I Stopped Feeding My Toddler Dinner

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They should really stop calling it dinner, which sounds innocent, pleasant even, and rhymes with “winner.” A more fitting, if less mellifluous phrase, might be Apocalyptic Hell Hour or Lucifer’s Food Time.

My daughter, Lucy, thinks the effort I put into preparing food for her is quite funny. Regardless of what she is served, it will be smooshed, flung, dropped onto the dog, or rubbed vigorously into her eyes. She will apply yogurt to her face like an all-over beauty mask. She will get ketchup on the ceiling. She will not eat.

I went out to lunch with two mom friends last week, one of whom has a son Lucy’s age. He sat in his high chair without complaint, smiling, and lapped up a quinoa, shiitake, and broccoli frittata. He devoured a savory beet yogurt by the heaping spoonful. What that actual fuck? I balked at my mom friend’s parenting wizardry. I studied her child like a buried treasure map as he nibbled his way through a mushroom, the floor beneath him pristine, not a swipe of pink across his cheek.

One evening a few weeks ago, I made Lucy a very innocuous bowl of boxed Annie’s mac and cheese. Yes, I threw a few very offensive green peas in there to appease the part of me that doesn’t want my daughter to become a carbohydrate. She wouldn’t try a single bite. She alternated between screaming like a goat and barking like an injured seal. She communicated to me via our complex system of pointing, yelling, and grunting that she wanted a Brocolli Little, which is, despite its name, a small potato cake in the shape of a triceratops. I stuck the dinocarb on a plate in the microwave. She shattered all the windows and mirrors in the house with a high-pitched scream, apparently because she wanted to push the buttons. She pulled the microwave down off its shelf and it nearly fell on top of her. Then there were tears. Then she wanted a veggie burger instead, with cheese and ketchup. I’ll let you guess how much of that made it into her mouth.

Like every other mother I know, I decided when my baby was a baby that she would “eat what I eat”, and that I “wouldn’t be one of those mothers who cooks fifteen separate dinners a night.” I realize now that this is the language of a presumptuous asshole who has never experienced Chobani as a hair mask.

After I gave up trying to feed my pig-tailed tasmanian devil and combed the cheese out of her hair that night, I called my MIL, who is the gatekeeper to the land of parenting Oz. “Maybe she’s not hungry,” she said. “What is she eating during the day?”

During the week, my 18-month-old goes to daycare so I can work. Behold, a sample menu from a single weekday:

Breakfast: half banana, cheese omelette, milk

AM Snack: Ritz crackers, water

Lunch: Veggie burger, peas and carrots, mashed potatoes, pasta with mixed vegetables, milk

PM Snack: Pouch, banana, water

She is being fed like an animal about to hibernate for 6 months, like a competitive eater training to take away that little Coney Island hot dog guy’s untouchable title, like me 3 days before my period. No wonder she’s not hungry for dinner; she’s already eating enough calories a day to sustain a family of elephants.

So, I stopped fighting with her about dinner. Now on the weeknights, she lets me know when she wants a snack. I’ll give her whole grain crackers with almond butter, a veggie pouch, popcorn, or yogurt, and she’ll eat happily while she plays. Instead of spending our evenings screaming, crying, and cleaning condiments off the ceiling, we now stack blocks, read books, and lick crayons.

Her disinterest in sitting down with me at 5pm to eat curry and talk politics doesn’t mean she’ll only eat white foods forever or never appreciate global flavors. She’s one and a half; dog hair is the height of culinary sophistication to her right now. Also, she’s full, and I don’t want to teach her that eating is required method of torture. This whole idea of eating three meals a day plus two snacks is just another thing someone somewhere made up, and now is law. It’s not actually important.

Over and over again, my daughter teaches me this: let go of your expectations. Trying to bend her spirit to fit into my idea of what kind of schedule she should be on doesn’t work. What does work is listening to her, letting her guide me to be the mother that she needs. It also results in less airborne applesauce.

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A Lost Article from the Archives of GOOP

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We could all be a little more beautiful, cosmologically. Where beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the beholder is the divine argument of nature, only an internal/external healing balance will help us to achieve perfection: diaphanous skin, a preternatural dew, zero blackheads.

