Spoonfed: Why We Need to Embrace the Messiness

 Marina Dyakonova / Shutterstock
Mother feeding her son at home. Marina Dyakonova / Shutterstock

I’m going to tell you something I do not do very well.  But, only if you will not tell the other mothers because I have listened to them talk, and apparently I am the only one not very good at this. Deal?

I'm not good at helping my children learn to feed themselves. I totally get in the way. Let me explain.

Well, actually, there isn’t much about it to explain.

I don't like messes. So, I feed my children … for too long. I sit a bowl full of spaghetti in front of them, and I get a little panicky.  I mean, have you ever found dried, crusted spaghetti noodles on the floor a week (or more) later when you're cleaning?  And what about the slimy, greasy residue left on the plastic tray attached to the high chair?  And then there's the highchair cover.  I did not realize you could take that thing off to clean it until my second child was two. Wow. That was amazing — what I found under it, I mean.

Never mind the fact that most of the food gets on the child and everything and everyone else … not in their mouths.

And, I mean, I'm also very concerned about my child’s dietary needs. Seriously, I think that is the biggest reason I insist on feeding them well into their third year. (Did I just write that?) They need me. They need me to spoon that mouthful of spaghetti straight into their teeny little mouth. That way I know where it goes — there is no guesswork.

Signs of Hope

I was on my way to our weekly community meeting. It was a warm summer night, and the streets were full of people. As I rounded the corner of Euclid Street and headed up 13th, I saw a gathering crowd fixed on something in the middle of the street.

A young man, shirt off and a wild look in his eyes, was dancing up and down the center line of the street, in the middle of traffic. He seemed to be in a world of his own, making strange and violent movements and pounding on cars as they slowed for the traffic light. The signs were all too familiar--he was high on PCP.

Someone, most likely the young man, was going to get hurt unless something was done. Many people stood watching, shaking their heads and talking about how dangerous the situation was, but no one made a move to help. As usual, most of the onlookers were waiting for someone else to make the first move. When you are dealing with PCP there is good reason for caution. The drug produces very violent reactions and increases the strength of the user.

It was clear that the doped-up young man had to be brought out of the street and given medical attention. I carefully stepped into the street toward him.

Just as I did another young man appeared, riding up on his motorcycle. "Hey Jim," he said, "it looks like you could use some help."

I hadn't seen Anthony for a long time. As a boy he was always in trouble. Like too many inner-city kids, petty crime in the form of break-ins, stealing, and lying had become a way of life for Anthony. He used to live across the back alley from us and, with a couple of friends, had broken into many houses on the block, including ours. We tried to work with all of them, their families, and the police, but without much success. We later moved a block away, and we lost contact with Anthony. I hadn't seen him for years when he pulled up on his motorcycle to offer help in a tough situation.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!