Because there are days when Stella and I are in a groove, the house is cluttered but not too messy, we have an deeeeelightful outing to Gymboree or the library, Stella sets a new smiling record, and I sink a flag triumphantly into the top of Good Mom Mountain. Then there are the days in which Stella wakes up at 4:30 a.m., eats nothing but cheese and carbs, we don’t leave the house, Stella’s whining reaches epic heights, and I feel like I’m putting FEMA’s Brownie to shame. “Hek of a job, Mommy. Hek of a job.” I get depressed, usually only very briefly but it doesn’t help the rally effort. (That’s when I turn to my sidekick, Coffee.)
Of course, Stella’s eating is an easy trigger for me. When I think back about what she ate today, I don’t feel great. (Why am I thinking back on it then? Great question! Also, ever notice how “not great” is always used as a huge understatement and rarely in a literal way?) My posture reveals that I feel “less than” today. I want to confront it right now to see if my guilt is even justified. I want to look this sinking feeling in the food-covered face. So, LET’S DO THIS…
She had cottage cheese for breakfast with maybe 4 ounces of OJ and a couple bites of wheat toast with the best apricot jam ever made on this planet. Then she had half a banana and water as a rather minimal snack considering the size of breakfast, the kind of snack you might enjoy if incarcerated. Followed by a large helping of my own mac n’ cheese (at least I use whole wheat pasta) and some canned-but-organic baked beans (“lots of iron” I tell myself every other second while she’s eating the sugary legumes) and whole milk. I diced some granny smith to go alongside, knowing full well it was pointless. (I think she had one piece the size of a pea.) She reluctantly had a small serving of oatmeal cooked in cider (with apple sauce and canned pumpkin or squash and milk mixed in after cooking) for the second snack. Then, as seems to be the trend, she didn’t really have a proper dinner because it wasn’t ready by the time she got hungry, so I just fed her many bits of leftover turkey, and a couple grapes as she ran around. (Stella will only eat grapes standing up, she will only spit them out while sitting in her highchair.) As always, we sat down as a family for supper, and I think she had half of a baked sweet potato fry, a few bites of toast (not even close to whole wheat) and more turkey, and milk.
Oh, just reading that, I feel like an idiot. I can see that it’s not a big deal. I can do better, sure. A consistent serving of vegetable would be ace. She’ll do zucchini and cauliflower if I sautee them in olive oil and throw some grated Parmesan on them. Sometimes, peas. If I roast them in just the right way with tomatoes while the planets are aligned with the sun, she’ll have a few pieces of soft carrot. She’ll eat broccoli if we pretend it’s only for us and not for her (I wish I were joking). I’ll work on it. Or maybe I won’t “work on it.” I’ll just try to cook up a batch at the beginning of the week, freeze/refrigerate servings, put them out with her meals and do very little working or worrying on or about it.
So the only other thing hanging over my head at the end of this somewhat “off” day is our activity–or lack thereof. I’m still so unsure about what Stella needs in terms of activities and outings and socialization at this age. I wish I could be more confident in regards to what we do or don’t do. I’m still a bit overly concerned about making sure she snacks and eats well at meals, and this prevents me from being more adventurous at times. I wind up feeling like a lazy ass, or that I’m dooming Stella to my legacy of social awkwardness. But again, I waffle. Sometimes I’m utterly convinced that a 15-month-old does not need expensive “lessons” or other structured programs and that we all need to chill the hell out. Then the next minute, I’m terrified that Stella is missing out or not getting what she needs.
I guess I have some questions: Is mothering confidence even achievable, realistically? How do you know that your toddler is really getting what they need, as they’re moody regardless of what we do? Stella is 15 months old and not in preschool yet–is she going to fail out of kindergarten?
To complete this waffling cycle, I’ll end on a high note. Cody, Stella and I had a fabulous day on Friday at Seattle Center. We hit the Children’s Museum, then walked around the International Fountain, which Stella and I both love and could watch and listen to for hours. (The sky-high and dramatic waterworks are set to sync up with music in mesmerizing fashion.) While at The Children’s Museum, we watched Stella have a ball. Then it happened. In the kid-sized mock grocery store, she played in an amazingly collaborative way with a slightly older boy. OH MY GOD. They were an awesome team. Totally in tune. She unloaded plastic produce (totally eschewing cans and packaged goods, by the way) and handed it to this kid one by one so he could scan it. They were a MACHINE. The timing was amazing. Just as he was done scanning the last item, she was there with the next. He said, “Thank you!” (Stella’s favorite thing to say) every time. She smiled. This was more than mere parallel play and it went on for a very long time. We were ridiculously proud and impressed.
So, what am I worried about? Clearly, Stella is already more socially adept than me. And she’s obviously ready for part-time employment. She’s wonderful. I’m doing something right. Or maybe we parents think we’re more important than we really are. What a relief that would be. At the end of the caffeine-laced, near-veggie-less day, I just want her to be healthy and happy, without my going insane.