Don’t Drink the Salsa

“He is just so precious!” Amazingly, these words were actually said about MY son at a restaurant dinner table. Wonderful Ms. Diane wasn’t looking at a picture either; she was feeding my son his first taste of guacamole. (I will remember to say, “Holy Guacamole!” tomorrow morning.)

Moments later he was literally spooning salsa into his mouth and then trying to drink it from the dip dish. In this case I have no issue proclaiming as fact that he gets it from his father. I am highly allergic to most peppers and have spent years (and lots of Benedryl) building up a gradual immunity. Next up- iocane powder. (High five, fellow Princess Bride fans!)

Sometime in the last week, some unknown but soon to be discovered and accused culprit taught my son to tip his small cereal bowl and spill all but a mouthful of the remaining milk onto his lap. A thousand thanks for that one. (It’s only fair; my husband taught his niece the same thing which resulted in many such spills.) After taking a gulp of my own drink, I looked over to see my darling trying to drink the salsa from the bowl.

“Don’t drink the salsa” I told him. All doubt that he is a Texan male is GONE.

It occurs to me that a natural progression has happened here. Dips were only occasionally on his radar before various family visits; he now pretends to dip all food when a real sauce is not present. He went from dipping Wheat Thins into fruit dip (Thanks, Grandpa) to dipping chips into salsa…then the pacifier straight into the salsa… and now he is DRINKING the salsa. When that option was removed, he spooned it directly into his mouth. This was his second successful bowl to mouth spooning with a full-sized spoon; the first was with Bluebell mint chocolate chip ice-cream last night (Thank you, Lambert family).

We’ve all heard that it takes a village to raise a child. I’ve watched people I dearly love teach my child all sorts of habits. He now gets his spoon and waits near the freezer after dinner if he sees a white bowl; he is waiting for Bluebell ice-cream from Pop. He runs, plays, tackles, and generally acts like a boy- and this week several people I adore have been totally okay with it. As food falls to the floor, the dogs get it and no one cares. As he melts down in public people are ready with, “We’ve been there. Don’t worry.” When pacifiers go into the salsa and then into the mouth in .4 seconds, everyone laughs and grabs for the water glasses. This kind of acceptance- mixed with compliments about my mothering and affirmation when I discipline- has made me realize how much burden I have carried. The mix of guilt, impatience, and just plain exhaustion is enough to wear out the ‘care-o-meter’. Being in public with a toddler is a bit like reality television; just 30 minutes of observation and strangers know everything about you, your parenting, and what you should be doing differently. Experts are among us; how dare we imbeciles procreate!  I am amazed at how encouragement makes a difference. It’s one of my favorite things about the social networks offered to us today; we can celebrate and spur on fellow sojourners.

I have been graced with a child who is strong-willed. Those of you who know me and my husband well are probably smiling at that. When the determination is focused positively, he is amazing to watch. When it turns into opposition…look out. I have trouble eating out at Mexican restaurants due to my allergies—I only have a few salsas on the ‘approved’ list. Already, I am cautiously watching my little buddy voraciously devour foods that would guarantee my an ER trip. Part of watching a child develop (especially of the opposite gender, I think) is watching them do things that are foreign to you. Not just the “what were you thinking?” items, but the things that fill you with awe. Now, how do I encourage my child do and try new things that are dangerous or terrifying to me?

I am sure I will have many days where I wonder how to parent a child whose mind I can’t comprehend. Part of it is just general parenting, but the other is just trying to troubleshoot unpredictable problems. I expected ketchup covered shirts, not salsa-gulping. I hope that when the other surprises of life arise, I hope that I can just shrug it off and pass the chips. With my calm, shy demeanor, I am sure that will be the case.



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