Today while Zoe was eating her lunch, I asked her if she liked ravioli. It was her first time trying those delicious little meat-filled pasta pillows. She got a solemn look on her face and nodded her head, and took a sip of milk. I followed up the question by asking her if I could sit with her and eat my lunch, and she very emphatically shook her head "no!"
This has been coming for a while now, actually. Zoe's been growing right up and getting a little more independent every day. It's really nice that she feeds herself, whether it's with her fingers or whether she uses forks and spoons. I do miss snuggling with her when she'd have a bottle, but even while she was in that stage, I really did treasure every minute, because we both knew it wouldn't last.
She started eating "solid foods" last January. Of course, "solid" means pureed this and that, and baby cereal. The second day she got to eat "solids," she took the spoon out of my hand and tried to feed herself. Then she realized how cushy it is to be "the baby," and at least let me spoon-feed her. That is until this week.
Sunday night, she didn't want me feeding her anymore. She felt so strongly about it that she grabbed her plate and upended it onto the floor, much to Rozzie's delight. A defiant little flicker flashed in her eyes, and I knew it was a toddler thing, and that I shouldn't react, because as such, she was partly looking for a reaction. So I said "I guess you're full then!" and unstrapped her from her high chair and sent her off to play, and while I was cleaning up the dishes from the floor (Rozzie got the floor itself good to go), I humped up and bawled.
It wasn't the food on the floor that bothered me. I'm not raising a brat, but I do let her have her toddler moments. She's seventeen months old. Sometimes she pulls crap like that just to get a reaction. Anyway, I'm not getting into a parenting debate with you, so if you're getting all up on your high horse on me, just stop reading and go tell your favorite teddy bear all your theories of how I'm doing wrong by my kid. But I'm not interested in hearing them.
No, it wasn't the food on the floor. It was that I realized with no room for ambiguity that Zoe and I have passed some kind of milestone. She wants to feed herself, or if the look in her eyes as she upended her plate is any indication, she wants do feed her damn self! and I got her message loud and clear. Our days of her sitting in her high chair and me sitting in the regular chair, blissfully scooping food from her dish into her mouth have passed.
So this week, we've tried it her way, her eating like a big girl. And she's doing really well at it. Great, actually. Mornings, she eats yogurt with cereal mixed in, to make it a little thick, and also to make sure she gets her cereal in (it's recommended that she eats the baby cereal until she's 2, so I give it to her.) I put the yogurt and cereal mixture into silicone pinch-bowls, because they were always easy for me to grip, and I can also get them scraped pretty clean with just a spoon, and also if they hit the floor, they don't shatter or really cause much drama, other than something for Rozzie to clean up.
I wasn't sure how a seventeen month-old would be able to handle one of these pinch-bowls, but she wanted to give it a spin and I let her. She had trouble with it when the tray was hooked to her high chair, so preparing myself for a mess, I took the tray off and handed her the bowl and spoon so she could see into the bowl without having to tip it way over to see what's in there. She smiled at me, grabbed the spoon in her right hand and the bowl in her left, tucked her legs up into a cross-legged position while she sat strapped in her high chair, and proceeded to scoop the yogurt and cereal out of the bowl and into the mouth, looking at me the whole time as if to say "Bye now! Come back when I'm all done!"
"You doing okay?" I asked her.
She smiled, crinkling up her eyes, loading another spoon of yogurt and cereal into her mouth, and said "Mmmmmmmmm!"
I went and unloaded the dishwasher and got the dishes put away, and when I came back, I was surprised to see that she'd gotten her bowl almost as clean as I could when I fed her.
"Well, Kid, you're hired!" I told her, unhooking her high chair's seatbelt and letting her toddle around.
That's how we've been doing feeding time here at the zoo this week, then. I turn her meals over to her and then go into the kitchen to get things done, so she doesn't think I'm hovering, but I'm near enough if I should hear that she needs me. There've been no more upended dishes of food.
Her rejection of letting me sit with her today to eat my lunch while she ate hers won't be the last, I know. I walked her road before, a long time ago. I dig where she's coming from.
Bittersweet. That's the word for this. Because it was wonderful having this huggy little snuggle-baby early on- when she was sleeping- when she was awake, even as a newborn, Zoe always had to be on the move, in her swing, doing SOMETHING! She was like a little dolly. The very first breakfast I ate as "Mommy" at the hospital, I sat at the table in my room and cradled sleeping Zoe in my free arm, and told her all about all the fun we'd have together, when she was a little bigger. I told her how we'd go shopping together, and read books and do crafts and play in the yard, but right then, she was too small for all those things, so I'd just hug her and hug her until she was bigger.
Even at the hospital, though, she was asserting her independent streak. She and the nurses had a battle over her hat. Every time she'd come back to my room from the nursery, she'd have on the cute little knitted hat somebody knit and donated (which I keep meaning to do, myself!). As soon as the nurse was out the door, Zoe would have the hat pulled off. If she was swaddled with her arms in, she would rub her head up against me until she worked the hat off. If her arms were out, she'd just pull it off. This was the first day she was on this planet. The rest of our time in the hospital, she didn't wear the hat. At home, she'd wear a hat when we were outside (but she didn't like it!)
So this day, I knew would come, and I know there are going to be many more days when my little chooby-cheeked cherub more or less tells me to skedaddle. I'm trading cuddliness for fun, and I can accept that. I just never would have thought these separate moments would take my breath away like they do, when we come to them.
The thing is, no matter how many times Zoe tells me to skedaddle, no matter how many times she pushes me away, one thing she can count on is that when she needs somebody to sit with her, I will always let her sit with me. Always.