Some of my favorite memories of my (soon to be six-year-old) triplets came at the beginning of their solid food era. You know, when they began eating regular foods that any person might have, like ham, green beans, turkey, cheese, crackers, spaghetti, yogurt, and peaches, only ripped up into baby-sized bites. Personally, I found that feeding toddler triplets was a blast.
The advent of regular food turned my wife into a human Cuisinart, as she would chop and dice virtually anything in our refrigerator in a matter of seconds. What was a basket of strawberries one minute would turn into strawberry bitelets in the blink of an eye. Chunks of cantaloupe became identically cut miniature squares within seconds. Like a sophisticated machine, Caroline knew the quickest way to process the food in question and switched into whatever mode was called for. Dicing, paring, quartering — it didn’t matter. Whatever was needed was what she delivered. Such deftness made her speedy, which was a necessity considering she was essentially a short-order cook who had only minutes before her patrons would start to gripe.
Me? I was certainly learning on the job. But whenever I was in charge, the results were usually comical. For breakfast one day, I was instructed to “quarter the banana” and give it to the triplets. So I carefully unpeeled the banana and made three cuts yielding four pieces. I looked at the four pieces, then at my three pint-sized patrons and had but one question.
“Honey, aren’t these kinda big? And who gets the extra one?”
Right. That was actually two, but, still, they both came from one thread of confusion.
She took my banana and put it aside, mocking me with her eyes as she did so. She then hastily grabbed another banana. Her haste was with reason. The toddlers were beginning to grumble — in minutes, maybe seconds, there’d be a full-blown revolt. Caroline peeled the fruit an inch or two, then slid a knife down the middle of the banana to where she had peeled it, before bringing the blade back up in the exact path she had just cut. She made another incision in the middle perfectly perpendicular to the previous one, once again skillfully backing the blade out. Then, she cut the banana in a succession of normal slices, each about a quarter inch thick, four pieces falling efficiently to the plate below with each and every pass. She stopped slicing when she reached the point to which she had originally peeled and started the process all over again.
“Quarters!” I said. “Right.” Caroline just shook her head. She had no time for rookies like me — she was an expert, as was evident every time I opened the fridge. Instead of the sight I had grown accustomed to (rows and rows of bottles that a beer distributor would have been proud of), I would see bowls and bowls of perfectly cut-up food covered with Saran wrap, flanked by nine half-gallon-containers of milk— the weekly household demand at the time. Our refrigerator looked like it belonged to someone with severe lactose dependency coupled with a bizarre chopping fixation.
I preferred feeding the babies real food as opposed to the baby food that had immediately preceded this exciting new phase… even if I did feel like a cafeteria employee as I eased down the line, stopping before each highchair tray to scoop out an allotment of kiwi. In my disbursements, I developed a neurotic affliction pertaining to food size, always certain that the piece I had just doled out was too big at best, a choking hazard at worst. As one of them would reach their little fingers toward whatever had just hit their tray, I would abruptly snatch it back, then rip the choking hazard in half before redepositing it on the plate, only to realize that the new piece was so small that it was impossible for my would-be choker to pick up, which frequently elicited a grunt of disapproval from the affected baby.
It wasn’t long before I became a toddler-feeding ninja. I had a system, you see, and it involved fruit as an appetizer while the trusty toaster oven warmed up their entree. My timing was impeccable, and even when I hit a snag, I knew just what to do. Never, my friends, underestimate the versatility of yogurt. Sure, it was great by itself, but you’d be amazed at how well it doubled as a green bean smuggler. Those clowns didn’t even know they’d eaten their dreaded enemy.
It’s not that I hadn’t bonded with the triplets before then. I had. You don’t become the father of three babies at once and not do your fair share of the care taking. Even so, there was something about those first few months of the solid food era that will always stand out to me. Maybe it was my little guys parallel parked in their highchairs right there in the kitchen alcove. Or maybe it was how good I eventually became at becoming a short-order cook, myself.
Or maybe it was that the bond that I’d already established was really starting to grow. Just like them.
Both thanks, in part, to all those solid foods they were starting to eat.
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