Last night a well-meaning person, okay, my therapist, not-so-gently pointed out to me as I sobbed about Sophia’s disorderly eating:
“You’re obsessed with having the perfect child.”
“That isn’t quite right,” I corrected him (something I do frequently), “that would put undue stress on Sophie. I’m obsessed with creating the perfect childhood. That just places the undue stress on me.”
Cognitively, I know there is no such thing—that I’ve set up an impossible ideal and an impossible task for myself. And, in setting up this impossible ideal, I’m stressing myself out, which fosters anxiety in Sophie and ultimately takes us further and further away from what I’m seeking to achieve.
Case in point: Dinner last night.
Just a day before, my babysitter had wild success in coaxing Sophia to eat a nice sized portion of the calzone I had made. So, anticipating an easy dinner, I set the calzone before us, poured myself a glass of wine, and cut off a tiny bite for her to chew. The first two pieces went in fairly easy. The third was rejected outright.
“No.” Sophia announced as she held out the nibble, unclenched her fist, and it dropped in slow motion to the floor. I took a swig of the wine and grabbed her pretty kitties book. “This pretty kitty has long fluffy hair,” I read, and tried to pop another bite into her mouth.
Sophie spit it out, narrowed her eyes and repeated, “NO!”
“C’mon, Sophia,” I reasoned, “you loved it just the other day. It’s the same thing.” I placed a bite in her hand, for her to feed herself
“NooOoo.” This time the word had three syllables, the second, high pitched. Again, she chucked the food on the floor.
“Oh for heaven’s sakes, Sophia.” (My attempt at not swearing.) I sighed, exasperated and narrowed my eyes. “It’s either this or yogurt. What’s it gonna be?”
Sophia returned my fierce gaze. “DOWN!” Now I’m sorry, but three bites does not a meal make. And I had just read in my weekly parenting update that Sophia should be eating 40 calories for every inch of height. That meant 1160 calories to fuel all 29 inches of her. So, calculating that she had eaten a maximum of 15 calories, I started to freak out.
“I’m going to the bathroom!” I announced, and removed myself from the situation, to regain some composure. I took a couple deep breaths, reminded myself that this was one meal, in one day, of a lifetime of meals.
Okay. I’m going back in.
“What did you decide, Sophia?”
“Down is not an option.” I offered the calzone one more time. It joined the other bits surrounding her chair. “Okay…yogurt it is.” And I fed her the same meal that I feed her every night, plain full-fat organic yogurt, two tablespoons of flaxseed, and fruit. Total calorie count: 215.
I saw the pediatrician in a little bubble over Sophia’s head, chastising me, “too healthy. More fats. Too healthy.”
My friend Stacey and I are enjoying a leisurely stroll along the Cooper River, pushing our respective strollers, her baby fast asleep, mine wide awake. I’m sharing my concerns about Sophia’s eating habits and my undying commitment to feeding her a nutritious diet, when, a man walks toward us, pushing a tricked-out stroller, his toddler obscured by a snack tray laden with Wendy’s: hamburger, fries, and what looks mysteriously like soda. After he passes, I give Stacey “the eye.” My judgmental, disapproving eye.
“Look, “Stacey says to me. “Maybe there’s a middle ground. I mean, there are some parents out there giving their kids Mountain Dew and Snicker bars for a snack. You’re at the other end of the continuum. A little yogurt with fruity gel or a nutrition bar with a little sugar might not be so bad.”
As she talks, I feel ridiculous. Of course, she’s right. And who am I kidding? I’m ADDICTED to sugar. I need at least one sweet a day. Preferably chocolate. Preferably dark.
Yes. I am a hypocrite. I know that’s not at all what Stacey was pointing out. She was simply saying, everything in moderation. But it’s true.
When I was pregnant, I held my breath when I passed a smoker. I didn’t have a single sip of wine. I exercised everyday. I wanted to be perfect host. To give her the very best start. And now that she’s here, I feel an overwhelming sense of duty to make sure she is as healthy and happy as can be.
But I still experience a little thrill when I hear the music from ice cream truck wafting down the street. I haven’t forgotten the joy of my first taste of chocolate chip pancakes at IHOP. And don’t even get me started on Halloween. We’d stay out long after people had turned off their porch lights ringing bells and knocking on doors in hopes of extracting one more bar of candy from our neighbors.
The truth of the matter is, being as happy as you can be takes a little sugar. And a little fat. And even a little processed food
Perhaps I am equating perfect with happy. Perhaps perfect and happy are not the same thing. And perhaps, just perhaps, happy is the goal. That does seem more attainable.