Today we went out to dinner with some friends. Their kids, being a little older, need no real prompting at the dinner table other than the occasional call to manners.
Herr Meow has always needed more than a little entreaty to eat, specifically. So lately I find it’s a strange and delightful new territory to have to worry less and less about it.
But worry I do, still.
Herr Meow is an average child, born to underwhelmingly average parents. We’re both of average weight and average height, and both of us wear average sizes across the board. Maybe it’s a little boring, but at least you know you’ll always find your size at a store, right?
And so when little Meow-boos was born, he was a non-non-plussing 50th percentile child. And all through his well visits, he’s never really gone beyond the 65th percentile for anything. I was reassured that there was nothing to worry about, and yet it seemed that I was subliminally encouraged to introduce more solids and make sure he ate more often or consider that he might be anemic somehow, or, you know, regard that percentile as a starting-off point for negotiations. It was never anything outright: I was never actively told that he was nothing if not healthy, which thankfully he has been. But there was always that nagging and solicitous “helpful suggestion” tacked on to the end of a conversation that would make me paranoid even if there was nothing to worry about.
Because, after all, 50th percentile is right in the middle. There is a whole other set of percentage points to get to on the top (Awesome! Healthy! Corn-fed! All-American! Strapping! Built like a linebacker! All boy! BIG BOY!), and only 49 other percentage points separating you from the perceived “losers” –i.e. those kids who happen to be even smaller than mine for their age (God forbid, right? You mean there are kids in the twenty-fifth? Not skin and bones??).
Conversations with mothers never help. You think they might, and well… okay, some do. The conversations with mothers who’ve been there before or can identify with you usually work, because you don’t feel as alone and there is a feeling of alliance– that if her kid isn’t eating his or her food, that maybe you’re not doing something wrong or there is nothing wrong with your own kid.
But even the most well-meaning of mothers whose child is a regular Hoover, clawing at her arm to eat some more, can rub you the wrong way when you’re trying desperately to entice your own child with a delicious Cheerio– the only food he seems willing to eat, but only every other day of an odd-numbered month wherein a blue moon will occur.
Understanding my child and his needs took time, and it still is not an easy road.
Preferring drinking to eating was the thing about Herr Meow that I couldn’t grasp right away– for him the allure of breast milk was superior to any meal he could ever have or want, and this made solids a second-best source of nourishment. When he was introduced to water, milk and diluted juices, that brought along some hope and advancement.
However, in all fairness, the one thing that made a difference was not just the understanding but the acceptance that this average mother and father produced an average child of average weight who prefers liquids to solids. An average child who’ll never be corpulent, hefty, husky, off-the-charts, or possibly obese. A child who’s on the skinny side just like his dad, and who is incredibly active, and who weighs the same as an 18-month old we met a few weeks back (we’re still scratching our heads over that one).
A healthy, average child, nothing more and nothing less.
Somehow acceptance, while being the most logical outcome, is a last resort kind of alternative to life’s perceived problems.
Nowadays, Herr Meow eats, and well. It happened slowly, as he developed his own tastes and opinions and little toddler pseudophobias. But he is slowly finding his way and recognizing that food is a wonderful thing to have and share, as well as a great social experiment. And I couldn’t be more pleased or relieved, because my baby eats.
Maybe I don’t worry about it as much, even if I still do prompt and nag.
Maybe I’ll find something else to worry about. For now.