Joseph's Diets; This week we'll mostly be eating...

Nothing is ever quite as you remember it. Gold Bars, recently purchased from Home & Bargain, a Mecca for throwback chocolate, just aren’t as tasty as they were when I was a kid. (Pause for a quick aside. Despite what the sign says, I refuse to call it Home Bargains. I’m Scouse. It’s Home AND Bargain. Singular Bargain. Don’t even try and question me. I’m shutting down that conversation right now) Chesney Hawkes probably isn’t as fit as the 8-year-old me thought he was and I refuse to introduce my kids to the wonders of Thundercats, just in case it was, in fact, shit. Some things are best kept in the past, preserved by glory and nostalgia. Certain aspects of your child’s early years are also kept this way. It’s lovely to think you had a joyfully happy baby, who rarely cried and was a walking, talking, potty trained six-month-old child genius, even if, in reality, they were a squawking brat of fairly average intelligence.
To some extent, the sands of time do smear Vaseline over the lenses of our rose-coloured spectacles and everything is in soft focus, all warm and fuzzy. Unless something traumatic has happened, by the end of the toddler years, most people choose to remember mainly the yummy, cuddly sweet bits of those early days. Or maybe that is just me. I’m a bugger for nostalgia but I can’t help but think that, now baby number 2 is here, nostalgia is being a bit of a bugger for me, causing me more stress and anxiety than the present.

This week, we have embarked upon weaning our six-month-old. We have chosen to do it at the same time as potty training our two-and-a-half-year-old, so it’s literally all shits and giggles in our house right now. Except, in all honesty, there are a lot more shits going on and that is mainly on the potty-training side of things. For some unknown reason, Joe just doesn’t get solids. To the point that I am considering a DNA test because I’m just not sure how someone who is 50% me can be so disinterested in food. James, my eldest, took to solids straight away. And this is where I start to get all stressy.

Having two kids, two years and two months apart is great in many ways, especially when you have two boys and save a bloody fortune on clothes and toys. However, it is inevitable that you draw comparisons and this is decidedly dodgy ground. There is an element of trying to draw on my previous experience in a desperate attempt to know what to do and establish a level of normal. But every child is different and I am concerned that I am causing both myself and the boys problems in the future.

James was an advanced baby. I’m not just saying that as a smug arsehole, gloating about my child prodigy. He’s not a child prodigy but he was an early starter and this is backed up, usually, by the Timehop app. He was rolling by 10 weeks. He had teeth at 5 months. He sat up and crawled at 6 months. He was walking by 10 months. His speech has always been exceptional, especially for a boy. His counting, his alphabet… all amazingly well developed. I am not for a second suggesting that this is down to me in anyway.  I’m not naturally particularly clever. I’m not an attentive parent who speaks seven languages and spends my time reading to my child in Mandarin. I don’t sign to the kids. I don’t do anything. In fact, a lot more will be down to nursery than it is to me. James is just bright. He is also massively challenging at times, with a monstrous temper so he is by no means perfect.

With the absurd impatience of a new parent, I started weaning James when he was five and a half months old. We did Baby Led Weaning and I loved watching him explore his food. He was sitting up well. He mastered the hand to mouth coordination. He loved it all. Yes, it went everywhere but he was engaged and interested and the mess was just part of the fun.

With typical second baby nonchalance, I wasn’t in as much of a rush to wean Joe. It was just something else I’d have to think about so I waited until he was six months on the dot. I thought being a bit older, he would have got it straight away but, no. He looks at me with contempt as I place him in the highchair. His top lip curls and I can almost hear him mumble “Oh will you just piss off and let me suck my fists, please?” When he sits in the highchair, he slumps over to the right. Being wonky can’t make eating easy, so I have tried to prop him up a bit. He grabs the food ok, after a bit of grappling, but he doesn’t always get it first time and it doesn’t always make it to his mouth. He seems able to suck on it in a fashion but it’s just not quite there. I’m not sure he’s ingested anything. I have tried him with basic finger food; banana, avocado, broccoli (marginally a success thanks to James’ rather over-zealous attempt at assisting. Who needs to chew when your brother can just ram it down your throat for you?), pear, carrot, sweet potato. I even tried mashing up bits for him and feeding it to him on a spoon but he just took the spoon off me and chewed it to bits. This has left me panic stricken.

My first concern is nutrition. Is he getting enough? I know that the main source of nutrition is milk until they turn one but it’s not unknown for Joe to fuss and skip a feed or even vom an entire bottle right back up like a cherub fountain gently spews a continuous flow of water. Given that his dad and I could well compete in the Man Vs Food World Championships, it bothers me that I have a child so apathetic to food. Is it normal?

Secondly, I’m concerned about his growth. Despite the fact he is gently chubbing up on the 50th centile and the health visitor has not expressed giving one shiny shit about his size, I am concerned that he’s small. Virtually every baby I have come across in recent months is at least one or two clothes sizes bigger than they should be. Babies some three months younger are the same size as him. Even girls! Is he a dwarf? Everyone else’s baby is huge, even ones smaller than him at birth. I’m a distinctly average 5ft 5, his dad is relatively tall 6ft 1. Everyone comments on how grown up his brother looks for 2. Yet, here is Joe. All little and round. No one ever says he look big. I hope he doesn’t end up short. No one wants to be short, do they?