Heed the advice of my chemically-sensitive skin guru, Tina, who goes by Juniper, and avoid allergens like dairy, wheat, nightshades, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, space, and time. As a part-time freelance actress, philanthropist, activist, server, and geisha, T.J. understands how day-to-day living can bombard the skin with powerful radons and electromagnetic ions that deplete your body of it’s elasticity and radiance.

“Every morning upon rising, I mix together an organic potion of organic honey, housemade guava, scratchmade avocado, local hemp, pure macca, matcha, and sweet holy basil by stirring 16 times counter-clockwise with a single sprig of rosemary. The ritual of stirring awakens a powerful force within my red and green chakras, connecting me to my higher spirit, a rare breed of lithe and pithy impala.” Once stirred, she coats her body in the brownish mixture and sits in the sun to let it set on her skin. “It feels rather like coating yourself in God’s almighty excrement; it’s a daily reminder to be humble and face the day as one with the privilege of the universal aesthetic.”

“Beauty is spiritual,” T.J. wrote in her best-selling magnum opus Being Metaphysical. “In order to be free, we must first actualize our a priori cosmological argument.” Juniper achieves this by dry brushing the skin with an organic horse-hair brush before her evening herbal bath. “It removes deceased skin cells without irritating.”

Tina Juniper does not approve of coffee or other “heavily magnetized” beverages. “Drinking these types of chemicals, such as caffeine, has been proven in several studies to pull your essence downward towards the earth’s core, resulting in premature sagging and wilting of the body’s essential essences. “I prefer hot water with lemon,” she wrote.

Juniper practices a custom blend of Wushu (military arts) and jogging. “Because I run with a Qian long sword, I can discourage evilism from entering my joints and muscles. The knees are particularly sensitive, but a continuous twirling of steel wards off any weakness.” She refreshes apres-jog with an ice bath and more hot lemon water. “The opposing temperatures confuse the body into being young again.”

In the evenings, T.J. realigns her intentions with a pore-minimizing masque. “It’s time to reflect,” she wrote in an email to our Celebrity Consciousness editor, Janeth Wilber. “The pores expand throughout the day, due to heat, light, and fractal ions. They need to be closed every evening, to obstruct the aging process. While aging is natural, we should never do it.” T.J. paused to reflect. “That, and eat hot dogs,” she added.

Linky Link Round Up

I’ve been writing less here and more on other sites that, you know, pay me. Here’s a round up of some of my recent stuff:

I updated my piece on being an alcoholic mother for Buzzfeed, adding in more of what it’s like now to be a sober mom.

I’m super excited to be writing a weekly column for Ramshackle Glam about motherhood, anxiety, and those pesky things I sometimes have called “feelings.” I wrote about being the wrong kind of mother a few weeks ago and was pretty floored by the response; apparently I’m not the only one who feels like she has no idea what she’s doing. I also imagined what it’d look like if my 1.5 year old pitched her game concepts to the CEO of Hasbro, and what happened when we took her to the amusement park and lost Monk Monk.

Here are some tips on cool Amazon features you might like if you’re pregnant.

My first and only ever (I’m sure) magazine centerfold for Kiplinger’s is about the gender pay gap (of course).

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My Cesarean

I did not want a C-section.

I wanted to give birth the “normal” way, which is to say via a nickel-sized slit that had previously only been used for sexy purposes.

I also didn’t want an induction, but I got one of those, too. I was 43 weeks pregnant when “I don’t want an induction” turned into “induce me right now or I’ll slay you.”

I labored for 50 hours before they wheeled me into surgery. I was 5 cm dilated and decided I couldn’t labor for another 2 days before starting to push, if that’s what it came down to. My husband sat by my side and held my shaking arms down as they sliced me open and pulled out my daughter. That was birth.

Physical recovery was difficult. How does one recover from major surgery while also not sleeping and worrying constantly and feeling emotions that had not previously existed? Very slowly.

Emotional recovery takes even longer. While I’m grateful my daughter was born safely, I didn’t want this. I didn’t execute my plan. I failed to give birth the way I should have been able to. These are the thoughts that creep in and strangle whatever ownership I’ve managed to take of my experience. This is the shit that gets to me.

