So the baby’s first feeding went well. M.E. eagerly opened her mouth like a little bird and smacked her lips when she got her first taste of solids a week ago. She giggled and grinned. Her body language and lively expressions suggested the experience was fun, yummy, and something she’d enjoy repeating.
But the next day when I attempted to feed her, she recoiled and glared at me with absolute repugnance. Since then I’ve unsuccessfully tried to feed her mushed up avocados and bananas, placing them in front of her so she could eat and explore their textures on her own.
Both dishes inspired disgust. When I used my finger as a spoon and placed a taste on her tongue, she looked at me with wide, pleading eyes that seemed to be saying, “Please stop poisoning me.”
Then she started to gag. Oh dear. We have another drama queen on our hands.
I’m following her lead. I’m content to nurse her as often as she likes. I’m not worried about her reluctance to start solids even when all the parenting books say she shows all the signs of being ready.
Fortunately, both Rae and Madeline gulped down solids as soon as they hit the six-month mark. I never had to worry, but I admit I probably would have – especially with my firstborn. As a new mom, I paid far too much attention to all those milestone charts. Was she on schedule to do this or to do that? My Type A personality definitely trickled down into my parenting. I was overly eager for each new phase. When she was rolling, I was ready for crawling. When she was crawling, I couldn’t wait to see her toddle along on her two feet. I anticipated the day when her conversations with her toes would become exchanges with me. I was well prepared for her pediatrician checkups and could recount exactly when she first sat up unsupported, when her babbling turned into real words, when those tiny fingers mastered the pincher grasp. Her achievements were documented to the hour, minute, and second.
Now I do well to remember exactly how old M.E. is. Getting close to 7 months, right?
Oh, it’s still exciting to watch my baby change (seemingly by the hour these days), but I’m not in a hurry for the next stage. Maybe it’s because I know that when a baby meets a milestone like eating solids, she’s that much closer to no longer needing my body to feed her or to being comforted simply by nestling close to me and hearing the familiar rhythms of my heart.
Babies don’t keep. Neither do toddlers. Or preschoolers. Milestones now seem to be nothing more than evidence of this.
When I was asked, “How many times a day does she nurse, and for how long?” at M.E.’s recent well-child visit, I wanted to say, “Enough.” But I knew the nurse wanted numbers, so I made some up.
“Have you started solids?”
“Yes, but she’s not interested yet.”
“Well, she’s obviously growing,” the nurse remarked giving props to her chunky thighs and Michelin Man rolls.
Perhaps M.E. will be ready for solids next month. Or not. As the nurse observed, she’s obviously thriving. That’s the important thing. No need to fret over the whens or hows of her development.
Baby by baby, I’m learning that it’s usually best to allow young saplings to grow according to their nature. You can bend the twig all you want, and you can be sure that the tree will grow – but maybe not by your own or that competitive mom you meet at the playground’s timetable. She may not grow how you expected her to grow either. The ballerina you dreamed of may prefer digging in the dirt for earthworms to practicing pirouettes. While you can prune your children to encourage new growth and to help them lean into the Light, they will take their own unique shape. Just as I tend to kill houseplants by watering them too much, I have to resist the temptation to micromanage my children. It’s my job to give them strong roots and to invest time in nurturing them. But then I have to take a step back and give my children the space and the freedom to bloom all on their own.
*I really wanted to post a photo of our little one and her delicious rolls, but something is wrong with our computer that stores our ridiculous amount of digital photographs. We have approximately 2,372 (give or take) of our firstborn and about 20 of M.E. (Well, probably a few more than that, but we’re past the stage of taking pictures of every single milestone like when your precious offspring picks her nose for the first time). We’re not sure when we’re going to be able to fix the problem. My husband built the computer himself, but he’s been too busy with work and studying to perform surgery on the ailing beast and computer nerd I am not. (Though my nerdiness manifests itself in other ways such as in my love for charts and lists, an occasional snort-laugh, and in this completely unrelated addendum to an otherwise un-nerdy post.)