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: