I adore orchids. I love their seemingly infinite range of colours from delicate greens to garish purples. I love their unique markings which look like they have been painted on by hand. And when they flower, I love how they give their all - sometimes for months on end.
What I especially like about orchids is the way you get back what you put in. In my office, I have a little collection of orchids which have finished flowering. Every two weeks, I feed them with a special high-nitrogen feed. I lovingly collect rainwater for them because they are sensitive to the chemicals in tap water. I make sure I only water them in the morning (not sure why, but I read it somewhere!) and I let them dry out after giving them a periodic good soaking, in an attempt to recreate their rainforest habitat in my Lincolnshire office…
If you looked at my little orchid collection, you would think I was making a lot of effort for plants which are fundamentally not doing much; right now none of them are in flower and they are unimpressive. But there is something special about knowing their secret: that in a few months - or maybe even a year - they will reward me by gingerly sending out a flower spike and then blooming splendiferously.
I was tending to my orchids the other day, when it struck me that they are just like children with feeding difficulties. Sometimes, parents ask me: “how long will it be before my child tries something new?” or - reflecting on all the effort they are investing in adopting positive mealtime parenting practices - they wonder WHEN things will start to get better.
I get it. It can feel as though you are putting a lot in but not getting much out. But then, the magic happens. For some children, the magic is small and only noticeable to people who know them really well. Maybe they begin to relax at mealtimes and start to tolerate just sitting at a table with people who are eating foods with a strong smell. Sometimes the magic is dramatic and sudden, and a child who has never eaten veggies will wake up one day and decide they are ready to eat an entire sugar snap pea (this happened to a little boy I know last week).
So next time you ask yourself whether all your hard work is for nothing and if things are ever going to get better, just remember that one day, your little orchid might just be ready to bloom.