locked my car keys in my trunk two Sunday nights ago while we were visiting my
parents. It was my son’s bedtime and he was going to fall asleep in the car and
we were going to get home before our own bedtimes. Instead, we waited two hours
for the locksmith and everybody remained calm except for me. To properly
express my regret and apologize for my idiocy, my subconscious thought it best
to spend those two hours marching from the driveway to the porch to the living
room wildly and purposelessly, bursting into tears, refusing water or snacks,
and shouting things like, “I mean, I THINK they’re in the trunk! I DON’T KNOW!”
and “PEOPLE DO THIS, RIGHT?” and then repeatedly miming the trunk slam that
happened seconds before I realized what I’d done.
For your information, these exercises do nothing to better a bummer-but-not-dire situation. Because the thing is that my keys were there, right there, in the trunk and all we needed was someone to get them out. And, after an hour and a half, that someone called from his car and said he was 20-30 minutes away, according to the GPS! When I read about the refugees in Syria, their stories captured maybe most humanely and breathtakingly by Humans of New York, I see that there are no hidden keys and there is no locksmith, there is only horror and bravery and the sort of tenacity many of us will never have to locate inside ourselves.
The day after my own very minor non-crisis, I had the
thought that locking your keys inside the thing that you need the keys for is a
metaphor for the keys to your own LIFE being inside yourself. And, I thought
excitedly, you sometimes have to troubleshoot them out, the way our locksmith
did by changing course halfway through his silent effort and instead of trying
to unlock the door through the window with his bendy rod claw, he used the bendy
rod claw to pop the trunk instead! You
just have to find your locksmith was a sentence I wrote in the notes
section of my phone. It’s so cheesy, so hokey, and for that I’m sorry, but it’s
also true and lately, with my child slowly steeping in the big bad socialized
world and my own self tentatively returning to the great self-involved grown-up
world from whence I came, I am finding it to be helpful.
for example, today, when I dropped Sly off at school, two girls, both a year
older than him who were eating their breakfast in the kitchen, turned to him
and called him the name of another younger boy at school and then a different
boy and then giggled to each other. They knew his name. They were just being
clever and silly but of course I was overtaken by post-traumatic stress from
the entirety of my public school experience and I had to escort myself off the
premises before I started sob-yelling at those girls to BE FUCKING NICE,
GODDAMNIT. It washed over me then, like a case of shingles, the reason why I
was afraid of being pregnant with a girl.
if I gave birth to a mean one? Or worse, what if I gave birth to one like me?
One who had a hard time sticking up for herself, more and more as the years
went on, one whose name other kids might’ve easily pretended not to know? I’m
not saying this mired in self-hate or self-pity. I love where I’ve ended up,
I’ve had a charmed journey, and I really like myself. But dear god, being an
adolescent and teenage girl was a kind of endlessly confusing hell. And I
experienced it buoyed by every advantage. What must it have been like for girls
without the open-armed family at home and the nice house and the white skin?
husband just last night read parts of an article to me about emotional
resilience in children and I get it that we cannot and should not fight our
child’s battles and that this tiny little moment is not even any great battle
and that the world is often not nice and the sooner our kids know it, the
sooner that first early trauma is over, and the sooner other traumas can be
better weathered by these newly inured little people. I have heard all that
responsible parenting talk and I know that my son and I both have to find in
ourselves the good sense to figure shit out on our own. So I am here writing
this down and not yelling at two-year olds to call my son by his proper name
and thereby REALLY traumatizing him forever.
