Friday, November 13, 2009

Food Fight

So I guess it’s time to share the latest round of family drama in the See household. You may know that both of our kids are small for their age. Jake is off the charts-- as in not even approaching the bottom of the chart-- weight-wise. For years we have dealt with picky eating.

We managed it pretty well at home, introducing new things slowly and repeatedly, but the pickiness was usually worse on trips. At someone else’s house, the brand of food wouldn’t be right, the house would smell funny, the butter would be wrong, you get the picture. That’s fun because you can mix in travel stress, parental angst, and relatives’ expectations to make a delightful stew of stress and recrimination.

As the years passed, Jake became drawn to international food. His favorites: Greek, Italian, and Mexican, but not standard American (read: birthday party casual) food. Barbeques and class parties were unpleasant. And Thanksgiving was the worst of all.

You would have the Thanksgiving school meal, followed by 3 or 4 days of not eating the same wonderful (yet despised by him) food as we traveled from relative to relative’s house for multiple Thanksgiving dinners. By the time we would return from our holiday travels, he would look weary and wan. We tried to throw in some Taco Bell and Subway along the highways to keep him going.

For those of you who have dealt with picky eaters, you know it can put a strain on the marital relationship. Usually the mother, for fear that her child will expire, will feed the child what he/she wishes, while the father puts his foot down, knowing that no such coddling occurred when he was a child! “He’ll eat when he’s hungry enough,” becomes the line of choice. At least that’s how it’s been for the past 10 years in this household.

So, Tom and I have reached a delicate balance, trying to juggle my wishes, Tom’s wishes, and Jake’s health. I have never cooked separate meals for Jake, even though our doctors have given us their blessing to give him milkshakes or whatever it takes to help him gain. I have had to explain to people who wonder why I don’t do more to fatten him up, that I’m dealing with multiple factors here. I am not the only parent in this house, and my way is not necessarily the right way. Also, I bring the style of my family of origin to parenting, as does Tom, but that's a topic for another post.

We have had to try to back off and relinquish our desire to control Jake. Sometimes we do this well, and sometimes not. I am sure we are not the only family who has nearly come to tears over whether a kid eats a bite of chicken potpie.

Anyway, things have improved vastly over that past years, months, and even the last few weeks, most of it due to Tom's being a great cook. Chicken enchiladas? Delish. Chili? Bring it on! Flank steak? Yum! Hamburger? Well…I’ll try it. Venison? Not terrible. He even ate salad recently! Woo-hoo! Still no interest in hotdogs, chicken nuggets, or French fries. But as I told Tom years ago, I will never force a kid to eat a hot dog. Ick.

I felt like we were making progress and were on target for a great Thanksgiving meal.

Until the expander.

Last Wednesday Jake got a palate expander put in his mouth in anticipation of braces down the road. He was a total trouper, and I gave him a hot piece of Dominoes pizza for lunch. That thing squished through the expander like Jell-O through a sieve and got lodged on the roof of his mouth. “Aaaaaaaaagh!” he yelled. “Aaaaaaaagh!” I yelled. Toothpicks, a water pick, and major intervention finally got the offending food out of his mouth.

Turns out we should have started with wee little bits of food to get him used to an entirely new way of eating. Now he is too freaked out to eat because he does not want to get food caught in it.

The first few days I was able to get away with giving him smoothies and shakes, chicken broth for dinner, and Instant Breakfast for breakfast. I could tell that Tom thought I was babying him, but I didn't care.

Now, however, the statute of limitations is up. It’s been more than a week and he should be eating. His peers have adjusted to their expanders just fine. I shudder to think of his caloric intake.

And the old standbys we used to get extra calories in him between meals (apple with peanut butter every day after school…) are no longer an option. Neither is mindless snacking, which always helps me gain weight (!)

Tom’s neck veins were bulging as Jake flailed, freaked, and complained last night while attempting to eat one of his favorite foods—tacos. Multiple trips upstairs to the waterpik and to time-out just made dinner all the more pleasant.

And today? Is Jake’s 5th Grade Barbarian Feast at school. Lamb Stew, Bread bowls, nuts, Venison. Nice.

My gift to his teacher is a cranky, hungry kid.

You can bet I threw in a thermos of Instant Breakfast just in case. Call me the enabler.

And the true Barbarian? I think it’s whoever invented this thing:


Kristina P. said...

Holy crap, that looks painful!

I was watching a Vlog yesterday of a woman who has a daughter who just won't eat. I feel so bad for her!

PaperCourt said...

