Everyone has their not-so-favorite stages when it comes to raising babies. Maybe it’s potty training. Maybe it’s when everything goes straight into their mouth. Maybe it’s the drooling, teething phase. Maybe it’s the blow-out every time they poop (okay, really though, does anyone actually like that stage?). Maybe it’s the colicky evenings when they’re a few weeks old or the cluster feedings at the height of growth spurts.
I’ve found for all the joy a new phase brings, whether cooing or smiling or learning words or the cute toddle…there’s usually a not-so-favorite part. The kind of learning these sweet babies are doing, the kind that is exhausting (for baby and parent!) and yet basic, like learning to play, interact, hold objects, chew and swallow food…it takes a lot of practice to get good at it.
And so, here we are, in one of my least favorite stages: introduction to solid food. I think it’s the mess. How they cover themselves head to toe in mushed up avocado. The yogurt in their hair. The sweet potatoes up their nose. Meanwhile, precious little is actually getting down their throat. If the goal was to fill up that sweet round belly, well, lower your expectations. What is it they always say, they don’t actually need the nutrients from solid food for the whole first year; they get all they need in the milk? Sure, but if the goal was to fill them up so they can go a little longer between feedings or, I don’t know, sleep a solid stretch at night, is it too much to ask that some food make it past the mouth?
I know, I know. It’s about the exploration. The goal is introducing different flavors and textures while they experiment with moving their mandibular muscles. And there is something marvelous about watching their bottom lip/tongue try to manipulate the spoonful toward the swallow zone. Something about it makes me want to mirror the motion, so I end up making silly faces at my baby while re-scooping the bite that just slipped down his chin and shoving it back up between his gums.
It’s like, you might as well plan on a full bath after every meal. Or else just learn to live with a messy kid. At this point, being on round 3, we opt for the latter. A washcloth catches the worst of it, then we hold out for after the last meal of the day to hose him down in the bath.
At least his joy is contagious. His little fingers massaging the yogurt around and around. The grimace of that first taste. Oh, the grimace! Like, what in the world is this mush?! There’s nothing to do but grin at the process, settle in for the practice it takes to do something so simple as feed oneself. And for the not-so-favorite parts, like the constant mess under the high chair…well, there’s the cliché, this too shall pass. It does. And before I know it I’ll be looking back on this stage with a kind of rosy nostalgia. That’s why I bother to write this all down. In some ways, I’m telling myself to slow down, savor it. Even the not-so-favorite parts are all part of the learning process.