I was on the subway while Sly was at school earlier this week and I was wearing a dress with a flouncy skirt and checkered Vans and I did not feel like a mother. My body felt as light as it ever had. It isn’t that having a kid turns you into some kind of ogre or troll, it’s that kids are so often on you, holding your hand, in your arms, attached to your body like loving/flailing burrs. Or they’re magnetizing you from halfway down the street or from the top of the slide and no matter how laissez-faire you swear you are, you feel their falls, their almost-falls, their propulsion away from you, if they are in your sights. But he was not in my sights. Someone else was bearing the sweet weight of him.
so I was on the N train during the day, dressed for an audition, listening to
First Aid Kit, feeling young and vaguely cool. And then I saw two young actors
reading sides from a script, one in a suit and the other in tall lace up boots
and a lot of denim. I felt so endeared to them, so embarrassed for them,
cringing and proud at the same time, like half-self, half-mother, feeling for
them in all the ways somebody could, that I shrunk into myself like a paper bag
and tried not to stare. Instead, I started writing this.
can only imagine that the bristling vulnerability unlocked in me by two
PRE-pre-school girls will just keep showing itself, rising up like reflux, and
just as unwelcome and uncomfortable. I also imagine that it will get easier for
me, as it will for Sly, but that he will be toughened and I, softened, as I
relive all the uncomfortable memories of thirty years ago from above instead of
on the ground. When I watched “My So-Called Life” a few years as a
soon-to-be-mother, all I wanted was to say to Angela’s mom, Patti, “I am so
sorry I was so mad at you. You poor, caring, loving, overwhelmed human. Your
daughter is being ridiculous and you are doing the best you can.” I should say
this to my own mother. If you’re reading this, Mom (and Dad), which I know you
are, I am sorry I didn’t understand until now. It is hard to be a person and it
is hard to be a mother. But mothers have to be both.
driven only a few blocks down the dark road from my parents’ house in New
Jersey back to Brooklyn when my brother-in-law realized he’d left his apartment
keys at the house. When we pulled back in to the driveway, my mom was there,
running up to the car window, telling us to drive safely, and we were on our
There are locksmiths everywhere, I am sure of this. Sometimes, we are our own locksmiths, or sometimes they are people we love or they are strangers in t-shirts carrying bendy claw rods who appear in the night like gruff saviors or they are little kids with good senses of humor who will indirectly show my little kid that he also needs a sense of humor. Stay close by, locksmiths. I need you. Even when my keys are in my hand, I need you.
My son is at his first full day of what I am calling “school”, but what can better be described as daycare for 18-month olds and up, and I don’t know if what I have to say about what is happening right now adds up to anything definitive or helpful because I am just in it at this moment but I feel that if I don’t write down what being in it is, I will wrongly remember and gloss over things and someday tell friends who are doing similar things that it was hard but it was FINE and it is going to be GREAT. You know what, I’m not sure I’m even writing this down for my friends. I think I am writing it down because I am not sure what else to do with myself right now.
I just got a salad. I’m listening but not actually listening
to a podcast as I write this because I am frantic for chirpy, low-grade
Sly had three days of transition to
daycare/preschool last week: an hour on the first day just feeling out the
space with me there; two hours on the second day – the first hour with me and
the second, without; and two hours without me on the third day. Did you follow
all that? I have explained it several times to people, providing an excess of information
to still the seven baby birds flapping wildly in my chest when anybody wonders
how daycare is going, and I am not sure anybody really needs to know all that.
BUT I NEED TO TELL THEM.
The transition week went well! He
did not cry when I left. He was excited when I came back. I thought, it cannot
be this easy or this good. It can’t continue like this.
I WAS RIGHT! HAHA, I WAS RIGHT! SLY
IS AT HIS FIRST DAY OF PRESCHOOL/DAYCARE AS I WRITE THIS AND IT’S NOT THAT EASY, IT’S HARD, IT’S HORRIBLE,
EVERYTHING IS HORRIBLE. GODDAMNIT. I DID NOT WANT TO BE RIGHT. Sly cried when I
left and when we called ten minutes later to check in, he was not crying but he
was not going bananas with joy either.
This morning (or last night or on
Saturday or never, maybe, I don’t remember), my husband and I agreed we would see
how long Sly could go on Monday, letting the teachers tell us how he was doing
and when we should come and get him.
