hills, or at the very least run back to my career.
Both my kids hardly eat. “Go down, go down,” my toddler repeats insistently after a few bites. After all, dragging a child-sized chair all over the place to explore things that are out of reach is far more entertaining than something as mundane as eating lunch! My four-year-old is also ever-ready to hop off his chair to attend to more pressing matters, like perfecting his latest invention, leaving me fretting about their calorie intake.
I don’t need a psychologist to tell me my fixation with their eating and drinking stems from the fact that my son was diagnosed with “failure to thrive,” when he was less than a week old.
My memories of the first several months of my son’s life hardly include relaxing and holding him, or feeling his warmth and inhaling his sweet baby smell.
Instead, I remember nursing, pumping, supplementing, and anxiously counting the number of diapers he wet and soiled amidst the haze of those sleepless nights. I also remember coaxing him to drink one more ounce of his milk, so that he’d weigh a little more at his dreaded well-baby checkup.
In fact, the impact and the guilt associated with those three powerful words, “failure to thrive” continued to haunt me when I gave birth to my daughter, almost three years later.
Although she gained weight slowly, at each well-baby visit, her pediatrician insisted I feed her more. “She has to have at least 25 oz of milk every day,” her doctor said. My daughter responded by shaking her head and tightly clamping her mouth shut after 18 oz of milk. There was no getting past her closed mouth, and on the rare occasions that I managed to get her to drink more, she would throw up!
At four years and eighteen months respectively, my children have graduated to the 25th percentile in weight. Their doctor finally conceded that their weight could be related to their genes. My mom and I can only be described as petite. My husband is five feet eight inches. Surely, I can’t expect my kids to be huge?
In spite of realizing that we aren’t genetically predisposed to be big, I still spend a bulk of my day cajoling them to drink one more sip of their fluids or eat one more bite of their meals. And while I no longer have to note the amount of liquids they drink, I could give you a pretty accurate figure, anyway.
But my struggles with getting my children to eat remind me of my own childhood. I distinctly recall my dad telling me how happy he felt when he saw me eat. “I feel like the food is going into my tummy,” my dad remarked.
Today, as a mother, I can totally identify with my father’s words. I grew up fine, in spite of my picky eating habits as a child. I suspect my kids will, too.