Oliver currently eats a 100 percent Paleo diet, and we have no plans to change this anytime soon. We have, relatively speaking, a very small window of time during which we retain complete control over the foods that are offered to Oliver. We are exploiting this fleeting opportunity to give Oliver the best nutritional head start that our knowledge allows, and to cultivate as many positive eating habits as possible.
Since we prepare all of Oliver’s meals, including the ones he eats at daycare (fortunately, he is able to opt out of the lunch program), this should be easy, but I have recently encountered a problem.
Several times each week, I take Oliver to various indoor community play times in order to allow him to play with new toys, play with (or more accurately, in close proximity to) other children, develop his gross motor skills, and freely explore in a “child-proofed” environment. The latter factor is key, as these playtimes afford an otherwise impossible opportunity for Oliver to explore, unimpeded by yours truly having to constantly redirect him from things he shouldn’t be touching (e.g. electrical outlets, appliance cords, trash cans, pet food/water bowls, laptops, etc.).
So, you can imagine my dismay the first time a mother pulled a plastic container of puffed wheat cereal out of her purse and placed it on the floor, opened, so that her child (and others) could eat while playing. Oliver, in his infinite curiosity, crawled over to investigate the interesting new “toy,” and I suddenly found myself having to intervene, lest Oliver start snacking on non-Paleo wheat puffs. Not a huge deal…
But then, the mother turned to then eight-month-old Oliver and offered him one of the wheat puffs! Yes, she offered food to a baby without consulting his mother first. Leaving aside the fact that we don’t want Oliver eating non-Paleo food, wheat puffs aren’t exactly a developmentally appropriate food for a baby just learning to chew and swallow. They are a choking hazard. Wheat is also a highly allergenic food.
Recognizing that this mother was in all likelihood just trying to be friendly, I politely declined, whereupon she insisted, “No, it’s okay: he can have some,” totally ignorant of the fact that perhaps I didn’t want him to have this food.
“Thank you, but he’s not allowed to eat wheat,” I explained. And then I found myself feeling awkward, as if somehow I had to justify my seemingly odd reaction to what was obviously intended as a polite offer.
Unfortunately this was not an isolated event. Parents regularly bring food for their children, and instead of providing snacks in the designated eating areas (complete with tables and chairs), they simply feed their children bites of food here and there on the playroom floor. Not only do they often leave behind messes, but I find it frustrating that I now have to restrict Oliver’s movements in what is supposed to be a safe place to explore. I have to be vigilant to ensure that other parents do not give food — intentionally or inadvertently — to my baby. I can’t begin to imagine how infuriating this would be for a parent of a child with food allergies, or for parents who have strong moral/religious convictions about food!
I recognize and respect that not everybody holds the same views towards feeding children; that some parents prefer to allow their children to graze throughout the day; that the vast majority of parents do not impose a strict Paleo diet on their children. Every parent should feed their child(ren) as they see fit.
However, I take issue with people offering food to my baby without consulting me first. Because I don’t want to offend someone who obviously means well, I am probably more polite and restrained in my reactions than I ought to be. But inside, I stew.
How do you address other peoples’ unintentional and benevolent violations of your parenting “rules?”