I just paused to take several
aggressive bites of a lentil salad with toast. I just checked my phone to see
if a rescue operation is imminent. I have no messages.
For the past ten days, Sly has half-willingly
given up nursing and his morning nap. My husband and I went to California without
him for three days for a wedding and when we got back, instead of leaping
onto my body and shouting, “Nurse! Nurse” as I assumed he would, he just
nestled his head into my neck for ten minutes, taking breaks to pull back and
look at my face and smile. It was insane. It was maybe one of the best moments
of my life so far. He didn’t ask to breastfeed for a full 24 hours after that.
I took this, and the four day tit break, as my green light to quit. He’s asked
to nurse off and on since that day, a week ago, but he doesn’t try
that hard and I’m not gonna reward half-assed efforts, for anything really, so,
it’s over. It’s over. OH MY GOD BREASTFEEDING IS OVER. If I didn’t think I’d
someday have another kid, maybe I’d be sadder. If I hadn’t already been
half-weaning him for months, maybe I’d be more hormonally rocked. But, I’m not
sad, I’m not rocked, I’m fine. I think – I hope – he is too. This single nap shit
has not been easy, but it’s been necessary because that’s what they do at
school, a single nap, starting at 1, so we have to get on the boat or flounder
forever. We are getting on the boat. We are not on it. We are getting on it.
So we’re transitioning. Some people
say you are always transitioning, with a kid, and to those people I say, OK,
fine, what am I supposed to do with that, just wear a helmet forever? Great.
We, in any case, are in the midst of several transitions and it all feels
normal for part of the day and then very bad later, especially around 5 pm or
sometimes 3 pm or sometimes 10 am.
Since consuming those lentils like
a starved goat, I have continued to behave oddly. I threw on an oversized
sweater coat, in spite of the 80-degree weather, and fast-walked myself into a
full body sweat on my way to the train. I waved at an MTA worker, not because I
thought I knew him but because he seemed kind. Like my 19-month old, I was
trying to survive by endearing myself to anybody in the near vicinity with
authority (all the while wearing what is basically a blanket).
So, my son wasn’t
bananas with joy at daycare. But, really, who goes bananas with joy that
many times a day? I don’t. I go bananas with joy a few times a week, maybe. Maybe. I understand at least some of the
psychology that surrounds a child’s adjustment to being cared for by a
non-relative three days a week. I know that they need time to learn to trust
new people and they cry to express their ache for comfort and to, in a way,
give those new people a chance to comfort them. I know that this is a process. I
hate that word and how clinical it sounds, how mathematical and soulless, but I
know that honoring the process part actually honors the non-mathematical part
of my kid, the human part of him. He is not a machine. Nor am I. Therefore, we must process. Ironic? I’m
not fully in my right mind right now.
When we called again hours later,
he was sleeping. He was sleeping! Among other sleeping children! I knew it
could happen. But I didn’t believe it would. So often in my life, I am
flabbergasted by the fact that things work out. And work out well! But what’s
the point of bracing for disaster with every big wave of change that rises
before us? My kid doesn’t need that kind of white-knuckled rigidity. I watched
Joe Biden’s interview with Stephen Colbert and if there is anything I could hope to impart to my son these days, it’s
Biden’s mother’s words: “Nobody is better than you, but you’re better than
nobody.” This isn’t so much to drum humility into my son, though that’s a
lovely (if exhausting) quality, but to do the opposite: to remind him that he
CAN – and must sometimes – manage the tricky unpleasantries of life! Like the
first nap at daycare. I have faith in him not because he’s special but because,
like so many other children before him, he can do it. He just can. I know he
can. I can too.
