Ah mealtime. A great time really. A time to enjoy the things you love. And I love eating. I really do. Or at least I did until I had kids and eating started figuring into my nightmares. I mean it wasn’t like I was dreaming about hamburgers chasing me (that was my dad’s dream long ago) and besides I played hamburger in an off broadway show so I think we have a pretty good relationship. In fact I don’t think I have ever dreamed about meat products chasing me. Only produce. Now you would imagine that would be less scary but it’s not. You would be amazed and alarmed at what an avocado looks like with fangs. The nightmares stemmed from my anxiety over feeding my children. In the beginning it was about their GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). Basically they threw up everything they ate which resulted in a lot of trips to the hospital. We eventually got the 9 trips and the 10 one is free pass. I mean that stuff was evil and wreaked havoc on their poor little bodies. And some of the medicines they were put on (in particular the smaller one) caused seizure like symptoms. Ugh.
The good news is they were the fortunate ones who grew out of their GERD so then it became about their pickiness. I mean it’s always something. I am an actor so I require drama and have found plenty of it off stage. It’s perfect really. I would spend hours sweating over a hot stove and put the meal in front of them awaiting their reaction with bated breath. Sometimes they would try it and then do the Tom Hank’s look from the movie Big when he eats a piece of beluga and tries to scrape it off his tongue with a napkin. Looking at the bigger twin you would think I would have asked her to eat chocolate covered horseradish with lemons dipped in milk. She would look at me as if to say, “What in the hell is wrong with you? How could you feed me this? Are you trying to kill me? I want something else and make it snappy and if it’s good we will forget all about this disgusting excuse for a meal.” Other times I set the plates before them and one plate is lifted into the air and thrown to the ground. And if one twin does it the other always follows suit. Then they give me this look with tiny tears in their eyes as if to say, “Oh mother really. How could you? I’m a good baby and I try not to give you much trouble. I mean sure I fling an occasional poop, but don’t we all. I do right by you and this is how you repay me? You have broken my heart mother. Broken it. I’m not sure that my tongue, tummy or myself will recover. Ever. Such extreme words from the mouth of babes I know, but food can be a very intense experience as I have learned. Your cooking can make or break your relationship with your child.
Now that they are almost 2 ½ years old I’d like to say we have put all that behind us. I’d like to say that, but it just isn’t true. While we have certainly made headway every meal except breakfast continues to be a source of anxiety for me. Will they eat it? Will they pretend to eat it by chewing and then very slyly raise their hands to their mouths and toss their food to the floor? (My littler twin does this). Will the plates be upended before anyone takes a bite just because the shape of the meat is all wrong? You would also think if they ate something last week or 3 days ago then they like it, but if you are like me then you are not fooled by this! They may not eat it 3 days later. You may have to go weeks or months before they will eat it again. And when you give it to them again head held high chest puffed with confidence they look at you as if to say, “Oh mother seriously? This again? I thought we had an understanding. You feed me what I want when I want it. And I never eat (fill in the blank) on Thursdays. It just isn’t done.
If you are like me when your children reject the food you have cooked for them you feel as though they are rejecting you. Giving them food is your way of loving them and they stomp and spit and yes even poop on that love. But take heart because as you can see you are not alone!! And continue to enjoy watching them eat because it is a beautiful thing when they do and there will be plenty of times when they don’t. And do your best not to take it personally. After all most of the time they are simply exerting their independence and the rest of the time they are telling you that you cannot cook.