That looks horrid! Picky eater or not, that thing would suck and I'm not sure I would eat either. Poor guy.

purejoy said...

awww. i feel for him. food issues are the words. thankfully, he'll not be in that thing for long, but still. and i hope he'll be able to manage through braces.
wishing you the best on this journey!

Unknown said...

Oh Anna, I'm so sorry Jake has to deal with that. I had a palatal expander too (and the palatal arch to hold it for another couple years while my jaw set and then two sets of braces). His actually looks advanced compared to mine, I hope he won't get the headaches I got. You know the turn buckles used to hold tension in gates and keep them from sagging? I had something very similar in my mouth and had to wind the little Victorian Torture Device every day.

I wish him the best... I know milkshakes were my favorite thing while I had braces, I hope he doesn't develop a hatred for them too. Hugs to you all!

Carolyn said...

Oh man, that sounds so tough. Your son is lucky he has both of you guys who care so much about him and who balance each other out.

Lynn Kellan said...

Kinda know what you're going through. My kid had food allergies for a while, so that's always a good reason not to try new foods. Now that we've hit the tween years, she's so ravenous that she'll even try new things, as long as they're not green.

My niece had the expander and had major fits with it, but eventually got used to it. I hope your son can make peace with his expander soon...

Sending sympathetic hugs.

Ellen aka Ellie said...

I was a picky eater when I was a kid, but not to this degree (not that I'm judging.)

As for these feasts at school, I'm glad we don't have them! Whoa, what a lot of work.

I feel bad for you, it's a tough spot, and I can't be at all eloquent about it. Does Jake like fruit smoothies? Those can be loaded with all sorts of fattening stuff!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I can understand how Jake feels about other people's houses smelling strange. And not liking their brands. I was like that too. My Indian friend's house was the worst. It was the ultimate in "different" from my house.

Luckily I never had one of those expanders - sounds awful.

None of my kids eat anything but cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets and fish sticks.

Shana said...

Two of my girls had that, and Carlie will probably need it too. But we never had any food disasters with it, Thank God. Poor guy.

K A B L O O E Y said...

Oh my god, I had one of those over 30 years ago. (We can put a man on the moon, but... that's the height of orthodontia even now?) I used to be able to poke my finger over the top of it to clear food out. Gross, but effective. Poor kid. Tell him when he grows up and you're yelling at him for his big mouth, he'll be able to say it was your fault because you paid someone to make it bigger. That's what I used to say, but I guess I was a smartass.

bernthis said...

hubs has to lighten up. That thing looks like a torture rack for the mouth. Ouch.

Heidi said...

Oh, ouch! I fear this because I am positive my kids will need braces and I guess I have this to look forward to. Expect frantic emails from me begging you for your secrets.

Man, I feel so bad for him! And for you who has to figure this all out. I say enable all the way!

Marinka said...

Barbarian feast? I am very far from a picky eater, but that sounds absolutely revolting.

Poor kid, that expander looks ouchy!

My son is a picky eater too and we have much of the same "discussions" in our household. It's sort of a stalemate.

Christy said...

I had braces twice and never wore an expander. Does he have to? That looks like torture. I feel worse for you though...I hope you find a solution for helping him eat!

TheLab said...

So sorry for everyone. We have picky eaters as well, and haven't hit the dental issues stages yet. Just know you're not alone - I've nearly lost it over one of my boys not eating a bite of chicken pot pie. Dinner can be such torture. I'll pray today that things get better QUICKLY.

Debbie said...

Oh Anna. You know I feel for you. I am raising the picky eaters with orthodontic appliances too. At least milkshakes are still an option. I do so feel for you. People are so focused on obesity in our country and they can be downright cruel to thin kids. I'm sending good thoughts your way.

Shawn said...

Never had one of these contraptions1 Soooooo glad for that!

Kelee Katillac said...

Anna the barbarian! No--blame the culture.

With Donny Osmond still a toothy icon...lets blame

Happy Thanksgiving dear Anna!....

love, kelee

Mwa said...

Poor kid! I wouldn't eat either with that in my mouth. said...

any possibility of taking out the expander at meal time?

Oona Johnson said...

Ick. Poor Jake. I was always a tiny thing when I was little. We would go out for dinner and I would get french fries, mashed potatoes, and tatertots. At the same time. All I ate when we went out was potatoes. My parents were just happy I was eating something, so I feel your pain. Plus five of my teeth never came in. Like ever. So I had an ever-changing array of metal in my mouth from the age of four until seventeen. It sucks.

Anonymous said...

Sorry your son is going through the expander. :-(
My daughter has had one since the beginning of Sept. She is very tiny and pretty much at nothing but yogurt for weeks. She will be getting hers out in January. We can't wait.
I wish I had some ideas for you, but I definitely share your pain.