August 28, 2013

Is it tasty or not?

I don't think I ever really wrote about Yon's eating problems. Mainly because usually I would rather die than admit the kid has an eating problem. Funny isn't it, that I am willing to talk about so many other things related to his Ocular Albinism, but not this. No. Because I don't believe in kids eating problems you see. When I was a young mum and I thought I knew everything (well, that isn't really true. I usually was the first to admit that I have no idea what I was doing. I still am. The fact that Ron survived those first years is a testament to his character, not to mine. But I was still very opinionated), I thought, no - knew, that you never fight with children about food, and I also thought all babies were like mine. In a lot of things Ron wasn't an easy baby, but he loved, still loves, eating. As soon as he discovered real food, he was in love. He eat slowly, methodically, and most importantly - healthy. We defended his right to eat what he wants, how much he wants, for however long it takes (and it takes a long time). He rewarded us by choosing healthy food, never over-indulging, eating sweets moderately, and willingness to try new things (usually). It is true that he once went on meat-strike, but we let him be and after a few weeks he got back to eating everything, and that he usually likes to eat the same foods and in the same order, and that he has a tendency to eat things like "5 cherry tomatoes" or "6 olives", but with every year that passes he becomes less obsessive about thins things and likes even more foods.
So for all these early years I could sit comfortably on my high horse saying things like "it's the parents fault" or "there is no such thing as a child that is born with an eating problem" and my beloved "never fight with kids about eating, because you will create a serious problem instead of letting it solve itself". I didn't believe in forcing kids to eat, in making them try things, in cooking different things for different people. Oh no, I was as cocky and judgemental as they come.
Orli, Just Breathe - Is it tasty or not?
Ron has progressed to a real grownup "BigMac" in mcDonalds  
Then I had Yon. And like in many other areas of my life, having a Yon taught me humility. Yon was a fine eater (should I say drinker?) as a baby, and maybe he wasn't a great eater when weaning time came, but he wasn't the worst, and we've been trying to not compare him (too much) to Ron. He usually loses, poor Yon (ok, that is not entirely true, but you compare where you think there is a problem, and in these areas he loses). So we let him dictate the pace, and slowly he moved himself to solid foods. And if his diet was a bit restrictive, we chose to ignore it and think of him as "a fussy eater" or "just very set in his ways".
I don't know if things deteriorated or just stayed the same and didn't improve, but in March this year, when he was almost four, the situation, that we have just started feeling was a tad worrisome was this -
Yon still had the same "cup phobia" that he developed when he was two years old. We managed to switch him to using a straw instead of a sippy-cup, and the children's water-bottles, but no cups. Every time he would sense that we want him to try a cup he would lose it.
He got hooked on certain types of food, and won't try new ones. For months he would only eat one type of breakfast cereals. No matter what I bought, he would only eat "cookie crisp".
Lunches were better, with meat and a side dish of pasta, rice, or mashed potatoes.
Dinners not so much. He would only eat one type of bread, those brioche-rolls from the supermarket, that are as close to brioche as I am to being the next queen, one slice of cheddar cheese and one slice of a specific kind of turkey-breast-slices. And an Aero chocolate mousse. He ate it every day and in the same order.
For snack-time he would eat chocolate cakes, and certain types of biscuits.
He loves water, so that's good.
He wouldn't eat anything at nursery, not even sit at the table when they had snack-time.
He didn't have any fruits and vegetables in his diet. Nothing. He wouldn't even taste.
He didn't try any new food, so we couldn't introduce new things to his diet. He would just freak out and start yelling and crying. Even food he already ate and liked, but didn't have for a couple of weeks was a problem.
The food had to be arranged in a certain way on the table, or he freaks. He won't eat at all if it's not organised correctly.
And yet we closed our eyes, we preferred to go with the "fussy eater", with "he will grow and be ok", with "Ron was obsessive about his food and he grew out of it", with "you don't fight with kids about food. It's a war you'll lose". We went with denial. Because, like I always say - there is no place like denial-land. Of course that was before. Before we had the "is he autistic" issue raised. Before we had the full-vision diagnosis.
Orli, Just Breathe - Is it tasty or not?
