Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Floor Life

I frequently enter my kitchen only to find my daughter scouting around under her high chair for remnants of a once-tasty meal. At any point in time, you can look under there and find an assortment of random particles such as cheerios, dried macaroni noodles, dirt-encrusted scrambled egg, and of course, the ever-present unrecognizable flecks that are so appealing to little mouths. I don’t mind her eating the cheerios, which my husband described as having a long “floor life.” But the dried ham and macaroni just doesn’t appeal to me as a next-day treat, and I can’t stand hearing the muffled crunch as she bites in expecting a reprise of yesterday’s tasty entrĂ©e. Don’t get me wrong, I try to keep my child fed and my floor clean, mostly because my daughter also thinks of pebbles and dirt clods as free game.

“Shelf life” refers to the amount of time something can be stored without going bad…like Twinkies, for example. I’ve heard that Twinkies have a shelf life of seven years. So when my husband coined the phrase “floor life” I began to wonder about which kinds of foods are remotely edible after a day or two on the floor. And why is she so anxious to pick up food remnants from the floor immediately after finishing a tasty, prepared, germ-free meal?

It seems that she is drawn magnetically to the dirtiest ones, the ones that were wet when they landed and have since collected dust and dried out, like scrambled eggs. Rice and noodles return to a dry, pre-cooked state, and she seems to like them just fine, as if I had intended to feed them to her unprepared, not to mention off of the floor. She’s always liked peas, and when eaten off the floor, they are just dehydrated. Then there is the food processed mush, the four course meal we grind into baby food consistency and feed her for dinner, and which she has never complained about. This stuff does not have any floor life. Once it hits the ground, it is immediately off limits. But of course, if she gets her little pincher grasp on a clod of this stuff, its an afternoon snack. Gross!

When does the oral fixation end? I find myself worrying that her kindergarten teacher will accuse us of neglecting to feed our child, otherwise she wouldn’t constantly be scrounging for food off the floor. After all, she is growing, despite her love of cardboard, grass, and wood chips. I’ve seen her bite into carpet, chair covers, human skin, socks, her crib, leather, hair, denim, and the list goes on. You think after one experimental bite of something repulsive, she would never try it again? Hah! If only that were true. I should be grateful that my child has a robust appetite and senseless palate—it indicates to me that she will always be willing to finish her vegetables. Can we channel this positive desire for salivary gratification onto something a bit more tasty or nourishing?

I’ve tried to avoid getting her addicted to sweets. She likes ice cream, of course, but I’ve never really fed her candy, because she doesn’t need it…its not important to learn to like sweets at an early age, as it is to like veggies. Now I worry that instead of getting her used to healthy things, I’ve assisted her in getting to like paper, dirt, and the leftovers on the floor. Does anyone have a mop I can borrow?

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