This year, Joe has been starting to actually tell us when he’s hungry. He’s 5 years old.
I know. It sounds ridiculous.
Last night, he came downstairs after we had put him to bed, rubbed his belly and said, “I’m hungry. My stomach is growling.” I thought it was a ploy to stay out of bed. Aaron had a look on his face that said, ‘aww, he said he’s hungry!’ but I just bought it and gave him his snack that he hadn’t eaten previously in the day.
After he scurried back up the stairs, Aaron turned to me and said, “At least he tells us when he’s hungry now.” Right. Up until maybe this year, he never vocalized that he was indeed hungry. Maybe that’s why snacks were optional at our house. I didn’t know he was hungry!
A few months ago, at his 5-yr well-child visit, they told us he wasn’t growing. I said, “not growing?” With that, the doctor whips out the developmental chart with dots he’s marked on since he was an infant and peed on the medical assistant. The dots went up gradually, but the final mark had taken a sharp downturn. He wasn’t even on the chart. They start to quiz me on his eating. They ask again if he eats three square meals a day. It’s like they’re about to pull out the cell phone and dial child protective services. Last time I checked, he wasn’t all skin and bones. He has me for a mom and a slender dad at that. How can our kid be “big”?! We’re just hoping he grows to be above 5 feet tall!
I am practically crying in the doctor’s office as this chart clearly says he is OFF the chart for his age– adjusted. I sat there, doctor with hands on his hips telling me kids will just be kids and not eat if they don’t like it and I want to cry since he’s telling me I need to try harder and start being in control.
That’s when I wanted to scream. Scream that the doctor has not been in our shoes for the last year to know all that we have been through. Since he didn’t see my kid day in and day out, I cut him some slack. I wanted to tell him that he was diagnosed with SPD, that he gags at food smells he finds unpleasant, that he eats pretty healthily… that he runs around to burn off the energy he consumes.
I wanted to tell him that I’m not a bad parent. That I’m not sitting around feeding him donuts and chicken nuggets everyday– though it probably would have helped him to gain more weight!
How am I supposed to feel when his teacher tells me he “doesn’t eat anything” when they serve the kids leftover lunch in the afternoon. He’ll eat animal crackers and chocolate milk all day. He doesn’t like his food mixed, he wants his chicken cut in uniform pieces and he doesn’t like the edges, he washes off his lips every time he eats his chips, he likes bland food, he likes raw vegetables. What do they serve at school? Pizza calzones, egg omelets, beef tacos… no wonder. And he all of a sudden hates macaroni and cheese. And he’ll only eat Kraft.
So, I’m driving in my car with Joe in the backseat, tears strolling down my face. Failure to thrive, what the heck does that mean? I’m so focused on the word, ‘failure’ and the way the doctor looked at me when the chart revealed he wasn’t growing. A million things went through my head:
Am I a bad parent?
Am I just worried he won’t eat anything so i serve him what he likes too much?
I hope I don’t become my mom sitting at the table for 3 hours,
Clean Plate Club?,
What does this mean for my child?
How many more diagnoses can I take?!
Which ones am I supposed to focus on NOW?
….and me picturing him at lunch at school when he’s in second grade and he can’t eat the pizza calzones, tacos, whatever. Clearly, this will socially put him as an outsider.
I can make his lunch. No problem. But then when we go to friends houses, I have to bring food for him. That makes me feel worse as if I’m saying, ‘He won’t eat your food.’ Thankfully, we’ve made our friends aware of some food aversions and we’re mostly all on the same page. My relatives still watch his 4 year old cousin eat ravenously– Chinese, Filipino, spaghetti complete with meatballs… while Joe decides white rice is the safest, with a side of cut-up watermelon. Being crazy food consumers at family tables in my extended family, they naturally ask, “Is that all he’s going to eat?”
Yes, I say. Confidently. What they don’t know is that I just took him to McDonald’s across the street to get him some McNuggets. I pack his snacks, cooked noodles, nuts, nuts, and more nuts.
We saw a nutritionist two days after our doctor appointment and I was anxious because she might tell us to do an entire overhaul on his diet, change up all his foods…thus, making transition, change and meltdowns of all sorts for days/weeks??!!! I was afraid she’ll say all sorts of things… except she looks at us after listing out what foods he does eat and has a SMILE on her face. She is delighted in his food taste (raw). He’ll eat bowls of baby spinach and crunch on his carrots and eat his sunflower seeds. We just need protein. So she gives us pages and pages of smoothies (healthy and loaded with calories) to help out, a guideline for how many grams of protein, fat, etc. to get him going. We make a few additions to his diet and a month later, he’s 3 pounds heavier, a 1/4 inch taller and just back onto that chart!
He will now eat Koegels Skinless Frankfurters, chicken breast cut up into cubes and we even took a picture of him trying a drumstick from rotisserie chicken (thanks, Kroger)!
It’s been a long road. And still going to be a little longer. We have more this journey has for us and for him.
But it will get better. He still eats his vegetables and fruits. But happy now that he’ll consume protein. I just wish ketchup was a vegetable– or is it a fruit?