Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Price of Progress

Feeding an infant from a bottle is pretty easy. You fill a bottle with breast milk or formula and the kid does the rest of the work.

A liquid trail might run from the bottle past his chin to his chest soaking his shirt or onesie but, on the whole, it’s a neat and tidy affair.

Give ‘em a burp when the bottle is done and that’s all she wrote. You’ve got a baby with a full tummy who is either ready for sleep or – in the case of midnight feedings – ready to go back to sleep.
Pictured: the good old days.

But, like all good things in life, bottle feedings are fleeting. In complete defiance of my plan to freeze time and as part of her plan to ensure our son does indeed grow up, Mrs. Blackwell has insisted on feeding the boy more and more food. Real, people food.

He’s got the teeth now, so why not put them to use right?

Wrong. And let me tell you why.

First, unless you’re talking about a fruit blend, baby food doesn’t taste like what it says it is. Macaroni and cheese. Beef and Vegetables. Turkey, with peas and carrots. They all sound good don’t they? But, when it's baby food they all taste the same. Baby food is proof that ‘vague’ is a taste. And it’s all that same pureed soupiness. Ick.

But the food’s not for you and because babies aren’t exactly Anthony Bourdain, they don’t discriminate and instead they swallow.

The next pillar in my case against baby food is that it’s more work for both you and the kid. Instead of a baby nestled in the crook of your elbow gently sucking on a bottle, you’ve got an ordeal.

There’s the high chair to set up, a bowl to get, the spoon and of course the baby food. Meanwhile the kid is sitting in her seat eagerly anticipating each and every bite. Unlike the consistency of the bottle which is there from start until glorious finish, there are intermissions now.

Mom or dad has to reach into the bowl and then spoon the food and then transport it from there to the child’s mouth. And, for what it’s worth, that six-inch trip can feel like a mile when your excited baby is windmilling her arms in anticipation of the next bite. Or, if your kid is like ours, he doesn’t wait for the next spoonful but instead reaches for the bowl which, because the high-chair tray is too small, is always within his reach.

To paraphrase Frederick Douglass: "There
is no progress without struggle - gross,
gross struggle."
And heaven help you if you take too long to get that spoonful to his mouth, as she’ll start slamming her hands, demanding that she get her food NOW!

Finally, once the food arrives all bets are off as to where it will end up. It might go into her mouth – though it probably won’t – and once it gets in there, every other spoonful is slowly gushed back out onto their chin.

In one of nature’s great ironies, babies believe meal time should coincide with practice talking time. So there’s plenty of blowing, fluttering lips and raspberries, complete with gobs of goo sprayed about.

Naturally the kid then uses his chin to wipe food on his eager hands, which then do their best to spread the slime as far as they can.

If you’ve fed a baby you know that when you’re done they’re ruined. They wear a glazed beard of bodily fluids and food. The weight of the liquid and debris leaves the neckline of their shirt sagging past their shoulder and halfway down their chest, which is also covered in something you don’t want to touch. 

They look like they've been feeding from a trough. 

This, my wife believes is progress and I suppose she's right. For his part, the boy seems to genuinely enjoy eating real, people food as he's always smiling when we're done. But, like any grumpy old man, I see the cup half empty and sometimes progress is just a long goodbye. 

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