In March, after all hell broke loose, when everything came crashing down around us - the spectrum questions, the Ocular Albinism diagnosis, the shattering of denial-land, we decided to stop pretending that the kid doesn't have food issues. We knew nothing about anything in March. We didn't know vision problems and autistic traits are linked, we didn't even know how bad Yon's eyes really are. It took months of tests to figure this one out, and I think that next time we'll go to the doctor's, they will find he has even less vision of what they think. He guesses the last line he can see.
All we had was the crashing wave of guilt because we failed him, and all we knew was that we have to prove he is not autistic. That he doesn't have two conditions. We had to prove that we didn't fail as parents because we missed all of it.
Improving eating habits is a journey where you know where you are going from, you know where you want to be, and you have no idea how to get there or how long it takes. But it is a journey you must embark on nevertheless.
Orli, Just Breathe - Is it tasty or not?
Friday night dinner
We started our journey with the cup. To this day I am not sure how I did it. Why he didn't freak out when I gave him a cup without a straw and said "Yon, you will need to drink out of a cup someday, so why not start today". Those two sips he took led to a day of celebrations. I am trying to find the right words to describe how happy they made us, deliriously happy. When your child does something you never thought he will be able to do it is a different kind of happy than "reaching a milestone". It is happiness combined with being relieved combined with tears.
But that was just the first step, and as it happened the easiest of them all.
It took us weeks to completely move him from using the straw to drinking out of the cup, and being willing to drink in nursery.
It took us a long time to introduce the "you have to try" rule.
It took 3 months for him to agree to at least sit down at the table in "snack-time" in nursery.
It took us a few months to make him eat three tea-spoons of salad without chocking, gagging, crying, shouting, and stretching dinner for over an hour.
It is still a battle every Friday to eat the challa (special Jewish Friday bread), and not his regular rolls.
Orli, Just Breathe - Is it tasty or not?
"eating" pizza.
Each step was small, almost invisible. Shadowed almost completely by the things that we couldn't get him to do, by the things we had to do in order to move forward. He added a few things to his diet, sure. But he still has to eat them in a certain order; he still freaks out if the table isn't organised the way he is used to; he will try food, but will almost always say "not tasty" afterwards; he would sit at the table in nursery, but he won't eat; he is still very awkward with using the cup; we still have to make him try anything new; and our main concern - fruits and vegetables. He still won't eat more than 3 teaspoons of salad, and even these ones are a struggle every day. He is willing to taste fruits  if we make him, but he won't eat more than one piece.
And we do, we make him eat. We fight with him if he refuses, we threaten, we punish, we do all the things we swore we will never do in regards to food. That we foolishly thought no-one needs to ever do. We do all that because we have to, because it moves him, in baby steps, down the road to eating better. And we hate ourselves for it. We feel guilty every single time, we cry with him (on the inside) every time we see how much he struggles, and we hate what we became.
And that is why I never talk about Yon's eating problems.
My biggest wish is that he will like a fruit. One fruit. Any fruit. I want him to ask for it, to voluntarily eat it, to one time ask him "how was it Yon - tasty or not?" and get a "tasty!" in response, and not the usual "not".
We tried every fruit there is, we tried taking him to buy fruits (which did not go well for the first few times), we tried showing him how much we all love it, how much Ron likes it. Nothing helped. He would eat one piece if we made him, and never touch it again.
Until I bought Sultanas. Our advisor said sometimes dried fruits go down easier with kids that have food issues. So I bought them and completely forgot about it.
A week or so later the kids wanted "snack time" and I found the sultana bag and decided to give it a try. Yon ate three, because I made him, and said a big "no".
But Ron and I liked it, and seeing how it's better than snacking on Maltesers (for me. not for Ron), I bought a new pack. Which of course no one wanted to share with me. So on Saturday, when the boys were watching the football and I was on my computer I took a bawl of sultanas to eat while reading people's posts.
Yon, who isn't a big football fan, showed in my room and immediately zeroed in on my bawl. "I want snack time mummy" he chirped sweetly, hoping for cookies or cake. Sure, i said, you can have what I had. And filled the same bawl with Sultanas. He took it, quite suspiciously, while saying "I want some too, I don't like it". I stayed quiet, and he took the bawl and flopped down on the couch in front of the TV. He ate all of them.
Orli, Just Breathe - Is it tasty or not?
eating the sultanas

Ethans Escapades

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