Monday, December 1, 2014

Parenthood - Week 79: Feeding Mr. Ollie Part 2

I guess Ollie throwing food I cooked for him on the floor is part cosmic justice.

 Diana and I were both picky eaters growing up. I was born without a fully developed stomach, which meant that I could only eat very small quantities of food growing up. This developed into some very picky eating habits and me rarely finishing the food that was put in front of me. I remember a break-through in middle school when I finished a bowl of noodles for the first time and how shocked my mom was when she saw the empty bowl.

The stories about Diana are different but similar. She didn't like her food to mixed together. So if she got served a casserole, she would take apart the different parts and only eat specific ingredients of the dish and usually not that much of what she was given. Diana as a child didn't like sauces and would rather eat bland things like raw oatmeal and milk.

We were both picky eaters when we were kids and we both caused our parents frustration with simply getting us to eat food. The thing is that we both turned out to be adults who have a healthy relationship with food, so as much as it concerns me at times that Ollie is being a picky eater, I know he'll be fine.

The first person I regularly cooked for was Diana. She is extremely appreciative of my efforts in the kitchen whether its Chicken Fricassee or boxed Mac 'n Cheese. Even though I welcome Diana's feedback on my cooking, it sometimes hurts my feelings when she tells me that she doesn't like what I cook. However in these situations, she is very careful with her words and she always speaks with respect and constructive criticism.

The second person I prepared meals for was a different situation.

Dogs' ancestors did not eat regular meals. This meant that when there was food, they would eat as much of it as possible and also they got used to not eating very often. For modern dogs, this means that a dog will eat the food they are given quickly (sometimes so quickly it causes digestion issues) or with Buffy, little interest in their food.

This was one of the biggest worries I had about Buffy when she was a puppy. At least half of the time when we'd give her food, she wouldn't eat it immediately. We were assured by our veterinarian and other people that she would eat when she was hungry, but still it was concerning. She was such a little puppy. At a certain point I crushed up some treats and seasoned her food with those crumbs, which did get her to eat her food. Later we mixed in a little wet food or Parmesan cheese into her kibble to peak her interest and eventually we got to the point where we are right now where Buffy eats her food as soon as we put it out.

Buffy was a picky eater and I think part of it had to do with her personality and her growth spurts. She's a very smart dog and at some point she figured out that if she held out and didn't eat her food I would eventually give in and do something to make her food more delicious. Like me and Diana, Buffy ended up being fine. Her weight has been fine her entire life and a couple years ago, she was even a little overweight (which has since been rectified). Now with the regular scraps of food flying off of Ollie's high chair, I know she's getting plenty of food.

So now I got a toddler who sometimes rejects my food. There’s a multitude of reasons that he might not want to eat what I give him. He might have had a snack too close to dinnertime or he's just not in the mood to eat what I'm serving. It's not like he can articulate to me what he's in the mood to eat for dinner the day before.

Even if Ollie is simply being moody and irrationally temperamental, he has no idea that there is an emotional component of rejecting food that someone has prepared for you. That's a lesson for him to learn in years to come. For right now, he is reacting to the food based on instincts.

After Ollie had a several instances when he rejected food that I cooked, I realized that cooking for Ollie was a unique and at time, fun challenge. I've figured out through trial and error how Ollie's food palette works. Sometimes I cook food for him, like a vegetable pasta sauce and other times I cook meals that I enjoy that I know Ollie probably will not.

Over time I'll learn to deal with Ollie as he will probably become a pickier eater. While I know this is going to be difficult, Diana and I want to make sure that this doesn't lead to eating becoming a battle. Yes, Ollie needs to learn to take polite bites of food, and show appreciation to the people who prepare for food for him. However we are not going to make Ollie sit and finish a plate if he's not hungry and we aren't going to fight him to eat. Yes, this may go against our instinct to make sure that he's fed, but he'll be fine and he can always eat later.

Food is an adventure, a cultural experience, and a way to understand the world. Ollie's experiences into the world of food has been difficult at times but it's always been an adventure and I'm looking forward to helping him along as he continues his journey.

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