She starts kicking her legs vigorously as I place her in the high chair, a physical exclamation at the excitement of an anticipated meal. I can’t get the candy-colored bib fastened to her neck soon enough, can’t assemble the tiny coated spoon or stout glass jars fast enough. She’s impatient for nourishment.
There’s a pop as I twist open the jar of apples and blueberries, banana cinnamon oatmeal, sweet potatoes and chicken. Her legs kick again, pistons pumping. Her tiny mouth opens mechanically, a trap door to her gustatory system: open, shut, open, shut. She knows the loaded spoon is coming and the hatch complies. I know when she’s eager like this she’ll complain if I don’t shovel fast enough, if I don’t keep up with her hunger for more.
If I feed her a taste she disapproves of there’s a pause in the rhythm, she considers for a moment and gives a tiny grunt. She might accept another small bite of the spinach and peas or grainy carrots. I imagine her letting it roll on her tongue but the texture or consistency or substance just doesn’t agree. So she’ll shove out her lower lip in defiance and reject the offensive flavor, sealing her mouth tight to reject the advances of my spoon.
I quickly switch to an alternative option, a fruit I know she’ll accept: the old reliable apples or pears. A little dribble of saucy food on her chin, I scoop it up and into her mouth. This is a dance between us two, coordinated and practiced, we each anticipate the next step. It takes effort, these three meals a day. It’s messy and repetitive. I’m still nursing in between the solid food servings and the combination makes some days feel like my only job is to provide her sustenance.
I look at my two older children who shovel their own food, who can make their own pb&j sandwiches, who can take their own dishes to the sink and help unload the dishwasher. It won’t be long before this baby won’t need me; she’ll be able to feed herself.
I know when she slows her tempo, I can follow suit. Her legs stop pumping so frantically, her squeal of impatience subsides. She looks around the room, turns her head to the side, regards her siblings. I imagine her savoring the food a bit more carefully, considering what this mama of hers is providing, developing her own tastes, her own preferences, becoming the person she is.