“I think I could eat pumpkin pie,” he said tentatively.
It was 9:30 PM. He should’ve been on his way to bed. I should’ve been on my way to bed (my eyes already felt like I needed to hold them open with toothpicks and my legs were heavy…way heavy, begging me to just lie down already).
He hadn’t eaten but one whole meal in three days.
So, I asked him to help me bake the pumpkin pie.
If you don’t have a child with food issues, you may think this was spoiling him. You may think that I am just a gracious momma, and have so much patience. You may think somehow we actually created these food aversions by being so accommodating.
If you do have a child with food issues, you just knowingly sighed and thought exactly what I thought last night – at least he figured out that he could tolerate pumpkin pie.
My son’s sensory processing issues effect every aspect of his life. Eating is one of them. On a regular basis, he has very strong aversions to certain textures, smells, and tastes that I have learned to accommodate when planning our meals.
For example, no meat that requires any level of chewing. If it’s not soft, like what you would serve to a baby, he cannot tolerate it. No crunchy chips or crackers. No serving any type of food without a drink nearby, so he can take a bite of what he is eating, chase it with a drink to soften it, and then chew and swallow.
This is just normal for us and really, in the world of sensory processing, is not that bad.
But, for the last several days, I have gotten a glimpse into what it is like for some mommas (and kiddos for that matter). My son’s feeding issues are so minor compared to many families. Some children will only eat certain colored foods, or have only four foods on the maybe he will eat it, let’s hold our breath and hope list.
These children can actually starve themselves. Because sensory issues and rigid thinking are in play here, the saying “The child will eat eventually. He won’t starve. Just wait him out,” does not apply.
Now, I am not an expert. I don’t even have a lot of practical mommy experience with feeding issues. I am writing this because I have become aware of how crazy all the time frustrating never have a chance to not think about the next thing this child will put in his mouth oh my goodness please just eat something exhausting all day long this is for many families.
My son is cutting two 12 year molars right now.
This has catapulted us from ‘basic constraints on eating’, to ‘every single minute of the day trying to figure out something for him to eat’ status.
At this point, it’s not even about healthy nutrition. We are so fortunate because eventually, those ever-lovin’ molars will come in, and we will be given the chance to return to our normal. (I am so, so sorry for the mommas that don’t face the day with that hope.) He will live.
But imagine any child not eating for a few days – even a few hours. Imagine their attitude, their energy level, their ability to play well with others, complete tasks, function, sleep…it has gotten ugly around here. Very, very fast.
The past couple of days have looked something like this:
Every 30-45 minutes, my son comes up to me and verbally stims (he makes a sound that is a little bit like a grunt and a whine) and furiously rubs his head on my arm. I hug him (deep pressure) and he says, “I’m hungry.”
I take a breath and say, “OK, let’s go find something that you can eat.”
He starts to cry/get frustrated and says, “BUT THERE IS NOTHING!”
I say, “Let me try.”
He slams the door to his room and gets under his lycra sheets, while I scour the kitchen looking for something else soft and easy to eat.
I find an option, prepare it, and take it to him (knowing better than to ask him to make a choice right now – his brain is rigidly focused on there being nothing at all that will work…it’s better to just put it in front of him and go from there). He will always try a bite.
I hold my breath.
He will either say, “OK, I will try it,” or “Oh mom-eeeeeeeeeee. I am so hungry. No, just no. I can’t eat.”
If he says yes, he might eat three or four bites before it becomes too much for him.
And then we start the cycle all over again.
After three days of this, I am starting to lose it.
I have made 17 meals for this child over the past three days (not that I am keeping track or anything). I have driven to restaurants after the rest of us have eaten, to see if he might eat some of his favorite foods. And yes, I have sent my husband out for cake, soft sweet cake, when nothing else worked (for the child and for me).
His blood sugar is a mess. He is weak. He is mean. He is frustrated. He is desperate to eat.
And, for right now, he just can’t.
If you are a family dealing with these types of issues all the time, I am praying for you. This is no joke. This is three times a day plus snacks, all day, all night, with no breaks. You are a soldier in the battle for your child’s health. A foot soldier, on the ground, in the mud…
I see you. What you are doing matters. And oh my goodness, I am praying for you.
If you have never had to deal with this level of eating related, kid stress, please be kind. Be gentle the next time you see the little one losing his mind at the park because the sandwich has the wrong kind of cheese on it. You never know what is causing the reaction.
Please, please, please error on the side of grace. Your kind smile can mean the world to a momma at the end of her rope, or to the little one who would love nothing more than to easily be able to eat like everyone else.
Now, back to it. I need to see if eggs will work for breakfast.