How To Parent Your First Child Like It's Your Second

Once again I must stress that this is only my opinion, it has not been subject to randomised control testing, or P tests. My advice is not statistically significant, but I hope it might be of some help.   

I am really sorry to break this to you but eating with children is a chore.

Feeding babies feels relentless. There are many wonderful posts on breast feeding, bottle feeding, combination feeding and so on. The only advice I have on this is please, please be kind to yourself. The only way success can be measured is by how you are handling this massive head fuck. Anything from breast feeding to tube feeding is fine if it is helping your baby progress along the path to becoming their own sweet self. 

Weaning is also a pain in the hole. Never will you work so hard at developing expertise in a skill you will use so fleetingly. Preparing food for the 6-12 month old can be gruelling. Perfect home blended meals with a range of different flavours and nutrients in each meal are great. (FYI, parsnips roasted with cumin and then pureed are bloody delicious - well worth a batch cook. If you add stock you can turn it into a soup for any unexpected guests.) With big kid, about 80% of his food was homemade puree and, by the time he was properly eating solids, 80% of my brain was in a similar state. With small kid I was much kinder to myself. Weetabix and porridge are your friends. Puree pouches are your friends. Jars of baby food are fine and dandy, just so long as they are not all you are offering. Find a balance that works for you. 

You'd think once they've moved onto solids things would get better wouldn't you? Well they do...a bit. It's all still a bit grim though. Kids need time and patience and the occasional death threat to learn to eat well and eat widely. All kids have their feeding foibles; given the chance big kid would never stop eating. Ever. Whereas small kid could quite happily subsist on air and the occasional cherry tomato. Again, the only advice I have is read all the advice and then pick the bits that suit you and your own unique situation. It's likely to suck quite a lot of the time. Sorry.

If you eat in all the time, you will at some point want to stick your hand into the waste disposal just to break the monotony. When you are at home, if you sit at the table (kitchen or dining, depending on how fancy you are) you will wear a smooth groove in it as you bang your head endlessly against it, wondering how it can take over an hour just to eat ten sodding peas. If you eat in the living room you will spend the meal shrieking and grabbing items before they spill and weeping silently as you scrape food from the upholstery with your once elegant nails. It is never not a ball ache. The big man was judging me for using my phone at the table during dinner so I smiled sweetly and made sure we had lovely family meals every night whilst he was on leave. It took less than a week to drag him down to my level.  My advice is only feed the children when it is sunny - sit them on a picnic rug outside and let them go nuts. They can forage for nuts and berries in autumn. 

If you take them out to eat you have to run the gauntlet of judgy older people with just enough dementia to have forgotten just how shit it is to eat with kids. When you’re in a restaurant, you must accept all your food will be stone cold by the time you get to eat it - after you have navigated at leat 2 toilet trips, cut the kid’s food into shapes, cut the food into different shapes as the first try wasn’t up to scratch, negotiated who is going to look after the crayons and assorted bumpf restaurants provide in an attempt to keep the little shits quiet and used threats, bribery and unabashed begging to get them to stop farting at you in public - then and only then do you get to look at your own plate.

My advice on this one is only venture into restaurants where you know they have a kids menu oozing with saturated fats and processed meats, because god forbid you attempt to eat somewhere nice and therefore spend ninety minutes watching your child sob resentfully into the hand-smashed humus, which had been decreed to be 'weird and not like the stuff from Sainsbury's at all' and heaven help us all should some rogue chef sprinkle green bits on the food, it's tantamount to poison. Something that might be helpful is this little gem learned through hard won experience: if you want to eat out with kids, do it a lot. They get much better at it with practice - after a holiday mine are positively civil in a fine dining environment as they've done it almost every night; after six weeks of the school routine they've almost forgotten what cutlery looks like. I refuse to care. 

A lot of parenting advice is set up as gospel. In reality, most advice is something to aim for, not something you must achieve every single time. I am aware that fruits and vegetables are good for children but there was a period of about a month where I could only get small kid to eat pasta. Just pasta. If it had been big kid I probably would have been hightailing it to the GP for industrial strength vitamins and checking him for signs of scurvy on an hourly basis. With small kid I just kept my head down and kept doling out tiny portions of fruit and veg on the side of her plate until she finally accepted I wasn’t trying to poison her. I let her build up her trust in food on her own terms and gradually things got better. 

Guys, last night we had a take away curry for dinner in front of Horrible Histories and it was fucking magical. All these little steps do lead somewhere good. I promise... but there will still be lots of shit bits in between the good bits. Sorry. Again.