Whoever wrote “Chicken Soup for the Soul” hasn’t met my MOTHER IN LAW. The 4’11” Hungarian, proud mother to my husband considers “SOUPS” (plural) as a food group. It’s as vital to life as water. It can be consumed at any and every meal. It needs to be served and eaten a certain way. And if you don’t like her soup or you dare to turn it down, something is wrong with you…..

For months, she has been asking me if I give Baby-Ko soups. She gave her boys soups and they loved it. And now that Baby-Ko is on solids and pretty much eats everything, I should give him soups too. Despite the fact that you generally need a spoon to eat soup and Baby-Ko seems to dislike anything mushy or in fact requiring a spoon, I HAPPILY accepted my MIL’s offer to make soup for Baby-Ko after his surgery.

SO, the day after his surgery, she came over with a big container of chicken noodle soup and said she wanted to stay through lunch to WATCH Baby-Ko eat her soups. The soup was fully loaded with chicken, of course… carrots, cauliflower, and noodles (on the side, because apparently that’s how they do it in the old country). I really WAS happy to give some to

Baby-Ko as it seems like the perfect “feel good” food to have right after a surgery (and frankly, she DOES make a delicious soup). But when I started to DECONSTRUCT the soup, I was met with some concern.
“Vat are you doing? Just pour heem eh niiice bowl, not too hot. And he vill love eet,” she said standing over me.
“Well, I’m going to put the broth in a separate bowl, and then put the chicken and the veggies on his tray so he can pick them up and eat it.”
“Well, I’m concerned if I put it all on a spoon at once, he’ll swallow it (at once) and choke. I think it’s better this way. For now.”
“Vell, I never heard such a thing. But give heem like this and next time do it my way.” Okay. Your way. Fine. Sure. Soup. Next time. Probably High Holidays. Let’s cross that holy bridge when we get to it, lady.
Luckily, Baby-Ko LOVED her (deconstructed) soup, and all seemed forgotten…. Or so I thought….

SATURDAY NIGHT, we brought Baby-Ko to my In-Law’s house to spend the night (yippee!). My MIL said she had leftover soup in the freezer and could give it to Baby-Ko for dinner since he “loves Grandma’s soups sooo much because she makes it soooo nice.” SURE. No problem. Stuffing my son with “soups” brings you joy and it’s less for me to shlep. Great.

SO, we get Baby-Ko all set up and decide to stay for a few minutes while he eats (and then we’ll take off and hopefully have time for a “Sandy Koufax moment“) before we have to leave for our dinner reservations. As I put Baby-Ko’s bib on and begin to step away to let my MIL take over, she says, “So, I know you geeving him my soups deefrently, but I think you should geeve him soups like this,” and points to a little bowl of soup with mushed up, shredded pieces of chicken and veggies.
“Hmm. I really think I’d like to give him the chicken and veggies SEPARATE.”
“But, VY?” she asks, this time agitated and hostile.
“Umm, because, once again, I think he will sip the broth and instead of CHEWING on the food, he’ll swallow it all at once. He’s not the most advanced eater. He’s only 11 months old….”
“Vell, I don’t understand. I gave my boys…” She starts in on the “my boys” thing. Now I’m annoyed. I look to T-Ko for back up.
He says unenthusiastically, “Mom, we’ll try it once your way, then we’ll just do it J-Ko’s way.” Not what I was hoping for but I’ll take it for the time being.
We give Baby-Ko the soup my MIL’s way. He GULPS it. Then lunges with his hand and grabs the stuff in the bowl sending it everywhere.
“Uh uh. No. Not comfortable with it, ” I say. “He’s gonna choke and he wants some on his tray so he can eat it himself.”
My MIL shakes her head and says something under her breath in Hungarian. As I take her precious chicken out of the broth and put it on his tray, she gets fired up, “So this eez sometheeng you reading or you just don’t vant ven I geeve the baby my soups. My vay.”
“No, I didn’t read this, but I’m sure experts would agree. It’s just a safety thing.”
With every mouthful of dry veggies and chicken, she shakes her head in disbelief, “Vell, I deed this all the time, and T-Ko turned out just fine.” Really? I’m not so sure. Apparently your soup has made him a mute.
Trying to contain my anger and not snap at her the way I would my OWN mother, I take a deep breath, “Well, you know what, every mother has a different comfort level. And I am just not comfortable with him eating your SOUP like this. He LIKES the soup and is eating all of it. So I don’t think it matters REALLY how he eats it, as long as he eats it.” SILENCE. Ooh, did I get through?
Baby-Ko tries to shovel a handful of chicken into his mouth. It lands on his lap. I think she may have a heart attack.

The next morning, it definitely felt a little tense when we picked the baby up. I’m not sure if it was the chicken soup saga or if it was that Baby-Ko decided to wake his grandparents up at 5am and they were exhausted. Either way, the Soup Incident of 2008 made me think… Whether or not I’m being too careful or Baby-Ko can or can’t eat the soup her way really isn’t the point. The point IS is that she wanted to win. She wanted to know that she is a good mother (which she is) and she still has some control, in some way, over SOME things. When I think about it like that, (and less about her being a soup obsessed foreigner that needs to get with the program), I actually can relate to her….

Even though love, marriage and kids are obviously, a loooooooooooooong ways away for Baby-Ko, ONE DAY, I TOO will be a mother-in-law and probably feel inclined to tell MY daughter-in-law all the great things I did with my son and how great he is because of it…. “I used to let him crawl all over the floor at Nordstrom and HE turned out just fine….”

FILED UNDER: A Little Life

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  1. T-Ro
    Wednesday, August 27th, 2008
    I'm sorry, I know this wasn't the point, but I'm always impressed when someone can accurately convey an accent in writing. Having met T-Ko's mom, I can only say - nicely done. And now I want soup.