One night, I was laying in bed with my husband and just happened to brush my hand across my scar. I broke down in tears.

Shouldn’t I be over this already?

Does any woman, ever, anywhere, get over the experience of giving birth? No. You’re not supposed to.

This 6 inch slice that cuts across my abdomen exists to remind me that I cooked up Lucy right inside of there. Thanks for the sperm, but I did this myself. I made dozens of small decisions every day for 10 months about what to put in my body, how much to move it, and how to take care of myself in order to grow her exactly how she is. During labor, I made the best decisions I could through excruciating pain, tremendous fear, and piercing self doubt. When they carted me into surgery, I was unbelievably fucking brave. I meditated, I counted, I breathed deeply as they slit me open from one hip bone to the other. “You’ll feel some pulling,” they said, as they lifted my 9 pound baby up into the air. I did that.

Birth is birth, and it made me stronger, softer, braver, and better. And I got this kid to prove it.

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You can read my full birth story here.

Women

Presidential primary season, which lasts so long it’s actually like 5 seasons, is one of my very favorite times. This season has been especially exciting; it’s not every year you get 17 potential nominees on the Republican ticket or a guy like Bernie Sanders pushing the Democratic party left. I love this shit.

But every day it’s becoming more drop dead serious and less fun. The rhetoric on both sides has become increasingly divisive, dismissive, abusive, and scary. And no one is suffering from these dialogues right now more than women.

Part I

I was listening to NPR while driving home from Lucy’s daycare drop off this morning. Morning Editions’ guest was Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of a pro-life organization called the Susan B. Anthony list. She astonished me by using feminist rhetoric, quotes, and examples to discuss why the pro-life community believes that women should be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

She claimed early feminists thought the “soul” of a baby and mother were inextricably linked, and so modern feminists should, too. She had to go back 150 years to find an example of a progressive that NPR listeners could hopefully relate to. We’ve done some research, we’ve made some progress since then. If I wanted to back up a social and medical position I hold, I sure as shit wouldn’t cite research done in the 1800’s to back up my point.

She also defended Donald Trump’s revision of his statement two days ago that women who get abortions should be punished, and instead agreed that the doctors who provide abortions should be jailed.

I’ve always been angered by the pro-life movement, but listening to this woman on the radio felt devastating. She spent the largest portion of her on-air time pleading that women who do not want to have babies, who want abortions, should be helped by those in the pro-life movement, to the extent that this makes them want to have their babies.

Using my first pregnancy as a benchmark for the experience, here are my questions for Marjorie Dannenfelser:

How will you help me through my first trimester, when I feel sick to my stomach for 3 straight months, but still need to work full time and take care of my one year old daughter? How will you prevent me from feeling wretched, pukey, like I need to lie down all the time? How will you help me meet my deadlines at work? How will you help me run around after my daughter when I’m completely exhausted? How will you help me afford any medications I need?

How will you help me in my second trimester, when my clothes no longer fit? Will you buy me new ones? Will you help me to afford healthy food? Will you pick up my 30 pound toddler for me when I no longer can? She likes to be carried. 

How will you help me through my 65 pound weight gain? My paralyzing back pain? My insomnia? How will you help with my anxiety? Will you pay for my hospital bills? Will you pay for my c-section? Will you go through 50 hours of labor for me? Will you go through awake surgery for me? Will you help me through the trauma of birth? Will you take my baby away after birth and give it to someone else since I didn’t want it? Will you help me feel whole again? Will you pay for my therapy after birth? For my Lexapro when I suffer depression after birth? Will you pay for my birth control so I don’t get pregnant again?

This is a woman whose party thinks that food assistance and subsidized health insurance are hand-outs that should not be supported. So please, how the fuck will you help me?

Claiming that it is a feminist act to force a woman who does not want a child to go through pregnancy and birth is fucking sick.

Part 2

I want to address this even though I know it’s not a popular opinion for young Democrats, who are largely with Sanders.

Yes, you can be a feminist and vote for Sanders, fine. But you can’t say that you look at both candidates equally and decide based on positions and personality, and not on gender. It is not possible to do this. Because all media coverage is not created equal. 

