8:30 PM March 14, 2022
When I had my first baby the unfamiliar territory of looking after another human being sent me into overdrive when it came to trying to be the perfect parent for her.
I didn’t want to put a foot wrong, so great was the responsibility of the job, and I obsessed about almost everything. I found myself focussing on a lot of things which now, over a decade and three more children on, I can’t imagine why I considered so important?
It’s not the wanting to make sure she had the very best of me and didn’t lack in any way, of course we all want those things for our children, but I took it to levels of extremity I think.
I earnestly did everything, from breast feeding (of course, how could it have been anything else?) to entertainment (I had a daily plan of activities from when she was just five weeks old). I went hell for leather trying to achieve what I now know to be the impossible – perfection.
Especially when it came to food!
I’d joined a natural parenting group on Facebook and where I’d always been concerned with what she consumed (I didn’t even like giving her medication for colic as it wasn’t breast milk), the group exacerbated this with its dramatic advice for how, what and where my child should be eating.
Her first taste of real food was sweet potato mashed with, naturally, breast milk. She hated it and has refused sweet potato ever since. I persisted but with even, as I’ve always found them to be, the extremely delicately flavoured Annabel Karmel recipes rejected for not being wholesome enough, she didn’t get to try much that was terribly tempting.
My concoctions of home-made cheese sticks and pancakes with sweetcorn mushed into them did nothing for her and she’d look at me with eyes that said “what is this?” with almost every morsel. But my parenting group said NO refined sugar, NO processed food and absolutely nothing that would remotely be of any taste whatsoever it seemed. Yet I persisted.
Treats were date snacks (not a treat) or some other fruit patty, and I guess she did eat something or she wouldn’t have survived, but it wasn’t much – who could blame her? Thankfully, over time, I must have calmed down and given her food which I’d not personally hand-made, blended or selected.
Then, about the time I stopped taking my own orange juice and whole food wheat flake cakes to parties, allowing her an actual cake instead, she did start to eat more. Go figure!
We found ourselves then, in the era of a much more normal equilibrium when it came to eating. Florence discovered the delights of a real treat (not a date in sight) and I realised that life is a whole lot easier when you don’t try to be a perfect parent. Not just with food but with everything.
These days, I accept I may have slipped over to the other side of the coin entirely at times.
I don’t think my one-year-old daughter Posie has had anything blended by hand to date, we went straight into baby-led weaning and pretty early on, with a Saturday night take away for the other three and Posie at the table eating soft sandwiches alongside them, Jimmy came and said to me “Posie loves McDonald’s chips Mummy” to which I replied immediately “She hasn’t had a McDonald’s chip” only to be corrected that “Yes she has Mummy, LOOK!”
I guess with older brothers and sisters it would have been kind of hard to stick to the home-made fruit roll ups even if I’d wanted to!
Posie survived the fries, loves them actually! She’s had all sorts now including an ice cream, in a cornet and not just a taster but her own hand-held one! She eats chocolate buttons, prefers Cheetos to carrot crisps (who wouldn’t?!) and as for baby biscotti… She’ll have a chocolate covered biscuit please and thank you. She does eat all the good things too I promise, but you know what, she is actually A-OK even though she occasionally enjoys a heavily processed, full of sugar or salty delight…
Thinking back to how hard I tried to keep the standards in that old natural parenting group, I wonder why I thought it was right.
They may have dressed it up as a healthy way of living and a better way of parenting, but really and truly it was a way of judgement and putting pressure on others.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing so to speak, not what new parents need.
My children are happy, healthy and well cared for, even with the less than perfect fodder I often serve up!
Life is about balance, parenting is too and with perfection an impossibility in all walks of life there’s simply no point in striving for it. Instead, I now believe in feeding ourselves with good vibes, good intentions, good food most of the time and a little of what we fancy to do us good.
Oh, and absolutely no dates thanks very much, my children will agree wholeheartedly on that one.
They’re not very nice, they’re definitely not chocolate and even mushed up they don’t constitute a treat so why bother?
Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk