THE other day I came across a scrap of memorabilia that took me back to one of the most stressful times of my life.It’s a small, dog-eared notebook recording the times and amounts of my son’s daily, indeed hourly intake of milk when he was a newborn infant.
The detail is meticulous as the notebook records every feed for more than six months: 10 mls at 2.15 am on November 3, 15 ml at 11.50 pm on December 24, etcetera.
It was a pretty grim time. Breastfeeding just didn’t work for us and being harangued by hospital midwives in the early hours of the morning for “failing” really didn’t help.
My boy wouldn’t sleep, would only drink pitiful amounts of formula from bottles and wouldn’t put on weight.
It was the beginning of five years of sustained sleep deprivation and my son’s status of a “fussy eater”. The effort to get him to drink from his bottle was eventually successful, but he never seemed to have much of an appetite.
As a toddler he seemed to live solely on milk, Vegemite and spaghetti. Meal times often ended with my dumping his dinner pretty much untouched into the bin and I was just distraught about it all, convinced he wasn’t going to grow, that he wouldn’t be healthy or his brain wouldn’t develop properly.
We consulted doctors and dieticians and spent a fortune on books by “experts”, but nothing seemed to improve. I would watch other mums with plump babies or well-fed toddlers with guilt and envy because my little guy seemed destined to stunt his own growth.
However, years later I have the opposite problem. Now an intensely energetic and rapidly growing “tween”, I just can’t fill him up. I often wonder if he really does have hollow legs and how a normal-sized child can consume so much food so quickly. A full fridge seems to disappear in a blink of an eye.
Our shopping trolley looks like we are feeding the entire Raiders team. He’s omnivorous with an insatiable appetite. “I’m hungry” and “what’s for dinner” are his constant refrain. I really don’t know where he puts it, but he’s growing like topsy and a full program of acrobatics and figure skating sees him just packing on muscle.
I’m not quite sure when things changed – sometime when he was about seven or eight and his physical activity picked up sharply. Suddenly he was just ravenous.
The lesson that I draw from this is that one of the problems with parenting is that while we so often want instant perfection for our child, the reality is that things rarely follow the path laid out in all those glossy parenting books anxious new mothers and fathers buy.
If there are problems – seek out good advice. But don’t be too stressed if things don’t follow a smooth path. Every child is different and I never imagined, as I carefully recorded every reluctantly drunk drop of milk, that I’d now have the strapping, young man who is again raiding the fridge as I write.