Stay alert and loose
“More mushrooms please,” Col begs, his open mouth looming over a steaming pot of elk stew. I spoon another slimy slab of porcini mushroom in his baby bird face, suppressing my own gag reflex at the wild fungi which could have been a rubber shoe I had sliced and simmered.
Just yesterday, if you had asked, I would have told you that Col was a picky eater. He’s offended by the mere smell of bananas, the go-to, blood-sugar raising trick every mother has had tucked up her sleeve since before her first born sprouted a single tooth.
This fall we’ve made the most marvelous plum butter, peach jam, and chokecherry jelly and when I rattle off the menu of possible toppings for toast, Col asks, somewhat apologetically, for “just plain.”
“Sure honey,” I say, handing him the loneliest piece of bread, wondering if he’ll scrape the raspberry filling off his own wedding cake someday.
But this so-called picky eater greets chard, broccoli and bouquets of salad with a raised fork. He was recently spotted across the dinner table requesting more roasted beets and Brussel sprouts. It seems the label “picky eater” is as worn out as the sandals Col wore to shreds this summer.
If asked to describe my daughter Rose, I’d tell you that living with her is like having our very own Disney princess on site. She enjoys dramatic entrances, throwing her door open and wobbling around on oversized ankle-twisters while a pound of necklaces swing from her neck. But she also climbs rocks barefoot, shoots a bow with no help, wrangles flapping chickens and has held a wild snake at Brookside Park.
Being a parent means revising your stories about your children as often as a writer with an nitpicking editor. We grasp to these labels while they fall through our hands like autumn leaves, as soon as the wind blows.
Both my kids have been great sleepers, except for those times when they were terrible sleepers. I’ve sung the boastful symphony of a mother whose daughter ate steamed spinach at 6 months old, only to watch that same daughter at 3 dredge her dinner bowl for errant and offensive pieces of broccoli. Just recently, Dan and I sadly surrendered the battle to get Rose to sit down at dinner and eat a meal with us. And then some mysterious electrical impulse in Rose’s brain traveled a slightly different neurological pathway one afternoon and now she joins us for dinner every night, as if not doing so would be to miss out on something fabulous, like broccoli.
Children are geniuses at reinventing themselves, peeling back another layer of yesterday and stepping freshly into the present moment. I’m usually still ten steps behind explaining to someone how “Rose is very shy and clingy” as she takes off up the trail, running, and never looks back. “Stay alert and loose,” Rose seems to say as her little figure sashays through the technicolor foliage burning itself up and becoming winter.
Have your children surprised you? Have you had to toss labels in the compost?