Suburban Snapshots

Table Matters

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Anna's less-seen cousins are visiting from far flung places this week — beautiful Colorado mountain country and the exotic reaches of central New Jersey. They are, together, four beautiful little girls ranging in age from 18 months to 4 years. At 2 and a few months, Anna is still the lightest of the quartet.

My daughter is a string bean. From the neck down she's composed 100% of her dad's genes, from her little square butt cheeks to her wonky, upturned toenails. She looks older than her 2 years because she's lacking the pudge that usually doesn't shed until preschool (or if you're me, until I'm in an urn on someone's mantle). She's long, and this summer I've frequently had her in shorts left over from her 6-12 month collection.

I love her little body, with beach-tanned legs, saggy bathing suit bottoms and floppy straps. I love how her belly pops out the second she eats so much as a single Cheerio. I picture it making a sound like a penny in a piggy bank as she swallows. I've never seen a more beautiful silhouette than her lanky shadow on wet sand.

And still, I can't help but feel pressure to chunk up my little Jack Sprat. When we sit all of the girls down to dinner, I watch in amazement as her cousins eat entire bowls of rigatoni, followed by a meatball, then maybe a yogurt. Three girls are wiped down and picked up, and the chorus of "Just one more bite, Anna" begins. Food is waved, bribes are offered, the child is defiant (but a Popsicle? No problem.)

My instinct tells me she's getting enough. Her annual check-ups say she's growing just fine. But there it looms — the image of a cherubic, applebottomed baby, the worry that she ought to be eating more.

As someone who's never known food strictly as fuel, and has been engaged in thigh warfare for most of her life, I don't want to force Anna to eat arbitrarily. I'd like her to sit when we sit and to know set mealtimes, I won't let her exist solely on Popsicles, but I think it's more an adult issue than a kid's when we demand cleared plates and eaten greens.

Maybe I'll just start pureeing entire meals and freezing them into Popsicles.

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