Del’s been eating solids for a while now and it has been a real challenge. Not because he’s reluctant to eat or picky or anything. It’s a challenge for me. I’m constantly terrified he’s going to choke and I have a real hangup about food mess, among other things.
Del is transitioning into the time when he’s actually getting nutrition from the food he’s eating and it needs to be a bigger part of his intake, but for the longest time it was just practice. He had to get used to grabbing food with his hands, moving it around in his mouth, and swallowing. I had to get used to sitting patiently while he used peanut butter to scrub his hands, forearms, sleeves, face, high chair, and anything else in arm’s reach. I’m not an obsessively clean person by any means, but I can’t tolerate food messiness. I don’t like having sticky hands and I can’t relax until any food has been thoroughly cleaned off the floor and everywhere else. I wash my own hands no less than ten times during one of his meals, but per the advice I read I leave him alone til he’s done, watching as a thick crust of cheese and grains accrues on his body like crude armor. Part of this is just my own idiosyncrasy, and part of it is living in New York City and knowing that in every building, at any moment, there is a horde of cockroaches lying in wait behind the walls, under the floors, listening, sensing, looking for the best opportunity to swoop in and feed. I’m a vegetarian and kind of a Buddhist but I turn into a feral Mad Max character when I see a cockroach. Just to be clear, I see maybe one roach every one or two months here and they might be coming from outside. But that’s all it takes to get inside my head.
I have yet to find the perfect food to let him eat on his own. Dry hard things like cereal can be cleared off his tray in one grand sweep, like an angry character in a melodrama from the 50s. Same for anything sandwichy; there’s no glue keeping that bread down. Wetter things like cottage cheese mean that when he’s done eating I get to spend 20 minutes on my hands and knees wiping up the floor, then throwing away his clothes and hosing him down, roaches watching me from the cracks all the while, waiting for me to miss something. I know we all thought Joe’s Apartment was real cute back in the day but try living that reality and see how you feel about them. They do not carry on conversations.
I’m reluctant to clean on an existential level. I’ve mentioned before that I can usually find an existential reason not to do pretty much anything. Our apartment could certainly use more attention, and I take on that responsibility since I’m the one who’s usually home. Or do I? Sure, I could dust. Then next week I need to dust again. So what have I accomplished? Why not just let some dust accumulate? I do this until the weight of the dust in the apartment drives me to clean everything in a frenzy. This is my tempo. Long periods of inactivity broken up by feverish bouts of productivity. I should really go scoop some cat litter right now.
I’m also strongly averse to wasting food. My appetite opened up around my freshman year of college, and since then I’ve viewed every plate of food in front of me as a challenge. I have never failed to meet that challenge. I don’t do leftovers. So you can imagine the feelings I need to suppress when I’m watching Del eat, and he calmly picks up a piece of bread, considers it, looks me in the eye and reaches over the side of his tray to drop the food on the floor. I don’t want the animals to eat it, and they will certainly try. I don’t want them inflating and I don’t want to clean up the inevitable vomit that comes from them eating anything other than their own food, which still has me cleaning up after them once or twice a week.
And finally, the choking. This is probably my main new parent fear. For the longest time it was SIDS, and that slowly abated. I should do more research on baby choking but I read that their windpipe is the size of a drinking straw so anything bigger than that poses a problem. Oh, cool, so we’re only talking about every piece of food that enters their mouths. Great. Del’s gotten much better at chewing, so I’m a little more calm now while he eats, but every three minutes or so I stop everything I’m doing to make sure he’s breathing while he’s dragging oatmeal across his face. I’ve studied baby Heimlich but I do not trust myself to execute it properly. I reeeeally like giving him baby food pouches, Great Pacific Garbage Patch be damned.
I just had an idea. I’ll be right back, I’m googling “baby IV.” That’s probably safe til he’s five right?