The first time I fed our son Carter solid food, well, semi-solid food, it was quite a mess. It was a learning curve for both of us. My wife, Laura, almost over-heard my remark, a remark that made perfect sense to Carter and me, but I think would have not gone over so well with “Mom.”
“Look Carter, if you spill the rest of this stuff, we’re done.”
Now I am better at it, but maneuvering that little rubber-covered spoon with dripping sweet potatoes or whatever on it into his mouth, still reminds me of being at the miniature golf course and trying to putt the ball through the clown’s mouth before it closes.
As Laura was feeding Carter after she got home from work with her coat still on and, I think, her laptop bag strung over her shoulder, she said, “Look how cute he is grabbing for the spoon.” I pressed mute on the remote. She continued, “You know, this is very important for when he progresses to the finger food stage. They say in all the books that grabbing for the spoon is the first sign that they are getting ready to start feeding themselves.”
“Oh, really.” I said, pretending to think that was either interesting or true. I can’t remember which because, though I can see the play unfolding on the T.V. I really want to hear the announcers so that I can disagree with their analysis. “That’s nice.”
“No really. I know you think that a lot of that stuff I read is a bunch of hooey, but it’s true, they need to develop the skills to feed themselves and grabbing the spoon is the first part. Oh, you’re missing your game. Sorry.”
I think to myself at this point, two things. “Man, she is a wonderful person,” and “What a load of crap.”
Everything he has touched since the day he discovered he had hands, has gone directly into his mouth. A book, a toy block, a rattle, the dog’s ear, everything. I could set a pinecone or a pair of pliers on his tray and he will immediately shove them in his mouth. So . . . the thought of having to train him to put food in his mouth seemed ludicrous to me.
“Come here Laura, let me show you something.” I took a Zwieback teething biscuit out of the package and handed it to Carter. I have been told that infants love these things. My guess, though, is that Dr. Zwieback was trying and failed to produce an adult product of packaged toast.
I gave Carter the one-inch thick, oval, brown, crunchy Zwieback teething biscuit. He held it up in his hand like the Statue of Liberty holding her torch, and dropped it on the floor. I know that he will soon learn to like this biscuit, but Gracie the dog took to it immediately and devoured it.
No problem. I tore off a soft piece of bread the size of a Cheerio, and laid it in on his tray. With the dexterity of a jewelry engraver, he picked it up delicately between his thumb and forefinger, held it up in front of his nose, then moved his arm to the right until it was completely outstretched, and then, more like an experienced crane operator, dropped it on Gracie’s head.
Okay, how about a Cheerio?
He dropped it right into Gracie’s open mouth.
I got a single green pea. I set it down in front of him fearing that failure with this item could also include it going up his nose. He picked it up in his cute little fingers and flung it over his right shoulder, where it bounced off the sliding glass door behind him and took two hops right into the dog’s water bowl.
I gave him a part of a mandarin orange segment. It was juicy and sweet. It smelled delectable. Fruit is always his favorite of the foods we have been feeding him. And guess what? I was amazed to find out that Gracie loves mandarin oranges.
I gave up. “Laura, you win. Let the training begin.”
I have no idea what instinctual mechanism is at work that makes an infant put the plug of an extension cord in his mouth, though not a Cheerio. But I am now aware of this phenomenon, and will, from now on, pay more attention to the wisdom that Laura acquires from reading all those informative books.