Friday, April 16, 2010

Cod Liver Oil

Sometimes, I feel as though there is nothing good at all. I feel this way even when it is demonstrably untrue. Like now, some things are great. To wit: I just bought an iPad! I just took a childbirth educator certification workshop! It is warm outside! Despite such good things, though, I feel overwhelmed by complaints. I have no time. I have no money. I'm a month behind in all household bills. I want to send my son to nursery school, but I don't think we can afford it. I don't have time to go to yoga. I don't have a computer with which to sync my iPad and am desperately anxious that I will lose all of my data. I never write anymore. I'm exhausted. I'm reading a truly horrible trashy mystery novel that appears to be solely about how terribly unsatisfying and depressing it is to be a mother, and I refuse to stop reading it.

This morning, though, everything came to a head with the yogurt incident. First, allow me to explain that my son's teeth are rotting. Horrifyingly, this is a really common phenomenon these days: everyone's infants have brown spots, cavities, visible decay, and I don't know what. And as much as your local pediatric dentist would like you to believe it, this is not about too much juice and not enough brushing. Because if it were, then everyone in my generation - shit, am I old enough to have a generation? - would also have had brown spots, multiple cavities, and visible decay in our infancy, and we didn't. The thing is, baby tooth enamel is formed in utero, so something is going REALLY WRONG in our food or our environment or somewhere that is adversely affecting the fetal development of baby tooth enamel and WHO KNOWS WHAT ELSE. Oh my God.

Anyway, so, my son has rotting teeth. One thing I am doing about this, in addition to brushing like crazy as the Beach Boys instruct, is cod liver oil. For reasons that are too complicated for me to understand, let alone explain, it appears that increasing the consumption of certain vitamins and fats (like the ones in cod liver oil) can potentially effect the remineralization of decaying teeth - like, the teeth re-grow healthy from the inside out. Unbelievable, I know, but some moms out there are swearing by it, and if it will prevent my child having to be put under general anesthesia in order to have his little baby teeth yanked out of his little baby head, I'm all for it. So I've been trying to get the kid to take cod liver oil. First, I had an unflavored kind, and I hid it in juice or smoothies. But, understandably, his willingness to consume fishy juice and smoothies was not reliable, so I bought the lemon-flavored kind. I thought this would be an end to my problems, because it really does taste like lemon, and he generally loves lemon, but no such luck. He refuses to take it on a spoon, and, bizarrely, he is no more reliable about consuming lemony juice and smoothies than he was about consuming fishy juice and smoothies. I just do my best to sneak it into anything I can and hope he doesn't notice.

So, anyway, this morning, when he finished a bowl of yogurt with freeze-dried strawberries and then asked for more, I had a brainwave. Why not give him lemon-flavored yogurt with freeze-dried strawberries. So I mixed up a bowl and tasted it, and it tasted great, and I gave it to him, and he spat it out and refused to have anything more to do with it. This was, in itself, a blow. The tiny little flask-shaped bottle of lemon-flavored cod liver oil cost me $22, and I hate to even waste the bit of oil that coats a spoon or the inside of a sippy cup, plus there was the whole bowl of yogurt and strawberries all gone to waste. But there was nothing to be done for it, and anyway I still needed to give my son a bowl of yogurt that he would eat. So I used a different - non-lemony - bowl and a different - non-lemony - spoon, and made him up another bowl of yogurt and strawberries and brought it to him, and HE REFUSED TO EAT IT. Maybe it was too tainted with lemony memories, maybe he just wasn't interested anymore - whatever the reason, he categorically refused to have anything to do with it.

Now, you might think that this does not sound like such a big deal, and you might be right. But I am here to tell you that this morning, holding out a spoon of yogurt and strawberries to my son and having him shout a joyful "NOOOOOOOO!!!!" in its direction made me want to DIE. Because I had all the other complaints anyway: the time, the money, the bills, the nursery school, the yoga, the computer, the writing, the exhaustion, the trashy novel. And then, on top of that, to have wasted two bowls of yogurt, to have possibly permanently ruined my son's willingness to consider yogurt to be a viable foodstuff, to have wasted a valuable spoonful of cod liver oil, to be thwarted in my remineralization attempts - suddenly life seemed tragic. I wilted and began to cry.

"Um," said my husband carefully, emerging from the shower to find me sitting on the couch, leaking tears, surrounded by two bowls of yogurt and a toddler shouting "NOOOOOOOO!!!" "You could send him to daycare today if you need a little rest." I shook my head and sniffled. "No," I whispered, "I'm fine." And, while this was an observably false statement, it was true that I did not particularly want to send my son to daycare. The truth is that I feel just as decentered and unstable if I spend too much time away from my son as I do if I spend too much time with him. I had been looking forward to our day together, and I did not want to give it up. At the same time, I knew that I was not quite okay. It was a very bad sign indeed to already, at 9:00AM, have been reduced to tears by a fit of toddler whimsy. Perhaps it would be best to send him to daycare after all. And thus I sat on the couch in tears, in a quandary, my poor toddler looking at me with increased concern. (My husband had, by this time left for work.) Should I go ahead and pack the kid off to daycare? That would give me the whole day to myself to get work done, and if I don't do it today, my next working day isn't until Tuesday. Or, on the other hand, should I spend the day with him? If I don't do it today, my next kiddo bonding day isn't until Monday. Either choice seemed final and terrible.

Happily, my son solved the problem. He climbed into my lap and asked to nurse, and within minutes of latching on, had fallen fast asleep. It looked, in the moment, like an infinitely generous gesture on his part: by taking his nap early, he was granting me a little more time to myself before I began my day with him. I carried him to the bedroom, tucked him gently into the bed, and scurried back to the living room. I have not written to you about my life in ages. There is so much to tell. I don't even care that this is an undigested mess. I am just happy to give it to you.