Whilst the actual flinging of food stopped once Small reached a certain age and the battles become less messy, they were set to continue and will probably carry on until Small is big and leaves home. In the early days of solid food the stress was simply about getting Small to eat something. As he got older it increasingly became about getting him to eat anything that was not chocolate or potato based [maybe there shouldn’t have been so much chocolate eating training early on? – see pic]
One of the most important lessons I learnt whilst raising Smalls was that Small would only do things when Small was ready to do them. This included eating. Small would only eat when he was ready. On a broad level this meant that he would not be weaned until he was ready for solid foods and on a day to day level he would only eat when he was hungry (unlike us he had not yet learnt to cram down food, regardless of hunger, simply because it was a convenient time to do so). On a slightly wider time scale it meant that one week Small would eat non-stop, the next, seemingly not at all.
This demand feeding process is natural and is actively encouraged when feeding Smalls milk. We are told that it is best for Small but sadly it is not for the parent. Actually that is not true: medically it is best for everyone to eat on demand. The trouble is, life doesn’t allow demand feeding. Real life has to revolve around mealtimes. For example, it is often frowned upon to get your sandwiches out in the middle of a board meeting. Small needed to learn this, I needed to get him to eat at designated mealtimes otherwise it would always be mealtime, doubly and triply so once more Smalls popped up.
Sadly I proved to be a bad teacher for Small was rarely hungry at meal times but constantly hungry in between. For course, I could have stopped stuffing him with biscuits.
To return to the early food days, when it came to weaning Small onto solids, the suggested first food was a bland cereal mixed with their normal milk. The theory was that it would not be overly strange and Small could get used to the texture. It didn’t work. Small didn’t like the texture and it was, well, bland. I can’t blame him, I certainly wouldn’t eat bland cereal gloop.
We tried to give Small something tasty, like mashed banana or sweet potato. He pulled the most extraordinary faces at first but that didn’t mean he didn’t like it, it was just not what he was used to. At an older age we took Small 1 to a pizza restaurant to meet my wife’s work colleagues. It was his first experience of pizza. From the look on his face when he took his first bite I thought that the restaurant was about to ring with screams as he tried to vocalise how disgusting this flat sloppy thing was. The contorted face and gurning continued until the pizza had been utterly consumed. It was only then that the wailing began and it only stopped once another pizza appeared.
There was a lot of advice about making your own food for Small. This had merit because we knew what was in it and it was cheaper than buying jars of premade gloop. The down side was that we ended up spending a considerable amount of time (in comparison to the time actual available) lovingly preparing food that was wholly rejected. For despite his early interest in new flavours Small soon decided he didn’t want this solid food stuff.
Whilst we continued to try and find home-made gloop that he would eat, we ended up resorting to bought jars. In the end he discovered one variety that he liked and then refused everything else. What the heck: it contained all the nutrition he needed. I did get a slight feeling of being judged at the checkout though, when my weekly shop consisted solely of a crate of small jars of lamb hot pot, powdered baby milk, disposable nappies, nappy bags, paracetamol and wine.
A final word of observation to anyone contemplating multiple Smalls: don’t expect to find a meal (any meal) that everyone in the family likes. Every meal will disappoint someone. You cannot win. I found the trick was not to set it up as a challenge in the first place, then I couldn’t lose. It was the same result but mentally easier to handle.
Not so much a parenting guide full of advice, more the reality of parenting kids and being a house husband and father, written by a stay at home dad to three children.
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