Originally published in the Miami News-Record on May 8, 2016.
My firstborn gagged to the point of tears and would throw up any green baby food that was put into her face. She loved squash and sweet potatoes, all of the fruits were fine, but peas and green beans? Barf City. I was an avid reader of any and all parenting books (this was before we had the internet at our fingertips 24/7) and the firm belief was that after ten exposures to a food the child would magically love it and develop a lifetime of healthy eating habits. I mean, it was in the THE BOOKS so of course, it was true, right? Drs. T. Berry Brazelton and Penelope Leach all heartily agreed that picky eaters were a thing of the past because TEN TIMES OF EATING A FOOD WILL CURE PICKINESS. And I believed it.
I believed it so much that when on the 11th time I coaxed her cherubic little mouth into accepting a little plastic spoon full of green beans and she promptly spewed forth something completely Exorcist-worthy, I busted into tears. Why did she throw up?? Why did she not do the cute little smacking thing she does with applesauce and squash? IS SHE BROKEN?
So then I did what seemed like the next logical thing to do: I called my mother. I got her machine. She was out gallivanting about town while I was having a pureed vegetable crisis involving her first grandchild. The nerve! So the next logical thing was to call the Gerber hotline. Yes, I was that parent. The sweet woman who took my call was probably a grandmother – or a seasoned momma at the least – and listened while I hysterically explained that the green beans were not being accepted by my infant daughter and the doctors on TV assured me this was a foolproof method to ensure a healthy, well-rounded child who would be open to trying such foods as hummus and calamari. She listened. Then when I was done she calmly and sweetly said, “Sweetie? Have you ever thought that maybe she just doesn’t like green beans?” *blink blink* Well, no I had not actually thought of that. I thanked her for her advice and hung up. On a whim stuck my tongue to the spoon full of green goop and gagged. I didn’t make her try them a 12th time.
I took an infant Sam to the pediatrician once. When poor unsuspecting Dr. Ross walked in the room I held him out at arm’s length and said, “Fix him. He. Is. Broken.” She listened to my tearful description of his incessant screaming, his constant squealing, his perpetual noise-making while she played with him and looked him over from head to toe. I suggested he was hearing impaired – why else would he scream all the time? It wasn’t crying. Just screaming. So much screaming. She finished her exam, patted a jabbering toddler-faced Abby on the head, then handed Sam back to me.
“He’s perfectly fine, Momma. He just likes to hear his voice. Apparently a lot. But he’s normal. And you? You need a nap. Let your husband or mother take the kids for a few hours. And don’t be so hard on yourself. Because I know you are.” It was like she knew me! Then I remembered she had gone on maternity leave the week after Sam was born. So she was there in the trenches with me. And maybe her little boy was noisy, too.
So to all my fellow mommas out there: You are not alone. You have a very important job and it’s an exhausting one. And you are most of the time your own worst critic. Chill, my dear. Enjoy the smudges, toys, sticky-on-everything part of their toddler years, the eye-rolling, smelly parts of their teenage years, and the worry-filled and joyous parts of their adulthood. Relax. Enjoy your day. Enjoy Motherhood. And have a happy Mother’s Day! Seriously. I mean it. I SAID enjoy yourself. Stop touching your brother! And don’t pick your nose!
Oops, sorry. Occupational hazard.