What you know about your preferred candidate, you know from media coverage. The coverage you consume is hugely biased. Research shows that women running for political office are not discussed the same way their male counterparts are.

For example, Bystrom and her coauthors found in newspaper coverage of 2002 mixed-gender gubernatorial and senatorial races that 8% of news stories about female candidates mentioned the candidate’s marital status compared with only 1% of men’s news stories, and that 6% of women’s news stories in that year mentioned appearance compared with only 1% of the men’s stories. Bystrom and her colleagues also found disparities in the extent to which reporters call attention to the gender of women candidates, but not of men candidates. Qualitative examples of gendered media coverage abound. For example, Carol Moseley-Braun, the only African American woman to ever serve in the U.S. Senate, who sought the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, was once described by The Chicago Tribune as a “den mother with a cheerleader’s smile.”

When men run for political office, we just don’t talk about this kind of thing. I don’t hear anyone saying that Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders will be a good or bad president because they’re a certain kind of Dad. No one gives a shit that Bernie Sanders divorced his first wife, nor should they, but it doesn’t go both ways.

Most notably, media coverage of Hillary Clinton in 2008—and especially cable news coverage—was filled with sexist remarks, from Glenn Beck describing Clinton as a “stereotypical bitch” to Tucker Carlson stating, “When she [Hillary Clinton] comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs.”

There were also instances of sexism faced by Clinton on the campaign trail that the media did not regard as newsworthy: Susan J. Carroll observes, “Sexism and sexist remarks by journalists and on-air pundits were treated as acceptable—a normal part of political discourse.” Although they are from different parties and brought quite different backgrounds to the 2008 presidential election, both Clinton and Sarah Palin were portrayed in sexist ways and faced the same gender stereotypes.Women are grossly underrepresented at every level of political office in the country.

These are examples from the right, but they infiltrate. I’ve spoken to many young Democrats for Sanders who think Clinton is shrewd, unlikeable, untrustworthy, pandering. Why are these the words that are used to describe her?

Read this paper. Here’s an excerpt:

Before Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic nomination, Elizabeth Dole was the first serious female candidate for a major party presidential nomination. Research on her campaign showed that voters were more likely to learn about her appearance or character than her issue positions, and many stories were negative (Aday & Devitt, 2001). Her role as Bob Dole’s wife was mentioned in a significant number of stories and was usually mentioned in the first third of the story. Overall references to her family outpaced those for her opponents (Heldman et al., 2005). Dole was not alone in being portrayed stereotypically. In 1984 Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman on a major party ticket, ‘‘was described as ‘feisty’ and ‘pushy but not threatening,’ and was asked if she knew how to bake blueberry muffins… . When she stood before the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, anchor Tom Brokaw announced: ‘Geraldine Ferraro … The first woman to be nominated for vice president… Size 6!’’ (Baird et al., 2008, p. 1).

To Bernie fans: of course you do not have to vote for Hillary because she has a uterus (as Killer Mike helpfully pointed out). But be aware that you’re not making your decision based on “the facts,” when “the facts” are fluid. There are no “facts.”

Women have a long history of being told to pipe down, to look hot, to speak softly, to smile, to put out, to nurture, to not be so emotional. Hillary Clinton is a strong, smart, powerful, competent woman. She speaks up. She interrupts. She doesn’t apologize for things that she shouldn’t, like being paid to give speeches, which was her job, even though she is expected to.

Whether you want to admit it or not, these engrained biases will affect how many people vote.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because THIS MATTERS. I agree with many of Sanders’ positions. I would love to see universal health coverage and affordable college tuition. I would love to see a marked change in the devastating growth of income inequality. Lucky for me, Hillary Clinton agrees on these issues; she always has. People just don’t believe her.

There’s an old trope, a thing I heard growing up that we tell our kids: you can be anything you want to be when you grow up. How can I tell my daughter this? How can I tell her she can be an engineer, when only 18% of those holding bachelor degrees in engineering are female? Can she be one of the 17% of mathematicians in the United States who are female? Can she be one of the 0% of U.S. Presidents who has ever been female?

Vote for whichever candidate you want, but don’t tell me it’s not about gender, or that gender isn’t an important factor in this race.

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