So Skinny! Are you not feeding your baby?

The first gurgle that I heard from my older one when he was an infant resulted in regurgitated milk all over me. It was harrowing. You get a tiny, wiggling baby to suckle, often tickling the soles of his feet because he’d abandon his quest a tad bit too soon, and as you gently pat him for the mandatory burp, out comes everything – right down to the last drop. It frequently happened past midnight when the need for sleep, mixed with exhaustion resulted in two bawling beings – the regurigtator and the food machine.

During those colicky months, I discovered I was more of a zombie than a human, I could do perfectly fine without a bath for at least two days and without brushing my hair for five, and I could walk for miles in stealth mode. I consoled myself thinking that once he started having other stuff, life would get better. I had assumed that the colic would go away. It did. Only to be replaced by a full-blown puke-fest. The boy refused to experiment with textures. He reminded me of the princess who got sores since there was a darned pea buried somewhere. He just took everything out the moment a quarter of a pea touched the tip of his tongue. After torturing him and myself over quite a few meals, I resigned. My boy was not going to be a chewer.

Watching other babies his age munching away at fruits gave me panic attacks. I pictured him going to school carrying a cup full of gloop everyday. I tried to lure him with chocolate. That’s when we discovered that he hates sweets. So not only did I have a non-chewer at hand, he was a non-believer too. I crossed out a future memory that I had built of gifting him the biggest bar of chocolate and stealing half of it from him. That seemed unlikely in light of the new knowledge.

A year later, he was still not the quintessential chubby baby whose cheeks wobbled for at least a minute after he had stopped waddling. The doctor repeatedly told me, ‘He is gaining weight. I’d be worried if he were losing. Do I look worried? If he wants mashed food just blend everything and give it to him! Have you ever seen a twenty year old mash up his food?’ Truth was that I hadn’t seen such specimens. But then mine was a peculiar specimen too. After all who hates chocolate? What if he did carry a blender everywhere! Indescribable images of middle school and a boy with a blender floated into my head. And I tried again with a vengeance – every food group, every cuisine was tried. Everything ended up on floor, along with the day’s breakfast from the deepest pit of his stomach.

The man amidst all this had been very calm. All he said was, ‘He is happy eating gloop? We feed him gloop.’ I wanted to crack his skull open.

‘The baby is okay but what about everyone else? Do you have any idea what all I have to hear? ‘ And I went on to rattle off the list of things that so called well-meaning people had to say:

  1. He is skinny. You are probably not feeding him enough.
  2. He eats mashed food! When will he learn to chew?
  3. He’ll never get strong teeth. They’ll fall out. You should try to get him started on solids.
  4. Yellow teeth. And definitely out of line. He’ll need braces.
  5. And then there was the classic – The mothers today are always in a hurry. Mash up food and finish dinner in five minutes. We used to run after them for hours to feed them.

He smiled. ‘So it is about you and not him?’

For that one historic moment, he left me speechless. It indeed had been about me. The doctor’s words came back. ‘Is he doing everything else? Playing? Sleeping? Then don’t be so harsh on yourself. He is fine!’

All along, I had been looking for everyone else’s approval. I wanted him to be that child who just bit into the rolled up chapatti. However, he was the one who had all sorts of vegetables, dals and rice cooked, blended and sieved. In my bid to scream to the world that I was doing a decent job, I forgot that I was actually excelling at it. The food that he was having was packed with all nutrients humanly possible. It was so healthy that no one in the right frame of his mind could have ingested it. Yet here he was, wolfing everything down quickly to be able to get out of the high chair. I didn’t run around after him for hours.

That day I made some conscious choices. I chose to plug my ears when people commented about his eating habits or weight. I chose to pat myself on the back. I chose to recognize the bowl of green slime as real food, and I chose to let him be. I chose to be happy. And it hasn’t backfired. Because that very gloop-monster, now at 14 years, just stole the last bit of masala fries from my plate and gobbled it up before I could snatch it back.

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