Lastly, I’m concerned about his development. Why is he struggling with it so much? Is he lazy? Should he be able to feed himself better? His brother was doing loads by this stage but here he is all wonky and gummy. Is he behind?

Or is it, really, me that is the problem? Is Joe just exactly where he needs to be and I need to stop being a neurotic, pushy mum? Let’s face facts. Joe doesn’t exactly look like he is wasting away. His face is about as perfect a circle as you could draw freehand. He looks exactly like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. In fact, if I am going down the comparison route, I probably should have been more concerned about James at that age. He was a long, skinny baby. Those creases at the wrist were never quite as deep as Joe’s. Joe is 100% “chubber,” as James would say. (FYI, I haven’t taught him the word chubber. He’s found it all by himself. I don’t condone the use of fattist words in front of kids. However, I must confess, I may be guilty of using the word ‘chubster’ in front of him, though. Bad mum) Joe is alert. He babbles away. He chews things. He gnaws at his own toes, the big bloody weirdo. He rolls over. He laughs. Just because he isn’t quite sitting up, eating with chop sticks and discussing the economic impact of Brexit with his friends (who seem only to be his own fists) doesn’t mean he is falling behind. Equally, just because he isn’t 7ft and weighing 18 stone doesn’t mean that he isn’t fine, exactly as he is.

Joe is in the process of developing a personality. James’ personality is fully established. It’s an extremely prominent (‘spirited’) personality at that. He’s a force to be reckoned with. Joe is still sussing life out, mainly by staring unblinkingly at things, until people feel uncomfortable. Maybe I need to back off and just let Joe’s personality come out in its own time.

I have a brother, 16 months younger than me, and we could not be more different. Mark is tall and dark and athletic. I’m short and round and blonde. Mark is black and white and straight down the line. I’m an airy-fairy, shades of grey over thinker. I’m not sure how we are related. Maybe my boys will be like that?

I have never felt any sense of sibling rivalry with my brother, perhaps because we are of the opposite sex and do not pose any kind of threat to each other. I would hate for my boys to feel any kind of rivalry, especially any rivalry caused by me comparing them. There is enough competition in the world, the boys shouldn’t be competing against each other, especially not in the eyes of their mother. My dream for my boys is for them to support each other in the way the Brownlee brothers supported each other through THAT triathlon. (Google it if you haven’t. If you don’t feel a wave of emotion, please do go and check that you have a pulse)

I want my boys to feel Good Enough™ in their own right. Not just against each other but against the outside world. Does it really matter if Joe isn’t a giant? Does it matter that he won’t devour 47 ribs in one sitting? (Actually, that’s probably a good thing) There are so many competitive parents out there. People who are intimate with the Ofsted reports of every school in the borough and have visited all of them by their child’s first birthday. People who are appalled that you haven’t done similar and judge you for your choice of either of the nearest two schools. But what does it matter what anyone else’s kid is doing if your kid is healthy and happy? It doesn’t at all and I don’t want my kids ever to use others as a benchmark for how well they are doing in their own lives. Because, obviously, I never look at others and compare myself. (Ahem! Do as I say not as I do, ok kids?).

Maybe my tinted spectacles are making me forget the frustrating part of weaning, which is more than just the usual “so what do I give them for dinner today?” Perhaps, because I never noted down all the times James will have refused food or chewed his own hand rather than his dinner, I have totally forgotten and I’m just choosing to believe it was a wonderful time of discovery. Or maybe I just wasn’t as goddamn batshit crazy back then as I am now. (Exhibit A. We went to a farm today. When we got back, Joe was unsettled and threw up on me. The natural conclusion, for me, was that he contracted CJD or some kind of Bovine flu from the farm. So far, crying and one sick has been his only symptom but there is time) Whatever the reason, I am going to make a conscious effort to refrain from comparison and to embrace the differences. I’m also going to do detailed blog on the pit falls of potty training next week so that in two years’ time, I can look back and think ‘yep, this was a bloody disaster back then too.’


  1. You are right - comparison will drive you nuts. I know it's a cliche but every child is different. It's so easy to get neurotic, I know I do, but hope it gets easier for you. #Stayclassymama

  2. wow that's brave taking on weaning and potty training. There's 18 months between my two and I'm also just starting to wean my baby (also waited longer this time..poor old neglected second babies eh?) He's also not that into food (and he's a BIG lad so i thought he would be). He's also not sitting as upright as his sister was at that age (see, I'm comparing too!) and I put it down to the fact that he's just not ready yet. I've recently bought the BLW book everyone says you should get (can't remember name) and I think there's no hurry as they get all their nutrients from milk still. Just keep trying and I'm sure in a week or two he'll be more interested. #stayclassymama (Topfivemum)