Our chosen weapons are porridge (in the morning) and a variety of delicious wholesome cooked meals (at night) featuring several vegetables and some form of protein. The battles are terrible and fearsome to behold and even Naughty Nephew 3 brandishing a spoon and a winning smile cannot halt the carnage, although last night NN2 whipped out a pot of vanilla creme yoghurt and a sudden truce was called.
The problem it seems, is the highchair. This is the almost-new, racing-car orange highchair with comfy leatherette-look seat and Evil Clipping Harness which takes small bites of flesh from the hands of the unwary and slightly distracted adult.
We bought this highchair just over a year ago at the local shopping centre and brought it home in a blaze of glory, elated and victorious, giddy with the thought that soon Tricky would be seated and elevated and harnessed into place. Also that we could easily wipe down the tray.
More than any other item, the highchair is the time capsule of baby furniture. You can spray and wipe as much as you like, but you will never completely remove the spinach stains, or de-egg the harness belt.
There are existing nooks and crannies that you could never hope to find with your Chux cloth or your q-tips dipped in vinegar and bicarb. These fissures are filled with the detrius of Meals Past and only a team of teeny tiny archeologists could find such remnants; the Blended Foods Era, the Baked Bean Period, the first evidence of Spoon Feeding Self, the Long Dull Week of Pasta Bake.
Even then they won't actually clean, they'll only dust delicately with little wee brushes and erect teeny string fences around the sites.
Just a few short months, from loving to loathing, yet here we are, at dinner time and there is Tricky in classic Screaming Tomato formation with additional arched back and stiff legs. He shrieks Nooooo Noooooo Big Boy Chair and in vain do I say This Is A Big Boy Chair because he knows that it's not, it's the chair he sat in when he was a baby, when his food was pre-mushed and his bowl had a suction cup to glue it to the tray.
And anyway he has written proof, a team of teeny tiny archeologists in his employ have just published a paper acknowledging that twelve months of meals lie lodged within the upholstery.
I feel like taking that damn chair and chucking it on the kerb alongside the dead fridges and cracked garden furniture for hard rubbish day except for something that happened a few days ago. N had picked up the boys from school and Tricky from childcare and was giving them afternoon tea downstairs. It all sounded quiet and calm so I kept writing but then I realised it almost sounded too calm. I crept downstairs and saw that Tricky was sitting up IN HIS HIGHCHAIR with his milk and his biscuit.
I could have made a big deal about this. I could have stormed over and raged about the Geneva Convention and the rules of engagement and WHY CAN'T YOU SIT IN THE HIGHCHAIR FOR ME? But instead, I crept back upstairs and kept writing.
This is a war over Breakfast and Dinner, I realised. Afternoon Tea is obviously no man's land.
So now, at nights, Tricky sits in a booster seat on a dining chair. He has a parent on one side to pander to his culinary needs and NN3 on the other to pander to his entertaining needs. He has NN1 seated opposite to encourage him in "Big Boy Eating" and NN2 at the other side of the table to get him vanilla yoghurt from the fridge when required. In the mornings he sits either in a little wicker chair or on a woooden stool with his name burned into the seat. I realise it's a slippery slope from here and any day expect him to demand a pipe, slippers and a plaid dressing gown with little tassels.
In cases of extreme Screaming Tomato-mania, he sits in Mummy's lap, while two other adults hover and administer vanilla yoghurt and tuna pasta in alternating mouthfuls, as happened the other evening.
As I sat there exhausted, holding his arms, feeling him slowly relax as he enjoyed both his dinner and his just dessert, and watching Daddy and Aunty N dive in one after another with their laden spoons, I realised Tricky may have won the battle, sure, but the war wouldn't be over for a very long time.