It isn’t helpful or fixable, this
anxiety. But maybe it’s necessary. I’m working shit out by trying to contain
those baby birds trapped in my sternum. There goes a bird, every few sentences,
another bird. Another one replaces it, but now we’re only a few hours from pick
up. The minutes move, they do, they move and move and now, here I am writing
again three days later, pretending I can jam into what’s left of the afternoon
much more than is reasonable. Here I am, birdless, all the first day twinges
gone. Here I am three days older. Here I am knowing it’s fine, everything’s
fine. Here I am knowing my son will, in time, quick-moving time, go bananas
with joy at school. And the greatest and most awful part of that is that I
won’t be there to see it.
Off you go, birds. I miss you already.
Here’s something I didn’t know about being a mom before I became one: every mother is POSITIVE that you are judging her.
It’s everywhere, this complete certainty that some superior mom (or jerk) is looking at us and thinking, “What the hell are you doing, you FUCKING IDIOT?” Nearly every mom essay I read, every podcast I listen to, almost every substantial conversation I have with another mom includes at least one moment of anxiety over what other moms must think. Maybe we anticipate all this judgment because we’ve experienced it first-hand or because we catch our own selves making assumptions about moms behind their backs (or to their faces!) or because we’re just DEAD ASS TIRED and, as a result, in a constant state of sleep-deprived paranoia.
Wherever it comes from, I feel it too. And it is such a huge drag.
I re-read some of the blog posts I’ve written here, where I’m questioning myself left and right, struggling to write a declarative sentence, alternately proud and horrified by one thing after another (what my kid is eating, how long I’ve been breastfeeding). You out there could read these blog posts and think, “What a pile of tumbleweeds in the shape of a person! Get an opinion, grown human being!”
See now, here I go, anticipating your judgments! HUGE DRAG.
But it’s also another thing to beat ourselves up about, as moms and as women. And we don’t need more. There’s so much already!
So, the next time I hear myself start to wildly justify some choice I’ve made about my kid (like, that I’m still breastfeeding him or watching him get knocked over by a big kid on the playground or hovering too closely behind him when he’s climbing the steps at said playground or sending him to school three whole days a week in the fall) and then wonder what somebody thinks about me or is gonna hypothetically say to me, I’m not going to berate myself for giving a shit.
What’s the use of a judgment on top of judgment? I’d much rather, in my many moments of super self-awareness, stop for a second to be impressed by my (overwhelming) sensitivity to other people. Like, “Wow, I am really tuned in to what this person may or may not be thinking about me. It’s a lot. It’s probably causing me to seem like a deer in the headlights or a freaked out robot, but I am really feeling their frequency right now. And that is something cool that I can DO!”
When I was 18, I had an eating disorder, which basically involved me not eating enough. My therapist at the time gave me this book with a title I can’t remember that said the first step to getting to a healthier place was to stop berating yourself for not eating. In fact, the book encouraged you to do the opposite, to congratulate yourself on the focus and energy you put into your eating disorder. It sounds so condescending, like telling a toddler who just took apart his complicated sippy cup and poured all of its milky contents onto his own lap, “Look at you! You’re so driven! You’re so committed!” We want to think problems can be solved by calling them PROBLEMS and then shouting them away. But we are delicate creatures. At least I am. I didn’t need one more reason to not like myself.
And I don’t need one more now, as I parent in a jungle filled with other parents. And if caring about what other people think is my eating disorder, then my only hope of recovery, my only hope for a future of (somewhat) impervious parenting, is to care with pride.
Look, I’m constantly awestruck by irreverent moms with big, loud opinions on things of little or MASSIVE importance, moms who clearly love their kids and who don’t seem to care if you know it or not. But if there is space for these mega moms to bulldoze past all the pettiness and niceties, there’s definitely space for me to tiptoe without shame. The parent ecosystem probably depends on the existence of every kind of mom variation in order for us all to survive.
When I was pregnant, I really wanted my future baby to be a boy. I don’t have any brothers, but I always wanted one. And I thought it might be easier to be a boy than a girl. I know my son is not my brother and I also know it might not be easier to be a boy, that it’s hard to just be a person. But I know the hard parts of being a girl. I know the hard parts of being a woman in a world that is not easy on women.
