A daddy and a mama and a baby

My kid is extremely fickle about eating. Breakfast has been especially tricky lately, so I’m trying a new tactic, in the spirit of the Montessori method.

Miles has been itching to take on “practical life skills” like pouring his own milk. It’s one of those emergent behaviors that initially irritates me because all I can see is a new hoop for me to jump through. Then I realize that by slowing down and letting him explore, it could actually help us all in the end. Miles can learn new skills (that will also bolster his confidence), and I can eventually get a reprieve from being accountable to constant requests for milk.

Today I began experimenting with letting him prepare his own toast. He didn’t seem interested in eating, which probably means he’s not hungry, but I worry hunger will hit him at school where there isn’t much of a snack available. So this morning I invited him into the kitchen to make his breakfast.

“Miles why don’t you pick what you want for your toast, and you can use the knife to spread it yourself?”

“Okay, Papa!” he said, shimmering with excitement.

He went to the fridge and proudly retrieved strawberry jam and a delicious ginger-pear butter that friends brought for us from northern Michigan. Next he got the peanut butter.

He placed the three jars, side by side, with the small jar of ginger-pear butter in the middle. “Look Papa, it’s a Daddy,” he said as he pointed to the peanut butter. “And a Mama.” He pointed to the strawberry jam. “And the baby!” He placed his little index finger on the ginger-pear butter.

I paused for a moment. Lately, I’ve noticed he’s begun to project this family structure onto inanimate objects and animals. I think it’s good. He’s got to know that most families have a mama and not two dads. So I almost let it go, but because I’ve let it go a lot lately, I worried maybe I needed to reinforce a sense that families can be different, like ours.

“Yes, I see the Daddy, Mama, and baby,” I said. “But what if that one,” pointing to the jam jar, “was a Papa? So the family was a Daddy, Papa, and baby, like our family?”

Without missing a beat he said, “But we don’t have another peanut butter to be the Papa!” Duh, Papa!

I cracked up out loud. “Miles, I guess you’re right.”

There are days when it seems the world and its order remain mostly a big, amorphous blob to him. Then there are times like these when he breezily reveals a deeper understanding. It blows my mind. I guess he gets the sameness of the same-sex thing after all. Peanut butter, peanut butter.

He spread ginger-pear butter on top of strawberry jam and reserved the peanut butter for the other slice of bread. After we sat down to eat, he had one bite and announced he wasn’t hungry.


8 thoughts on “A daddy and a mama and a baby

  1. Great post, I have similar things going on in my house right now. It’s a crazy dance between letting them feel independant and wanting to get things done fast! But it true, they love doing things for themselves 🙂 I also relate to the non-traditional family discussions – my husband and I are very aware of letting our boys know that there are all shapes of families out there, and they aren’t all made up of moms being with dads! The peanut butter thing made me smile, kids have the best way of making things understandable 🙂

  2. Hope – it’s always nice to think of other people having crazy things going on in their houses too. And it’s cliched to say it, but I keep seeing it: having a kid really does teach me a lot about the world and myself. So often, Miles does something that seems so crazy and foreign, but then it clicks that what he’s doing (usually) makes complete sense….and is a step to a new level of understanding and growth.

  3. That’s totally incredible! I love that he was so nonchalant about how you need another peanut butter for Daddy.

    We’re looking forward to, and dreading, these moments ahead of us. 🙂

  4. Kids are awesome and they miss so little! His recipe sounds yummy!

    One of the families I worked for had a great idea when their girls started to be more independent. They put all of their kid dishes in two lower drawers so they could set their own places at the table. The cereal and other easy kid foods went in the lazy susan cabinet. The best was that they would keep a lightweight, easy to hold, plastic pitcher in the refrigerator filled about one-third full of milk on the lowest shelf. The girls would get up, grab their dishes, the cereal, and pour their own milk with ease and minimal spills.

    • I am loving this idea! Thanks. It’s funny how often I don’t think of obviously good ideas to help his development along because I’m completely submerged in the moment-to-moment push and pull of our day.

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