There’s something that has been bothering me lately, and I feel the need to confess it to all of you. I didn’t think it was a problem, my husband didn’t think it was a problem, but others around us keep telling us it’s a problem. And after hearing it enough, it makes a person wonder what kind of parent they are to not be more aware of things like this, and be more vigilant about taking action to correct the problem.
Here goes: I have a two year old, nearly two and a half, actually, and she cannot use a spoon or fork.
I know – I’m an awful parent, right? OK, maybe not the earth-shattering confession you were expecting, but nonetheless still an issue that seems to be pointed out to us more and more each day.
Cordy has no interest in feeding herself with a spoon. None at all. She’s actually become quite good at feeding herself finger foods, like cut up triangles of sandwiches, pretzels and crackers, and anything that doesn’t require an eating utensil. But put a spoon in her hand, and she isn’t quite sure what to do with it. She may give it a few tries, but generally will whine and thrust the spoon at us until we take it and start feeding her.
I should add that she is not developmentally behind due to her own capabilities. I can blame it all on parental laziness. When she was much younger, right at the age of abandoning baby food for whatever we were having, she hated having a bath. The bath generally resulted in screaming, thrashing, struggling to get out, and all of us feeling traumatized afterwards. As a result, we did our best to make sure she remained as clean as possible.
We sought out the best foods that resulted in the least amount of mess. She was given free reign on anything that wasn’t in a liquid or semi-liquid form, but when it came to something needing a spoon or fork, I insisted on doing it for her. That way I could control the spoon, ensuring the food ended up in her mouth instead of her clothes, her hands, or worst of all, her hair. Even non-liquid foods, like pasta covered in sauce, were controlled by me to ensure there would be little mess.
I should have given her more control of the spoon, but it seemed so easy to just do it myself. Even after she developed a love of the bath (although it still devolves into screaming and thrashing when washing her hair), I continued the practice, for my own ease. We’ve never been a family that sits around a table eating dinner – Aaron and I usually have our dinners in the living room, and often we don’t eat at the same time. (We have such different tastes in food that we often make different meals.) So Cordy often sits on my lap, while I feed her pasta, yogurt, applesauce, etc.
And now we’re at the point where our two and a half year old toddler – nearly a preschooler – cannot use a spoon, and doesn’t want to. My mom, who watches Cordy once a week, has started gradually nagging me about this fact, more and more each week, leaving me feeling like a horrible parent who can’t even teach her daughter basic life skills, like using eating utensils. And other people in my non-virtual life have commented on it as well.
While it wouldn’t bother me so much to have one parenting flaw pointed out, it usually doesn’t stop there – she also has no interest in potty training, can’t drink from a straw or actually anything but a sippy cup, watches too much TV, and doesn’t understand how to clean up her toys (she’s very good at putting one or two in a box, but then takes them right back out again and throws them everywhere). It’s enough to make me want to hide under the bed for a week.
At yet at the same time, I know we’re doing something right. She has learned to say “thanks”, she rarely acts out against us (no hitting and no more biting), she’s well-behaved in restaurants, she obeys simple safety instructions, she’s smart and can count to 15, and she’s generally a very happy child. So what if she hasn’t mastered a few skills, right? She’s always been a little behind in physical development, and in the grand scheme of things, I highly doubt she’ll be going to kindergarten in diapers with a sippy and no idea how to use a spoon. But there is a good chance she won’t be ready for preschool at three years old.
Am I a bad mommy for neglecting to teach my toddler how to use a spoon? Are there other parents out there who have spoon challenged kids, or are all of your toddlers skilled in the use of the spoon, and possibly moving on to more challenging utensils like chopsticks? Do I just need to bite the bullet, cover my kitchen in vinyl drapes, and prepare for the mess as I force her to use a spoon?