My husband and I enjoy food. We love tasting different types of cuisine. We have a great time visiting new restaurants that offer unique items on their menu. We especially enjoy ordering new dishes at our favorite restaurants simply to experience bold and exciting flavors!
I enjoy eating food, but this is where my love for food gets tricky. Thinking about the physical properties of each and every food we eat (how it smells, its appearance, the texture), trying to find food that is similar (but not exactly the same) to a specific food my 4.5 year old will eat, and figuring out how I’m going to make a particular food fun and engaging is mentally exhausting some days! It makes me realize how much people take for granted about the entire eating process!
Holidays gatherings, play dates, and going out to eat can be especially trying for myself and for “B”. Like I told my mom last week, “Eating is such a social activity. When it’s something you cannot enjoy or it becomes a 20 step process, it can feel rather isolating.” I often feel guilty. In my head, I know the eating process is physically painful for “B”. The problem? My initial reactions often go against what I’ve learned throughout “Food School.”
I feel like I haven’t really explained what it’s like on the parent side of sensory issues. I have a 4.5 year old child, and I still have to pack an entire backpack when we go out. Not for an extra change of clothes, but filled with all of her “safe” foods, drinks, and snacks. I don’t expect anyone to feed my child given her specific needs, but I can’t stress enough how grateful I am when a family member or friend asks if they can make something for “B” that she’ll eat. Some days just asking saves me my sanity.
Besides her safe foods, she has a learning plate. A plate where she’s still learning about the properties related to the foods she’s not yet comfortable to look at, smell, touch, or taste. How awkward is it to ask someone you don’t know very well, “Do you mind if I give my child all the portions of your dinner? She most likely won’t eat any of it, and you’ll probably throw it away, but part of her therapy program is to learn about foods that stress her sensory system out.”
It’s also challenging when we bring “B’s” safe foods to lunch/dinner and the other kids see “B” is eating something different than they are. How do you explain to another child at the table, “B doesn’t really eat hamburgers. She’s going to eat chicken nuggets instead.”? I don’t mind bringing extra food for the other kids, but I usually feel super guilty that my family/friend’s kids are now eating something their parent’s really didn’t want them to eat in the first place.
“B’s” food school program also encourages her to learn about new foods through play. Think like a toddler. How does a toddler learn about food? Through their senses. They’re messy, and they’re supposed to be messy. That’s how they learn. That’s how they learn to eat. It gets more difficult when your 4.5 year old is learning about food through play, and she wants to blow bubbles in her juice at a restaurant, have a sword fight with her french fries, and scrape “gold dust” off of her bread sticks. The looks people give! Shame on us for raising a kid with such awful manners!
Then there’s the garbage bowl. They save the best for last at food school 🙂 After exploring and playing w/ new foods, “B’s” encouraged to spit, blow, or sneeze these foods into a big giant bowl. Sounds crazy, right? Actually, without really thinking, “B” has spit a lot of the “I won’t touch these” foods into the garbage bowl simply because she no longer sees these foods as a threat. They’re disappearing into the trash and that eases her fight or flight response. It is challenging to remember to pull out the garbage bowl at the end of every meal though. Especially when you have “B’s” sister screaming, “Wipe me up, mom!” for 2 minutes straight.
I think I forgot to mention the mess food school leaves all over the floor! All I can say is THANK GOODNESS for hardwood floors in our kitchen 🙂
I think I’ve painted a pretty good picture about my current love/frustration relationship with food, but I also have to celebrate the small successes! It’s what keeps me going. It’s what encourages me to “love” food over and over again and run food school at home twice a week. This afternoon, “B” licked and took a bite of a mini cheddar rice cake!!! A really big deal when for 4.5 years she only ate white cheddar rice cakes. She also drank the juice out of her mandarin orange fruit cup! Another major success because she used to eat mandarin oranges (back when she was about 2.5 years old), but hasn’t re-introduced them into her diet since she discovered they have strings on them. I know; it’s a slow process. I must give it time. I also know without “food school” (aka SOS feeding therapy) and “B’s” food school therapist, my feelings of frustration towards food would probably be a lot stronger 🙂