Crystal Clear: Today's mess creates tomorrow's memories
Crystal Lewis Brown is the editor of the Fort Jackson Leader and an Army spouse of four years.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- For the past two weeks, all I can think about is food. Spaghetti with meat sauce, green beans with rice, turkey and mixed vegetables. It has become my obsession.

Not my own food, of course, but baby food.

As a self-proclaimed "book mama" (meaning that everything I know about babies, I got from a book), I follow the guidelines to a "T." If the book says give him one jar of baby food for lunch, I give him one jar of baby food. When the book says he should drink at least 24 ounces of formula per day, I carefully calculate each bottle to ensure I'm neither exceeding the guidelines nor falling behind.

The only problem is that babies don't read books.

At my son's last doctor's appointment, his pediatrician suggested giving his formula from a cup so that by the time he's 1, he will no longer depend on the bottle. And at the day care, once he turns 1, he begins to eat real meals.

The transition seemed easy enough - put the milk in a cup and give him some real food. But, as with most things that involve children, it was a lot more than that.

The first time I gave him milk from a cup, it was as though he didn't understand what was going on. He'd long since been drinking water from a sippy cup, but for some reason, putting his formula in instead did not come easy. After he'd not gotten it after one day, I went to the book.

Flip, flip, flip. As I flipped through the pages, I didn't see one thing about how to get him to drink milk from a cup instead of a bottle. I also couldn't find anything about how to keep him from throwing the cup, and how to keep the dog from licking said cup once it was thrown.

As unprepared as I was for the cup, I was even more confused with how to get him to eat real food. The book said that now was the time to get him to use a spoon. It may get a little messy, it warned, but it was necessary. It seemed easy enough.

I'd witnessed for myself the 1-year-olds in my son's day care class sitting around a table, using forks and spoons to eat their lunches (which, by the way, look way better than my usual lunch of frozen meals).

I started off by finally introducing him to some chunkier baby foods, which he, of course, hated. For the first two feedings, he refused to eat it, and spit most of it in my face before erupting into tears. Then, he wanted to feed himself and grabbed the spoon.

Unfortunately, he always grabbed the wrong end, and instead of putting the food in his mouth, it ended up in his hands. And subsequently ended up on everything he touched.

Finally, I had an idea: I fed him with one spoon and let him "feed" himself with a different spoon. And despite ending up with a hair full of spaghetti earlier this week, that approach has so far worked fairly well. And though he still wants a bottle when he's just awakening, I've also gotten him to drink milk from a cup during snack time (twice!).

Will he be ready to eat and drink like a "big boy" once that 1 year benchmark comes around' I don't know.

But what I have come to accept is that regardless of whether he can do those things on his own by his first birthday is no indication of his health or developmental skills. It is also no indication of my mothering skills.

And I've realized that once he is able to do those things by himself, I will miss helping him. And though it may seem like hard work now, making these memories will make it all worthwhile.

Page last updated Thu December 3rd, 2009 at 08:08