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Trying to Help

Last night we had over our dear friends Cody and Laura Piersall to watch The Avengers. Of course, Elayne’s bedtime came somewhere in the middle, so Jaimie and I traded off trying to put her down.

It was an interesting task, to say the very least. She was clearly not interested in going to sleep – too many interesting noises, not to mention those other people out there in the living room! – and she also decided to be doubly difficult in her approach to eating.

Ellie smiling at her toys
This adorable thing, difficult? Unbelievable!

One, for reasons mysterious to us, Ellie has decided to sometimes go completely crazy and whip her head toward our chest while eating from a bottle. She does this whether it’s Jaimie feeding her or me, so it doesn’t seem to be nursing-related. Needless to say, this makes it difficult to get her to actually eat all her food: she’s constantly moving her mouth away from the bottle, and not eating a bit while she is in this pattern. I eventually just held the bottle in the same spot until she got the idea that whipping her head back and forth wasn’t going to produce the results for which she was looking. Combined with letting her stand up and play at intervals, we finally got some progress.

The other challenge comes in because Ellie has decided she’s big enough to hold her bottle and feed herself. Anytime Jaimie or I are feeding her with the bottle, she puts her hands on it and tries to hold it in place. The results are simultaneously hilarious and frustrating. You see, she is apparently convinced she can do this… but she actually can’t, yet. She lacks the motor control to be able to hold the bottle in her mouth.

The result is actually rather the opposite of her intent: she’s constantly knocking the bottle out of her mouth; for us to keep the bottle in her mouth involves either the application of a great deal of force to the bottle to hold it in position (no one’s favorite, including Ellie), or to trap her arms (also not Ellie’s idea of a good time) so that she can actually get some food in her stomach. Option 3, which I took last night, is to let her “help” and just deal with the extra difficulty it causes along the way. Not always the best option, but sometime’s it not a bad idea.

Ellie eating 'real food' the first time
Ellie eating “real” food for the first time

Here’s why: it’s true that Elayne can’t actually hold the bottle in her mouth yet. It’s true that in fact, her attempts to hold the bottle are more counterproductive than anything else. But she’s learning, and that’s the most important thing at the moment. Yes, it takes longer for her to get her food that way, but there’s more going on than simply her getting food: she’s also developing her physical skills, the sorts of things that are so internalized for us that we no longer think about them.

Of course, as is so often the case, this led me to ponder the ways in which God must deal with the same sort of inability on our behalf, magnified manyfold. We are quick to try to “help” him with the situations in our lives, and in our good intentions no doubt we make things worse for ourselves and others than they might have been; we no doubt cause his tasks in our life to take longer than if we were to let him simply do for us what we need. But of course, he bears with us for precisely the same reasons we bear with Elayne: we need to learn how to walk with him, and though our attempts along the way are often unhelpful, he is gracious and we do learn.

So we’ll keep bearing with Ellie as she is trying to help, and watch with joy as she grows into maturity. Someday she will be holding that bottle without my help, and it will be good!


  • Kaitlin Martin thought to say:

    I can completely relate! Abby is trying a lot of things out right now, like holding/using a spoon and trying to roll/throw a ball. The first is a giant mess! She has no idea what to do with a spoon, but she wants to be a big girl and eat like Mommy and Daddy. Usually, we just let her have the spoon and decide to clean up the mess later. She needs to learn and she likes learning these things.

    Sometimes I think God delights in watching us pursue the passions he’s given us. Sure, we don’t always do it well, and sometimes it’s an utter disaster. But we need to learn these things, and God has given grace and the tools to allow us to grow, learn, and become more mature, too. I just wish I was more like Abby and didn’t get discouraged quite so quickly =)

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