I figured that if I gave birth to a boy, I wouldn’t have to worry about modeling the same kinds of great qualities I’d need to model if I had a daughter. Body-image and self-esteem issues don’t come up with boys, right?? I realize, now that I have an actual human being to care for and not just an idea of one, that nobody is immune to these issues! I also realize that I am the woman my son will know best for a long time. To him, I am WOMAN. And if I don’t figure out how to be a woman who is, above all things, kind to herself, he’ll spend a long time not knowing what a woman who is kind to herself looks like and acts like and sounds like. I want my son to see me as the complicated and flawed person that I am and I also want him to see that I can handle being that person. Maybe it’ll make a tiny impression on him, enough of an impression to remind him one day, when he is feeling shitty about something one of his friends said to him in gym class (OF COURSE IN GYM CLASS), to be kind to himself, to be kind to the women he meets (in gym class and elsewhere) and to accept their complexities, to accept his own, and to love me, not in spite of or for my flaws, but because by being easier on myself, I’ve maybe been easier on him.
I had this hokey, embarrassing thought the other day — that when I was a kid, the word “like” was to be avoided, that using it in excess made you sound like a moron, but now, my generation of conclusive-sentence avoiders is largely responsible for turning that taboo into the fucking holy grail. We cannot get enough likes! We like! We want to be liked! And we are open about it, shameless even, and, maybe as a result, our talking is littered with likes. And there’s nobody to tell us to stop! Because we are, finally, in charge. We are the parents, the scolders! It’s, like, liberating. And unnerving.
I don’t want to start getting nostalgic this early. I don’t want to croak out things like, “when I was a kid,” cementing my oncoming irrelevance, as well as the likelihood that I will never again wear a pair of on trend pants. I want to not give a shit how people talk. And I kind of don’t. I heard the This American Life piece on vocal fry and found awesome their conclusion that the way we talk is always evolving and if you can’t get on board, you’re old, so shut up.
But I can’t yet make peace with the likes.
The Facebook likes. Some wretched day in the future, my son will create a Facebook profile. He will no longer be frantically trying to put tops on every single item in our apartment or doing impressions of elephants; he will be cropping a photo of himself that he hopes people will find hilarious/hot/intriguing (BARF). This whole thing is freakier to me these days than him mis-stepping his way off playground climbing structures or swallowing a dusty guitar pick. I am not afraid of a lot of things I probably should be afraid of, like bullies or predators or non-child-proofed apartments. I am afraid of him being human. I am afraid of him posting something, anything, an article, a picture of himself, a wry observation about the way shirts fit these days (shirts are going to fit so weirdly in 2030!), and of him waiting for someone to like it. There he will be, an iPhone hooked onto his thumbnail or the top half of his knee or something, his forehead knotted a little, the rest of his face trying to play it cool, as he checks to see if anybody heard him and wants to say so publicly. The idea of this kid waiting to be affirmed by the fascinating hellscape that is social media makes me anxious enough to question why I decided to have a chid at all.
I did not always want to be a mother. My parents graciously provided me with a younger sister to boss around and corral into playing the petite father in the classic American Girl Doll script, “Home Is Where the Heart Is: A Play About Kirsten”, which we performed in our neighbor’s driveway to an audience that was at least a quarter dogs. But then, I became a mother, on purpose, because it felt like there was a baby-shaped space in my life and because a miniature version of my husband sounded fun, interesting, and adorable. Abstract babies are incredible (and flawless and boring)! Real babies are incredible (and terrible and riveting) and I can see how much I did not know was coming because it is very hard to summon feelings for something with whom you have not yet spent a lot of time.
But we’ve done that now, amassed 10,000 hours together, and I anticipate his future approval seeking with the same terror I feel about my own. And, OK, yeah, I’m getting it now, that if I want a future for him that is at least somewhat free of a desire to please, I need to stop trying to please people myself. Crap. Why did I have a kid again? Was it perhaps a masochistic attempt to cultivate at-times overwhelming self-awareness, particularly of my myriad inadequacies? If so, IT WORKED!
