According to medical journals, world- renowned pediatricians and, better yet, BabyCenter.com, excessive drooling is the number one sign that it's time to start introducing solid foods into her diet. Now I know what you're thinking because I was thinking it too: Finally, we can get a sack of White Castles and those last two won't go to waste! But apparently when the doctor says "solids" he actually means "mushy- rice- cereal- that- isn't- solid- at- all- and- looks- more- like- watered- down- eggnog."
Sorry, Ella. We're just as disappointed as you are.
While on the surface this task looks like fun, it's not. Feeding your child solid food for the first time is much like riding a Slip 'N Slide: It seems like a good idea as you make that long run down the yard, but the minute liquid hits your face you know that you've made a giant mistake.
So on Saturday night, we made a dinner date with Ella. We set up her Bumbo chair and plopped her on the table. Several veterans of the parenting field informed us that the first couple of tries are messy, so we prepared ourselves. We wrapped the largest bib we owned around Ella's neck, laid a giant burp cloth over her lap and hung painter's tarps on the walls and over the floor. My wife braved the situation with nothing but her usual weekend wear. I, on the other hand, made sure to put on gloves, goggles and a poncho for good measure.
Brittany took the first stab at feeding her. She dipped the tiny spoon in the tiny bowl, waved it in front of Ella's face and explained what she was going to do: "Ella, this is big girl food. I'm going to place the spoon above your tongue and let you eat." To which Ella replied, "(confused look on my face)." Then Brittany placed the spoon on our babe's tongue and, without hesitation, Ella licked the spoon clean. There was no mess. No anything. It was as if she'd been eating solids her entire (though short) life.
Ecstatic about this turn of events, I took off my goggles and gloves. For the next five minutes I watched as Ella pleasantly took down the rice cereal. It was a tender moment for our family to share. I couldn't have been any prouder of my little angel.
About halfway through the bowl, my wife turned to me and asked if I'd like to give it a try. Me? I practically shed a tear. It was like bouncing around rookie ball for years and then suddenly getting called up to The Show. I promised myself I wouldn't let her down.
I took the bowl and buried the spoon in it, pulling out a small portion of food. I smiled at Ella. She smiled at me. And with one gentle swoop, I put the spoon in her mouth. For a special moment like this, there's only one word that can capture its sentimentality:
Instead of eating it down like before, she blew bubbles in it, spitting all over her face and mine. I learned quickly that this wasn't mere coincidence. It was actually a cleverly designed deceptive move on her part so I'd let down my guard. As I wiped my face with my sleeve, she grabbed the spoon and flung what was left at her mom. With her free hand, she grabbed the bowl and poured it all over the table.
I'd like to say I was mad. I'd even like to say I was surprised. But I was neither. As I finished wiping off my face, I immediately saw my little girl give the biggest smile she's ever made. She was proud of what she did—not because she made a mess but because in her eyes she was helping. I turned to my wife who was also smiling. I couldn't help but follow suit.
So the three of us sat there, one happy, rice-covered family. I only hope that everyone can be so lucky.
The Life of Dad is updated most Fridays (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian