Babies drink milk. Then they graduate to their first foods; a doting mother lovingly spoons pureed meals into their eager little mouths. Next stage: they start attempting to feed themselves. Hard biscuits are smooshed on highchair tray, self, and face, in a most adorable manner. Then the little fingers begin pushing Cheerios around the tray, until– score! One goes in the mouth!
It’s a fascinating discovery. Soon all foods (and other small objects, and, in the case of one of my brothers, a live spider) are unsteadily moved mouthward as the toddler realizes the joys of self-feeding.
But what’s that shiny silver thing that Mommy and Daddy use? It’s a spoon, honey. You hold it like this; and then you scoop like that.
It’s a long, hard struggle, but the desire to be a Big Girl wins out, and the child and utensil soon move in symbiotic harmony.
Then, they turn four.
The preschool age is the age of discovery. The child’s world widens, and she reaches out to explore the new and unknown. She also develops her exploratory nature, attempting to grasp the deeper meaning of life, the universe, and everything.
Unfortunately, by “grasp,” I really do mean “grasp.” And by “everything,” I really do mean “everything.”
Up until now, I’d always assumed that basic survival instinct prompted human beings to eat chicken noodle soup with a spoon. The Maiden, sadly, was born with a deficiency of said instinct. She would have been toast in the wild.
Finger foods, yes, and even quasi-finger foods: both understandable. After all, who among us doesn’t occasionally snatch a piece of broccoli from her plate without virtue of a fork?
But with the Maiden, anything goes. Rather, her fingers go–into everything. Oatmeal. Salad. Stir-fry. Yogurt. Turkey smothered with gravy and cranberry sauce, and a nice helping of mashed potatoes from the left hand. Fistfuls of rice. And of course, the aforementioned chicken soup, which slithers between her fingers and down her wrists in yellow rivulets of flavor.
Fortunately, our dining room chairs are upholstered with a hideous 70s-style striped pattern that diffuses the food artistry lavished upon them by the Maiden. The soft material and crevices hold enough nutrition to keep us covered for days if a disaster struck.
But invariably somewhere during the course of a meal, the chairs become saturated and the Maiden goes on the hunt for a new napkin. Not her clothes. Not an apron. And definitely not the napkin that’s sitting right next to her plate along with the sadly neglected utensils.
With her best Rapunzel, she lets down her hair, and gives a satisfied hand swipe before heading back for a second helping. I make a mental note to give her another bath.
Oddly enough, the Maiden eats hummus with a spoon instead of dipping crackers or vegetables like normal people. So I guess there’s hope for her yet.
But in the meantime, I’m buying stock in shampoo.