Share the Food, Spoil the Child

Summer travel can reunite you with people you don’t see often.  My wife, son and I recently went to the mountains to spend a 4-day weekend with my grandparents. My mom, step dad, aunt and uncle joined later, along with the occasional drop-in. Even though it’s exciting to catch up with family, it’s different when you have a child.

Let’s face it: your growing kid is the attraction now. You, the adult, have become boring. You may have gained five pounds or grown a moustache, but the stages of your development are largely invisible.  You hardly ever change. And the lame stories you tell about work and other mundane specifics of your life are so dull that you can hardly bear their meaninglessness even as you’re telling them. You hold no entertainment value whatsoever.  You’re not the star, anymore; you’re simply the driver on the film crew, a conveyance. You know who people are spending money to see.

Truly, a lot can happen between visits, especially with a young child. At Thanksgiving he’s crawling, and by Memorial Day he is running around like a wild animal. He’s growing with tremendous fluctuations in height and weight, looks, vocabulary, hair length and color, demeanor, sleeping habits—it’s like a new child with each visit.

Your family is different now, too. The people that you love and have known you for your entire life, the ones that celebrated your achievements and sheltered you through untold personal storms, are now spoiling your kid and must be stopped.  Yes, they spoiled you the same way but it’s less acceptable with your own child.

There were frequent times during the visit when my mom, grandmother, and aunt all gathered tightly around our son. Imagine a small football huddle with a confused kid in the middle of it.  They are not menacing people, but boy can they hover. Foster’s spoiling came in the form of mass feedings. They would descend on him, stuffing him full of fruit and candy like chefs fattening up a prized goose for a fois gras cook-off.

It was hard to watch. My wife and I would take turns protecting him and shielding his mouth from more food, swatting away grapes and berries like elite shot-blockers. It got the best of his digestive system and eventually fruit was going through him like was a walking juicer.

By the end of the visit, the ladies in my family began to listen to our pleas for moderation. They trusted our direction and honored our authority as the parents of the young superstar. As they each began to bond with him, they learned that there were other ways to earn his affection other than through gorgings.  He likes to sword fight with sticks, stomp in puddles, and can spend hours at a time throwing rocks.  Hand him his blue blankie and he will become serene and suck his thumb and melt in your lap. He is sweet and thoughtful. Listen closely, because his wit is quick. To watch loved ones bond with your child on his level is a precious thing to witness, and is an act that changes everyone for the better.

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