I have blogged earlier about this seeming obsessison which Indian aunties have about a child’s weight and how their comments can make you feel extremely inadequate as a parent. One major consequence of this is that you are always very stressed and wound up during a child’s meal time. At least I am.
Funnily enough, before I became a mother, I thought I will be a cool mom, who respects the child and allows her to eat whatever she wants. But I have turned out to be one of those terror moms when it comes to eating. I think my daughter must be visualizing me as a giant who hovers over her with a big spoon. And because of my constant injunctions to her that she must eat, she has picked up the tamil words for eat (sapudu) and must eat (sapadanum) almost simultaneously. She probably thinks they always go together.
It is not that we dont try to make eating fun. Although she is restrained in her chair, we otherwise strive for variety. Breakfast and evening snacks are given in the garden so she can observe the birds and eat. We narrate stories, we sing songs, we engage in conversation. We encourage her to eat on her own, and appreciate all her attempts at self feeding.
But underneath all the fun, there remains an element of anxiety. Will she eat her minimum threshold in this meal. Will she create a problem from first spoon. What will attract. her, what is the game for the meal. Kids are quite perceptive, and I am sure she senses the anxiety and realizes she has power over me. Recently, she was trying to eat her vegetables, and pretended to eat two spoonfulls, when the spoon was actually empty. My usual response to such behavior is a stern ‘eat properly’. But on that day, I knew she actually liked the vegetable and would eat it. And I was too tired to even speak to her sternly. She looked at me expectantly. When I remained silent, she told herself sternly, ‘Eat Properly.’
I am myself a fussy eater (as an adult and even more so as a child). At a logical level I realize that some days kids eat more and sometimes they eat less. But that still does not seem to exempt me from the feeling that my entire capability as a parent is being tested during every meal time.