I often feel a slight sense of nervousness when I have to feed our daughter. My wife appears to succeed with ease and grace here but when I face the seemingly obstacle-free task of satiating the appetite of a ravenous munchkin it can go either way.
A few weeks ago, the stand-off reignited. I was in charge of dinner and something told me the little one knew it. I had potentially half succeeded given I was using something mummy had cooked. But after the first few harmonious spoonfuls, the battle began. The angle of the frown, the puce red of her angry face and the blood-curdling waving of her fork told me any further efforts were futile in this brutal Tuesday evening dinner war.
Keen to get some more calories in her, I retreated and fell back on our old reliable friend yoghurt. As I handed her the spoon with a dollop of her favourite Greek export on, I wondered would she eat anything that came out of a yoghurt pot? If I put a fork laden with the aforementioned dinner into an empty yoghurt pot, would she eat that because of its supposed provenance? I had to find out whether this pincer movement would work.
Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War back in the 6th Century and its expertise is still revered today. He always advised against trying the pincer movement but I figured things had moved on and now was the time to reignite the manoeuvre on my kitchen battlefield.
It worked – she couldn’t help herself. Shrouded by the opaque white plastic, each spoonful of that evening’s meal emerged from its yoghurt pot trench and into her mouth, without quarrel.
The problem I have now though is that the little one is becoming too clever. It’s much more difficult to trick her and it seems even at just the ripe old age of 16 months she’s no fool. We quite often try to have another go at foods she’s decided, for one reason or another, she doesn’t like any more in spite of being happy to wolf them down just a few months ago. The other night it was hummus. We put some the smallest bit on some bread for her and within a nano-second of it glancing her taste buds the disgusted ‘urgh, what’s that’ face rapidly appeared and the tongue went into overdrive to escort the invader out with as much courtesy as a bouncer pays a drunk student at 3am in the morning.
We’ve had the same thing with other foods too. Attempts to disguise them are proving increasingly futile and the success of the yoghurt pot offensive seems to be rapidly fading into the distance like a curry house still dining out on its glorious win for the best lamb bhuna in 1997.
I think what I’ve learned though is not to stress about it too much yet. I figure if she is really hungry she’ll perhaps eat what’s in front of her. And if she doesn’t want to eat it, any attempt at re-engineering her view on the dish is only likely to lead to a loss on my front.
A famous story within my wife’s family is of her asking for a banana and her dad saying she could only have it if she ate it all, which of course she confirmed she would. A bite or two in though and the stand-off erupted. The stubborn toddler was full but the stubborn dad was insistent.
I can be stubborn… and while it is a little early to prescribe characteristics to a 16-month old, I reckon my little one might be willing to put her foot down once in a while too. We’ll have to see if my attempts at a laissez-faire attitude towards how much she eats persist or whether ‘banana-gate 2’ is just around the corner.