Can you tell Husband is away? Can you? Does it show? No, of course it doesn't. I normally post 2 days in row, don't I? Anyone?
As he was climbing out of the bath this evening, I had the following conversation with Boy #1:
Boy #1 (face assuming a 'cat who got the cream expression): "I did something really cheeky at school today, Mama."
Me (stay calm, stay calm, no-one asked you to step into their office when you picked him up): "Oh yes?"
Boy #1: "Yes."
Me: "So... what was it?"
Boy #1: "Well, for pudding today, they gave us grapes..."
Oh god. The Fruit Issue. I knew this would come up sooner or later. Now don't judge me. But Boy #1 hates fruit, in it's natural form at least. He does eat it, but not knowingly. He gets it in juice, smoothies, yoghurt, muffins, and in any other way I think of to hide it. He just won't eat it when it looks like fruit.
Note: this is not a family phobia. I love it, Husband too, and Boy #2 will go into stealth mode whenever he sees anyone with an apple, hunting it down until it's in his chubby little hands...
I know, I know, I should force the issue. Fruit is an important part of a healthy diet. But food has been something of a sticking point for Boy #1 for a very long time now. Up until age 1, he ate well, in fact he ate pretty much everything. And since I was doing all the cooking myself (even down to making my own chicken stock, god help me), he had a very healthy and varied diet. But then, aged 1, he cottoned on to how important it was to me that he ate. Being a working mum (at the time), food was one of the few things I felt I could deliver on to meet my internal blueprint of a 'proper' mother. Hence the late night stock making sessions.
(Don't worry - I'm so over that now. In fact, I was over it the moment I realised Waitrose did a salt and additive-free liquid version, though sadly that epiphany didn't happen until I was weaning Boy #2. So any Annabel Karmel disciples reading this out there planning on making their own chicken stock, step away from the chicken. And get yourself down to Waitrose...)
Anyway, back to Food. And how doing it by the baby-friendly recipe book made me feel slightly less guilty about being away from my son for 9 hours a day. My older son may be a lot of things - cheeky, adorable, hilarious, an emotional rollercoaster, an interesting contrast of confident and shy, affectionate - but slow on the uptake he is not. Even aged 1 he spotted that it bothered me when he didn't eat.
So, he stopped.
Well, he stopped eating for me, at any rate. For other people, he would eat just enough to get by. But for me? No way, Jose. And I'm not talking toddler tantrums or willfullness. No, he just wouldn't eat, not without a knock-down fight, anyway. I tried all sorts of tactics; I stayed calm, I got cross, made it fun, I was furious, I was defeated, I was guilty. But nothing really made that much of a difference.
Eventually I took the decision that I would not turn meals into battlefields. Food is important, yes, but so is not having a phobia of it, and I could see where things were leading. I also knew that he was doing this entirely to manipulate me. No-one else, not really, just me. It was hard, but I backed off. Every time he refused more than a few mouthfuls of something that I knew he had eaten properly the previous day for someone else, I counted to 10. Of course, it still upset me. It still drove me crazy. But I tried - and on the whole, succeeded - to let it go.
It's taken 4 years but now he eats most things. Sometimes protesting, rarely the entire plateful (though that's happening increasingly often as he gets older) but he does eat. And grow, more to the point. It's not as if he's one of those children who will only eat chicken nuggets and chips either; he will eat pretty much anything, his repertoire doesn't just include sausage and mash. He loves fish (of all kinds and including squid), couscous, lentil sauce (admittedly he doesn't know it's lentil - so sue me), anything Italian, Indonesian food, chinese food, you name it.
But fruit? Forget it.
So, back to my sinking feeling during our bathtime conversation.
Boy #1: "Well, for pudding today they gave us grapes."
Boy #1: "I waited until no-one in the kitchen was looking, and then I, then I, tipped them under the table!" (Big triumphant smile).
We discussed this further, of course. I explained that tipping food away is not acceptable behaviour, and that perhaps he should just leave them next time. He told me that this is not allowed. So then I suggested that perhaps he share them with his neighbours - when no one is looking.
Was that the wrong thing to do? Am I encouraging him to flout authority? Or am I simply teaching him coping strategies? I mean, he does eat, for heaven's sake. Just not fruit.
Not that he knows of, at any rate.