Today has been a learning day. I feel like I learn something almost every day, even if it’s something small, such as learning that a nail sticking out of the floor really isn’t going to take care of itself. And, that I’ve run out of bandaids. Today’s therapy appointment brought up a learning on a much deeper level than that.
The short version is that I learned that I need to re-think almost everything about Jake’s eating habits. As usual, this epiphany was preceded by days and days of frustration and aggravation. Jake has been fighting meal time by avoiding food, hanging over the edge of his highchair, gagging more often, and has even resorted to throwing stuff on the floor. We have been letting him run around while he eats, which we don’t like doing, simply because he won’t eat any other way.
At the end of the appointment, after Jennifer and I had been talking about a ton of modifications that we should probably think about, I realized that it wasn’t just the behaviors that needed to change. It was really the underlying philosophies of how we are handling Jake’s special needs. It’s time to step back and think hard about why we are doing what we are doing.
After spending a lot of time thinking, and praying, and I even had a dream about one of these, I’ve come up with some changes that need to be made.
Philosophy #1: Jake has to, at all costs, get enough nutrition. Jake was born in the 10th percentile and fell down into the 3rd percentile for weight. While being skinny isn’t bad, doctors rarely like to see significant change in percentile, especially curving downward. For the last two years, we’ve let Jake whatever and whenever because getting him enough nutrition was paramount. Since he threw up so frequently, we had to make sure that his weight was high enough to sustain the sick times. If he asked me for food, the answer has always been “yesofcourseandhaveanother!”.
Problem #1: Jake doesn’t feel hungry. Ever. Because he grazes his way through the day, mealtimes have become impossible. Which I understand, since after snacking all day, I don’t want to sit down and have a full meal of nutritious stuff. He also gets really stinky if I say “no” to food. Having a screeching toddler laying under foot while moving a hot pot of water to the sink is not only annoying, it’s not safe.
Philosophy Change #1: I need to start implementing mealtimes and snacktimes. All of which will happen sitting down, together, and eating. Then, we are done with food until the next time we feel hungry. The goal is that Jake will understand that hunger is okay, what hunger even feels like, and that there is an appropriate way to handle being hungry. Also, if the kid is hungry, he might be motivated to eat rather than flop around on his chair. Hopefully, we will cease (as cease-d as possible) to argue constantly about snacks and food.
Philosophy #2: Food is wonderful and lovely and anything goes and we love food. Isn’t food the most fantastic thing in the entire world?
Problem #2: If you aren’t sure why the above isn’t great, let me recommend about 20 years of nutrition studies! 🙂 We’ve been “talking up” food to Jake so that he isn’t scared of it, bothered by the textures, and will begin to eat like a normal human being hopefully before he goes to college. While this has worked for the past, it is not setting a good state of mind and attitude about food for the future.
Philosophy Change #2: Food is a tool and we will eat food that is good for us. While having lovely and totally unhealthy snacks every once in a while. We will also have healthy attitudes about food. While it is more common for women to have bad thought processes towards food, it is possible for men to struggle in that area. The last thing I want is for Jake to be unhealthy in his mind and body with the way that he eats. I would hate to pass on that particular struggle of mine!
Philosophy #3: Any food is good food. Since Jake couldn’t get enough calories in the day because of the constant internal sensory struggles, we have let him eat anything he wants. Fortunately, he doesn’t like sugar, but a diet of graham crackers, fish crackers, whole milk, and pasta isn’t the best for him.
Problem #3: While Jake isn’t unhealthy, he probably isn’t getting all the right nutrition, either.
Philosophy Change #3: Fruits and vegetables and vitamins and juice will now be a regular part of Jake’s diet. Yesterday, he had half of a pear without blinking, last night he had green peppers, and today I hid a vitamin in his yogurt. We are off to a good start!
I am sure that there will be many more philosophies I need to change, but for now, that’s what we are going to start with. Honestly, it’s been such a good exercise that I’m tempted to continue to look at the rest of life as well.
Even though it’s only been a day since I dealt with all of this stuff, it’s already been easier. I don’t give in to temptation to let Jake be a donkey’s bottom about his food, he has been eating better food, and the snacking has stopped. Jake is positive that I’m really confused about that last one, but I’m hoping we’ll see improvement on the screaming about it soon enough. It’s also helped me to not have to think through every single little thing we do. Since everything we do in life fits in a philosophy, conscious or unconscious, fixing the philosophy instead of all the things seems to make so much more sense.
And, that’s philosophizing for the day!
Now for fruit, sunshine, and water!