When Dylan was born, I was absolutely terrified. He came early and unexpectedly and by c-section, and, needless to say, nothing went as planned. His diaper was the first diaper I ever changed…ever. I had no idea what I was doing, and I had this idiotic notion that someone was going to walk into my hospital room and teach me how to be a mother. It was at the end of my second postpartum day that I realized no one was coming. I took a deep breath, brought Dylan home and waited for my “mommy” instinct to kick in. Eventually, it did.
My best and most successful parenting decisions have come from a deep, instinctual place. I may not always get the outcome I want, but when I use my instinct as a compass, I feel comfortable about the direction I’m headed. Conversely, when I don’t trust my gut, I feel anxious and tend to drink too much Pino Grigio with my dinner.
Speaking of dinner…
Dylan sees an occupational therapist (OT) once per week at school to work on his fine motor skills (he has a weak grip). The OT has also been helping us evaluate whether or not some of Dylan’s quirks, like his struggle to wear long-sleeves and pants, fear of loud noises and refusal to try new foods are sensory processing issues. So far, she feels pretty strongly that his food issues are behavioral. She’s suggested we get tougher at mealtime, meaning that we put food in front of him and he either eats it or doesn’t eat at all.
This is good, solid advice, and I know it works for some parents and some kids, but the thought of doing it with Dylan was unsettling to say the least. I wasn’t mentally prepared to do anything that night at dinner, but after a good night of sleep I gave it a try at breakfast.
I presented Dylan with a waffle and half a banana, neither of which were “new” foods, but the waffle was a different brand – Kashi instead of our usual Van’s. Both were round and whole grain, but the Kashi waffle was a slightly different shade of brown. Not surprisingly, he refused to eat it. I very calmly told him that was his breakfast and he could choose not to eat it but he would get nothing else. I told him the waffle was going to be delicious, just like all the waffles I’ve made him, and I told him I would never give him food that wasn’t yummy. Blah blah blah. He cried and whined, and I stood my ground…until an hour later when he begged me for a breakfast bar if he ate his banana. Under duress, I said yes.
I spent the rest of the day beating myself up for not following through, for letting him – in the end – control the situation, and for starting the whole damn thing in the first place. It was a colossal mess…over a waffle! Bottom line: I made mealtime a negative and punitive experience, and I veered far – very far – from my intuitive path. I basically swerved off the road and wrapped myself around a tree. The only good thing that came out of the breakfast debacle was that it forced me to think about how to conquer Dylan’s food issues without fear and coercion.
I came up with a plan to make color themed dinners. Dylan is obsessed with colors lately. He asks me at least 20 times a day what my favorite color is (yellow, by the way). We started yesterday with red, Dylan’s favorite color, and called it a “Red Celebration.” We set the dining room table with red spoons and forks, red cups and a vase full of red roses (from Valentine’s Day), and Dylan invited all of his red toys to join us at the table. Here was the menu:
strawberries and watermelon
Babybel cheese circles wrapped in red wax
whole wheat rigatoni with red tomato sauce
red Annie’s Gummies
The yogurt and cheese were safe bets, but I decided to consider any food consumption a success. Riley tried everything. He’s a pretty good eater, but he’d never eaten tomato sauce before so I was happy. Dylan wouldn’t eat the watermelon, but he had two pieces of strawberry (a huge step for him), the cheese and a few good spoonfuls of yogurt, and even though he wouldn’t eat the tomato sauce, he ate a bowl of plain rigatoni with Parmesan cheese on top. He hasn’t eaten pasta in months! I was so proud of all the different foods they both ate, and the best part was that mealtime was a hugely positive experience (special thanks to the sorbet!). There were no tears and no guilt.
I’ve schlepped to the market three times in the last two days for this rainbow experiment, but I’ll do whatever it takes to get Dylan (and Riley, too) excited about food. Dylan chose green for tonight’s dinner. It should be interesting. I bought green flowers for the table, and the menu includes:
green apple slices and green melon
kiwi yogurt smoothies
green scrambled eggs (all natural food coloring)
spinach penne with Parmesan cheese
green veggie chips
mint chocolate chip ice cream
I have some good ideas for orange and yellow, but I’m going to need some input for the blue and purple menus. Besides blueberries, I’m stumped. Let me know if you have any ideas!