Episode 1: Food
I have food issues.
Not the kind you’d expect. Sure, my kids are picky eaters. Yes, I’ve had battles over broccoli, “brown chicken” (aka steak) and Bran buds (“bunny poop!”). The garden-variety complaints I can handle, and if I can’t I just don my trusty earplugs.
What I did not expect, when becoming a parent, was having to learn to anticipate the many ways food is an accident waiting to happen.
At first, there was breastfeeding, which gave me a shortlived sense of complete control over what passed my infant’s lips. Then came baby cereals and mashed vegetables — innocuous mush that couldn’t harm a fly.
As solids began to creep in, though, the hidden dangers of food suddenly became apparent. One day I came home from a shopping trip to find my year-old son sitting happily in his highchair being fed by his father. I smiled at the blissful scene, then rounded the chair to confront what lay on his tray.
A carrot. A hairy orange tuber the size of a megaphone. In other words, certain death by choking.
“What. Is. That????” I probably screamed. (My memory of the moment has, mercifully, since faded, while the sense of outraged disbelief is still fresh in my mind.)
I have no doubt my husband blinked innocently up at me and replied, “It’s a watermelon. What do you think it is?”
Thus it dawned on me that our opposite approaches in life, which I had naively thought of as complementary — me a relentless information-gatherer and reader of instructional manuals, him a relaxed, spontaneous fabricator of theories based on “instinct” — might in fact lead to conflict.
With the floodgates of anxiety opened, the list of unexploded refrigerator landmines quickly grew. Grapes, Nature’s gift to the parents of picky children everywhere, were a major battleground. (If he agreed to cut them in half, which was rare, he would cut them for maximum choking potential.) Hot dogs, designed to be eaten anywhere but sitting safely at a table and the biggest single cause of choking deaths in children, led to skirmishes. Popcorn, which could easily lodge itself in the lungs and is my husband’s favourite food (if indeed it can be termed a “food”) was practically grounds for separation.
And those were just the hazards you could see. The microbial dangers lurking on mouldy cheeses or sandwich meat that my husband, a religious disregarder of expiry dates, refused to throw out, were equally hair-raising. To this day I scan the fridge regularly with a view to keeping my children safe from botulism toxins.
Of course, as the kids have gotten older, the anxieties have receded or bloomed in a different direction. And I will admit that my husband has made some progress, too.
Non-baby carrots, however, are still banned from the premises.