| LifeTakes |

Just Don’t Ask

The one question everyone, and I mean strangers-on-a-train everyone, would ask: “Soooo, how does he sleeeep?”

IT began with my oldest, whose sleeping patterns left much to be desired.

Sleep training? Of course! Ferber all the way, right?

If anything, it made it worse.

But that was the one question everyone, and I mean strangers-on-a-train everyone, would ask: “Soooo, how does he sleeeep?”

In my earnestness, I felt duty bound to be honest. But it eventually dawned on me that there was a direct connection between every inquiry and that night’s ensuing fiasco.

Instead, I tried, “I’m not talking about it,” which excited more comment. I attempted, “Baruch Hashem,” which also instigated continuing chatter. In retrospect, I should have faked a violent coughing fit, which in today’s post-Covid world, would ensure that I’d be left alone very quickly. Or I should have feigned deafness, which seemed to work for my Babby when she had enough of people.

Eventually, my oldest became big enough that no one investigated his sleep patterns anymore. But then they turned to his brother.

They didn’t come for his sleep, though. They came for his food.

“Is he a good eater?” Undoer of My Sanity innocently asked, and I stupidly — how could I have been so stupid? — said, “He’s pretty okay.”

From that moment on he no longer qualified as “a pretty okay eater.”

Now? All of my reliable staples are rejected out of hand. When once I could easily spoon nearly anything into a rather willing mouth, a flinging fist whacks utensils away. I’m still startled at this vehemence; I thought he took after me, always up for a little something to nibble on.

I return, again and again, to the fridge, bearing fruits and cheeses and eggs and veggies and cereal until I realize that I have nothing else to offer. His little mouth is stubbornly shut. He jerks his head away from the treats I dangle in front of him. Even the cookies. The cookies.

What has she done to my baby?!

I’m running out of time before he demands to be liberated from the high chair, and then I’ll be chasing him around the house while brandishing a cracker, crumbs falling everywhere (it’ll be Pesach in ten months!), intent on getting him to eat something, anything, so he won’t wake me up at three in the morning because — newsflash! — he’s peckish. The whole “they’ll eat when they’re hungry” philosophy? Yeah, not during my sleepy-time. It’s short enough as it is.

I try a new tack. The secret of getting a child to eat is to be as uninterested as possible. Reverse psychology. So even though I’m flop-sweating from anxiety, I marshal every vestige of acting ability to exude a casual demeanor as I proffer (with a shaking hand) a Bamba puff. Please, please, just eat the Bamba.

It’s a snack, it’s not a meal, but this is how desperate I am. Wait, they can smell desperation! Be cool! Cool!

I offer only one, pretending to look intently out the window, not at the baby. If he catches me watching him, my cover is blown. I must look like I don’t care.

I hear an intrigued snuffle, then a tell-tale munch, and I sag in relief. With affected boredom, I drop another Bamba on the tray while bustling about the kitchen. I’m not pressuring you, I don’t care, I really, really don’t care, don’t eat, no need to eat . . .  I risk a peripheral glance, and he’s still stuffing the Bamba in his mouth. I fight back tears of happiness.

I give him only one Bamba at a time. I know that if I toss him more, they’ll all end up on the floor, like the rest of his dinner rejects. While I’m  giddy that he’s finally eating something, I refuse to vacuum for the fifth time today.

He soon announces “NO” and shoves away the 16th Bamba, but that’s enough. Dinner of champions! He has dined! I’m free of this purgatory! I release him into the wild with a fond pat on the head and move on to the other one, who eats only five things.

I swallow down the new surge of tears, and mother on.

I  beg of you all, as a public service, do not make small talk regarding a child’s sleep, or eating habits, or…  anything. The weather. Stick to the weather, and leave my kid out of it.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 867)

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