Parenting is sometimes like a perverse game where every time you think you've figured something out, the rules change overnight.
There are heaps of "manuals" and "how to" guides for babies, both books and on the internet. That's great, but they all seem to (a) disagree with each other, and (b) don't seem to apply to the babies I have.
It can be day naps, eating or night routines. Every time you've finally hit the sweet spot, the babies' needs change. We're going through a bit of a rough patch with all of the above at the moment, but eating is the worst.
Eating is a battleground with my (nearly) one-year-old twins. When we started solids my girls loved it. They happily devoured everything I put in front of them. Spinach, liver, broccoli, silverbeet ... you name it, they ate it. They never refused anything. It all went in - in such large quantities that we went to see our GP to ask if it was healthy for them to put weight on so quickly.
Of course I knew that it probably wouldn't last, but there was always hope, right? Because I love food. I love cooking. If I'm not sleeping I think about food. I hope that one day I can share my love for food with my daughters. I read books like French Kids Eat Everything as well as all the normal "healthy weaning" literature. In an ideal world I would write cooking books for kids and my babies would be my judges.
I'm certainly no Instagram foodie mum though, one who serves her children three course meals that look all fancy. I just make food that tastes good. One of my favourite things about food is that is brings people together and makes them happy.
But not so much with my babies anymore.
Of course I always knew that my girls may or may not grow to share my love for food. And then there will always be The Toddler Years which could go either way. According to my mum I was always a keen and uncomplicated eater. Their dad on the other hand only ate ham sandwiches for years.
A couple of weeks ago my little wolverines with the never-ending appetite suddenly changed. First, one of them just didn't like her dinner given to her on a spoon. The other quickly followed suit. That was okay, as it's a normal step towards independence, right?
So let's try toddler finger food. No joy. All the food they used to devour they now squish up with their chubby little hands and throw on the floor.
Some days they really love something, while the next day I give them the same thing and they look at me like I've just offered them rusty nails. Some days they accept being fed little pieces of something from my hand. Most of the time they react like I'm trying to throw acid in their faces. They also keep me on my toes about which meals "food on spoon" is acceptable. For a while breakfast was fine, but apparently not any more.
And here comes the funniest part. As I'm a keen cook, my freezer is brimming with portions of delicious frozen baby food. But all my girls accept is one particular kind of processed baby food jar that comes direct from the supermarket.
Apart from that jar, they only want crispbread and fruit.
I know it's a phase. They've just had a cold, they're teething and it's a normal step in their development. But it's still not easy to stay calm when everything you've cooked is thrown onto the floor with venom. Especially if you're running on four hours of interrupted sleep.
So I spend every meal trying to do some zen breathing, trying to remain super positive, while placing one food item after another in front of them. When the floor is covered with food scraps of all shapes and colours I hand them their crispbread, followed by mandarin pieces and remind myself again that it is just a phase. Which will end. In a month, or a year, or in five. Or when they leave the house to go on their gap year.
Until then parenting continues to be like stabbing in the dark. We're all muddling through. Sometimes more, sometimes less. There are times we feel in control, at least in some aspects, but then hell breaks loose again.
One day my babies will sleep again and one day their appetite will come back. Until then they'll live on mandarins and love. And I've got bucketloads of those.
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