Lance and I went out to dinner last Friday for our friend’s birthday and drank wine and had conversations that made us nod a lot in earnest and laugh and we sat outside in a lit up garden space and my arms felt weightless because there was nothing in them. It had been a while since that had happened. We walked through a few neighborhoods to get home and as we approached a quiet part of 6th Avenue, a woman and a man were walking out of an apartment building and his hand was on her elbow and she was taking deliberate steps and her face was focused and blank. There was another woman walking close to them and a third woman came from somewhere in the street, sliding between parked cars to meet the woman and the man, excited, taking the focused woman’s arms gently. The focused woman was in labor. These were her people, holding on to her, at hand to witness things and guard her and be needed. They all wanted to be needed.
The whole scene jammed a golf ball in my throat and we kept walking and I was crying and grinning, idiotically. 15 months ago, I was this woman. Another friend of ours was this woman early in the morning this past Mother’s Day. More and more people I know will be this woman and many more I don’t know will be, too. But until Friday night, I had not seen what the briefly lucid time-outside-time before motherhood actually begins looked like.
I don’t know if there’s a point to my seeing that woman, but I want there to be. I want the point to be that life is happening, heedlessly, away from the crowd of affirmers. The woman and I, we were people wearing spring clothing walking on our legs at night, both of us at the mercy of creatures much smaller than us, and there was no picture or video, except the one in my head. She won’t ever know I liked it. It won’t matter that I did, not to her anyway, because right now, I imagine her arms do not feel weightless. But to me, that image, the one I liked, can matter so much and I can recall it whenever I want and get tears in my eyes and feel the hot buzz of my single glass of wine in my legs and be alive, so luckily alive.
So, in 2030, when my son is nervously tapping away at his fancy hologram thumbnail retina phone, I’ll say to him the things I say to myself, like, “We’re all actually alone, you know, even the cool kids,” and “The internet is horseshit!” and he’ll smile patronizingly, like, “Good try, Mom”. But then I’ll say, “I know it’s a school night and it’s freezing, but let’s go out and get milkshakes or Skittles,” and he will not be able to turn me down because he will like at least one of those options (HE MUST) and he will be too anxious to stay home, twiddling his thumbnail screen. We will take to the streets of Brooklyn and we will see stuff, see people walking their trembling dogs and poorly parking their cars and tripping over patches of ice, all en route somewhere, and we will feel ourselves getting smaller and the world getting bigger and I will still be afraid of my son being human and wanting and waiting, but I will be human too and my humanness will make me impatient for my milkshake, so, instead of worrying, I’ll say, “C’mon, Sly, I’m hungry,” and to the diner we will go.
I was a picky eater. According to some books, picky eating is evidence that something is terribly wrong. But I think that the person who wrote that simply doesn’t have as discerning and sensitive a palate as I do. I think the person who wrote that is an agreeable tool. I mean, I have to think that. Otherwise, I’d need more therapy than I’m already getting.
So, I understand it when little kids don’t want to eat even the seemingly straightforward foods, like bananas, for example, because bananas are mushy and unnervingly sweet and they never refresh you the way a good piece of fruit should. Are they even actually a fruit? I’ll just say it: I think bananas are best made unrecognizable in bread and smoothies or, better yet, painted into still lifes.
Pickiness, while nothing to be ashamed of, is inconvenient and irritating to authority figures, particularly those who go food shopping. I had become such a figure. And, as it turned out, I was actually hoping he wasn’t like me. Parents talk such shit about picky eaters, they complain about them, they take the rejections personally, they forget how much a plain frozen pea really sucks. By parents, of course, I mean ME. I did these things. I JUST did these things.
I gave Sly hunks of banana to eat when he first started eating hunks of things. And he ate them! And I thought, “You know what? Bananas are pretty great, huh?” I didn’t say it out loud though because I read that you’re not supposed to comment on the food your kid is eating; just let them eat it. So, I just let him eat it. I was being a model mother. I was doing nothing wrong at all. We were buying five bananas a week.
Then Sly stopped eating banana. At first, I thought, “What a stupid food! Thanks for tolerating it as long as you did, kid, but I’m glad we’re done with that bland GARBAGE.” Other babies around us scarfed down hunks of banana like morons. But honestly, I didn’t think they were morons. I was really jealous. The fallen foods were multiplying, among them bananas of varying ripeness, sweet potato, avocado, eggs, toast (TOAST?!), strawberries, and, naturally, peas. (Aside from the toast and strawberries, I would have had nothing to do with any of these foods until late in high school at the earliest.)
A few months later, Sly caught on to how grown-ups eat bananas and he was intrigued. I know he was intrigued because, when he was 10 months old, he stole a banana from an actor named Jimmy at a rehearsal to which I’d brought him. Jimmy was very nice about it. Sly ate almost the whole thing and I don’t think Jimmy had any other snacks. So after the Jimmy debacle, I started peeling bananas and let Sly take bites. He was so proud of himself. Those five minutes he’d spend gingerly eating one of my least favorite foods were filled with joy and wonder for me. I’d equate it to watching your child pop wheelies or crest a wave on a surfboard, but scaled back a bit. This went on for a few weeks.
One day, I offered a banana, Sly took a bite, spit it on the floor and walked away. Either the banana was tainted or he was confused. Or maybe concussed. He must’ve been concussed! I tried again, chasing after him with the non-fruit flapping in my hand. “Do you want to try it again?” I asked, smiling. “It’s really good,” I said, doing the thing that I’d read I wasn’t supposed to do, and also lying. “Look, I’m eating it!” I shouted, and then I took a bite. It was horrible. The banana, my desperation, all the feeding rules I was breaking.
So important had it become to me that my son consume all of the foods he once entertained but now would firmly not that, two days ago on the playground, I gestured to his friend who was eating a mozzarella cheese stick and said, “Sly, do you see Maya eating her cheese?” Sly didn’t see Maya because he was already halfway to the metal horse twenty feet from us. “Neigh, neigh,” he yelled. The horse wasn’t going to make him eat anything. The horse let Sly pet his cold metal side.
I was madly pinballing between what I’d read in books and online about HOW TO FEED YOUR CHILD SUCCESSFULLY AND EASILY AND HEALTHFULLY and what my son actually wanted to eat and my own depths of eating empathy (these depths are, in fact, profound - I didn’t put milk in my cereal until college). Who had I become? I can’t blame Instagram and all the photos of stainless steel lunch box compartments artfully filled with brightly colored fruits and vegetables and rare grains. When you find yourself getting angry at Instagram or Pinterest or parenting blogs, you probably need a nap or snack. You probably, if you are like me, need to fling your phone halfway across the room and forget where it went for several hours.
I swore off lima beans the first time I tasted them, no matter the sauce or the salting. But I’ve always loved broccoli and grapefruits. I’ve even grown to adore marinara sauce, though I once politely asked my friend’s mother to wash it off my pasta before resuming our Golden Girls viewing on her waterbed. If young, picky Katie was here for all this mishegas, I think she’d call me buster and tell me to back off. She’d tell me that I didn’t actually know everything and that she did know some things! She’d ask me to boil water for pasta and make sure we had Parmesan cheese. She’d disappear into my son’s room and I’d overhear him laughing really hard at some old lady voice she was doing, probably making fun of me.
When I look at my son, I can’t connect him not wanting to eat certain foods with him struggling in life in general. Pickiness is, for a lot of kids, just an assertion of independence and a phase. But if, like me, he’s a picky eater for a long time, then may he always have a compatriot in a world that doesn’t give him a break. May that person be me and may I respond to yet another person asking, “Is he a good eater?”, with kindness, good will, and the words, “Who fucking cares?”