Trust me, Mother’s Tuna Surprise looked nowhere near as edible as this.
‘Do you think it needs more tuna?’
Father’s eyes flared momentarily. ‘No love, I think there’s enough.’
‘You’ve not eaten much,’ commented Mother, her tone accusatory.
‘I had a big lunch,’ lied Father, obviously, not meeting Mother’s eyes. ‘And, anyway, never mind me. What about the baby? She’s not touched hers.’
I bristled in annoyance. How dare Father try and deflect Mother’s unwelcome attention onto me? I made a mental note to get my revenge. I had a feeling that I would be waking up just around the time Father would be settling down to watch his stupid car programme.
‘She’s only little,’ snapped Mother, defensive as always on my behalf. ‘And it’s all new to her.’ But regardless, she waggled the heavily loaded spoon in front of me. ‘C’mon darling, just a taste. It’s delicious.’
I doubted that was true and even Mother screwed her nose up in distaste as she nibbled delicately from my spoon to encourage me. ‘Mmmmmm.’ Her efforts did nothing to tempt me. Ever since I have progressed from my beloved milk to solids (a strange description, indeed, for what essentially is just mush) I have been disappointed.
‘What the…!’ I’d exclaimed, spitting the disgusting-tasting rice concoction everywhere, including, pleasingly, over Mother on my very first attempt at ‘proper’ food.
‘I don’t think she likes it,’ Father had offered mildly.
‘She’ll get used to it,’ Mother had retorted stoically (or stubbornly.) ‘Open wide, darling, this’ll be yum, yum, yum in your tum.’
My interest piqued, I prised open my lips – and instantly regretted it. ‘That is foul!’ I declared, fixing Mother with an angry glare. But to be honest, I was more furious with myself – how on earth had I allowed myself to be duped so easily?
It was, in many ways, a crushing let-down. For days, the fervour around my imminent transition to ‘solid’ food had been building. ‘We’ll be able to go out for family Sunday lunches,’ Mother had prophesised, her hands clasped together. ‘And we’ll be able to share a kebab from the takeaway,’ Father had suggested, equally dreamily. ‘No you damn well will not,’ Mother had chastised, firmly. ‘She’s going to be a healthy baby. Fresh fruit and veg only and lots of tasty, home cooked meals,’ she’d added, between bites of her giant chocolate bar. ‘As long as you’re not cooking,’ Father had muttered quietly.
Sadly, not quietly enough.
‘I beg your pardon,’ Mother demanded, her eyes fiery. ‘Excuse me darling,’ she added to me. ‘Your Father and I are going to have a little chat in the corner,’ she added, the smile not leaving her face.
I went to roll my eyes, forgot what I was doing and fell momentarily into a peaceful but brief slumber on my playmat. For which I was grateful. Mother is determined that Father and her should never be seen to be having ‘cross words’ in front of me. ‘Otherwise I worry we’ll end up on one of those shows where everyone shouts at each other.’ I think, the problem is, she watches too many of those shows. ‘You’d better not let the baby watch this trash,’ Father warns her. ‘I don’t want her first words to be ‘DNA Test.’’ To which Mother replies haughtily: ‘I don’t watch it for fun. I watch it from a psychology point of view, as an observer of human nature.’ I don’t think Father believes her and rightly so.
Mother’s theory of holding ‘conversations’/rows away from me is fine in theory. Except they usually deteriorate and the general crux of the matter reaches my ears before long. ‘…..you fathead who wouldn’t know one end of a mixing bowl from the other,’ Mother concluded.
I had hoped that such an unsuccessful first attempt at feeding would be the end of it, and I would be back to my beloved milk but sadly not. I was soon moving from the distasteful rice to a range of squashed and pureed fruit, Mother getting more confident the more I managed to keep down. ‘Parsnip, apple and sweet potato,’ said Father. ‘Sounds disgusting.’ Mother blanched furiously. ‘Well, the baby doesn’t think so. Look at her, she’s loving it.’ Sadly, for her, this statement was undone by me ‘reversing’ the next mouthful out.
‘That’s my best t-shirt,’ screamed Father. ‘What’s it doing on the floor?’
Mother’s next step in my weaning was a foray into feeding whereby I took the lead. ‘Basically the baby just feeds herself,’ her friend had advised her as they had laid Father’s top underneath my chair to mop up my spills. I thought this was an insult; I wasn’t going to make any mess, I wasn’t Father after all. ‘I swear there are enough crumbs on his chair to form a brand new cake,’ Mother had complained recently.
I watched as the food was laid out on my tray and waited for my cutlery which wasn’t forthcoming. ‘You’re not quite ready for a knife and fork yet,’ laughed Mother, as if reading my mind through my hesitation. ‘Neither are you,’ I snapped back. ‘You hold your fork like a shovel.’ There was no alternative but to get stuck in – and once I did, I rather enjoyed it. I liked the feel of the squashy food in my hands, and putting it in my mouth, even though I missed my target several times and it ended up in my hair, my ear, on my chin, on the wall, on the lightshade, on the window, in the…
Strangely, I haven’t had a chance to repeat the experience of feeding myself again and instead we have moved on to…. Mother’s cooking. ‘Now the baby’s on solids,’ she declared. ‘We can all eat together. I’ll make something,’ she added, not noticing Father’s wince.
‘Come on darling,’ she urged again as she continued to proffer the spoon, just a little. For me.
I must admit that curiosity got the better of me and I took a nibble. I screwed my face up in horror. ‘Look,’ said Mother, animated. ‘She looks like she’s enjoying it.’
‘She looks like she’s having a poo,’ suggested Father.
In fact, I was doing neither. I reversed the mouthful out but Mother was undeterred. ‘Oh dear, you’ve spilt some. A little more…’
But this time I couldn’t be duped. ‘Go away Mother,’ I snapped but she remained by my side. ‘She’s got to learn,’ she said to Father. ‘I read you have to keep trying about twenty times or something,’ she added.
Twenty times! I couldn’t handle another twenty times of this tuna mess. I couldn’t handle one time. Then, instinctively, I knew what to do. I swept my arm out far and wide – and watched in delight as the bowl and its noxious contents went flying into the distance…
‘Oh dear,’ said Mother.
‘Oh,’ said Father, and I could see a flicker of envy in his eyes. He looked down at his own plate and just for a second, it seemed as if he would mimic my ‘accident.’ But the moment quickly passed.
‘And she was really enjoying that,’ Mother looked like she might cry.
Father put his arm around her. ‘Don’t get upset love. I’ll make the baby some mashed potato and how about fish and chips for you and me…as a treat.’
‘But…the tuna surprise…’
‘And it was a lovely surprise. But now let’s try…something different. Edible,’ he added in a whisper, which fortunately Mother didn’t hear.
I can report that the mashed potato was most acceptable. I would also like to report that that was the last of Tuna Surprise in our house. However, it made an unwelcome reappearance. Again. And again. And again. And…I actually almost like it now…. almost….