Monday, November 24, 2014

Parenthood: Week 78 - Cooking For Ollie: Part 1

There are instinctual, almost primal responses that parents demonstrate when taking care of their children. When parents hear their baby cry, without thinking, they reach to pick up their child to comfort the baby. If a baby has a dirty diaper or is cold, parents immediately act to address the issue. One of the most primal urges as a parent is make sure that a child is fed.

It makes sense from an evolutionarily stand point that we as parents react with such urgency to address the basic needs of survival for our children. These instincts are what keep our species alive, but they also present challenges in our modern world.

The deal was when Ollie was a baby that Diana would be in charge of what goes in Ollie and I’d be in charge of what came out of him. This is a joke that many people make when the wife in a couple breastfeeds. When a couple chooses that their child is breastfed it often puts the vast majority of responsibility for feeding the child on the woman’s shoulders (or more literally, the woman’s breasts). While it may make sense from a “splitting child care duties” perspective that the dad would do his share by changing diapers, taking care of the “output” doesn’t fulfill, the primal desire to be involved in feeding the child.

One of the ways my parents have shown their love and care for me has been through of food. I have fond memories of growing up and watching cooking shows with my mother and whenever we get together we are often all involved in the joy of cooking together. I wanted to create these memories with Ollie.

When we got to the point of bottle feeding (which I wrote about this post) one of my motivations that got me through this difficult process was my desire to feed Ollie and show him I cared for him through food. It was a process but it eventually clicked and even now, almost a year later, I love feeding him a bottle.

As Ollie started to be able to eat solids, we got really excited. Like most parents I was worried about the right order to introduce foods, choking, and allergies. On a breast milk diet you don’t worry about balanced meal, but with solids, there becomes an extra level of thought and responsibility attached to taking care of the “intake.”

Like many people told me, it was so much fun introducing solids to Ollie those first couple months. We steamed food, made purees, cooking meat and rice down into soft mush and watch him learn how to eat from utensils. It was adorable and the sense of exploration and wonder Ollie approached every new food was inspiring and something that we as adults often forget about.

As Ollie got older and more and more foods were introduced, we got to the point when we didn’t think as hard about what foods to give him. We kind of went with a baby-led weaning technique. He had purees but also had solids pretty early on and we for the most part let Ollie pick up his own food and eat with his hands. Why this approach? It’s felt right and worked with our lifestyle and with Ollie.

I started cooking him all kinds of foods including mini-omelets, meat loaf, veggies, and pasta dishes. At a about year old he would stick almost anything in his mouth and try to eat it joyfully. Ollie would swallow handfuls of vegetables without hesitation and look up at as with pride.

I had so a lot of fun adapting whatever I was cooking for Ollie. Most of the time that meant cooking a little bit longer so that it was softer or cutting things into smaller pieces. However for the most part I did not have to dramatically change what I would normally cook. Ollie would be excited to eat whatever I placed in front of him. I loved cooking for my whole family and introducing the world of food to Ollie.

Then things started to change. As Ollie made the transition into being a toddler and walking around, he started refusing to eat certain foods. Instead of joyfully trying whatever I gave him, sometimes he needed coaxing. Then there was the night I cooked a nice meal for our family and he refused to eat it. As much as Diana showed gratitude for my efforts, I was frustrated and annoyed.

I felt like a failure and I didn’t know what to do.  Were the days of cooking joyfully for Ollie over?

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