Little Man used to eat almost anything we put in front of him. He would try new things. Textures were not an issue. I could put just about anything in his lunch box at preschool, and it would be demolished. I didn’t even notice when it started to change. I just know that in the past few years, his food choices have narrowed down to almost nothing. Textures are a serious issue. And sometimes his oppositional/defiant side takes over and he just digs in, refusing to eat stuff just because he can. If he had his choice, every meal would consist of some combination of chicken nuggets/strips, popcorn, pop tarts, pizza rolls, pasta, and goldfish. I call it his “P Diet” because it seems if the food name starts with a “p”, he will probably eat it (poultry, pop tarts, pizza, pasta). He will frequently throw in some Lucky Charms for color. And he does like strawberries, apples, rice, and California rolls (sushi). He hates to try anything new.
As a result, my Little Man is little. At ten years old, he barely weighs 50 pounds. Every single time we go to the pediatrician, we come home with those informational sheets telling us how to get more calories in his diet. I’ve tried it all. He won’t eat cheese – unless it’s on a pizza. He won’t eat yogurt. He hates ice cream, chocolate of any kind, Carnation Instant Breakfast, and protein drinks. We have tried everything. He’s had blood work to rule out a few things. We were referred to the failure to thrive clinic at Children’s. They won’t take him as they don’t feel his case is a failure to thrive (Can I get an Amen?). We’re waiting on an endocrinology referral. His pants and shorts hang off of him, even the slim sizes with the elastics pulled to the very last button hole. It makes me ache to be able to count his ribs, and nearly wrap my hands twice around his wrists. So we fight, constantly, to get him to eat. We make deals to get him to eat. I find myself frequently making an emergency trip to the grocery store when I know we’ve run out of something he’s guaranteed to eat. I find myself frequently making separate meals for him, or allowing him to make himself whatever he will eat when I know I’ve made something he doesn’t like.
Sometimes, we put our foot down and insist he must at least try what we’ve made for dinner. Last night was one of those nights. I tried a new recipe. I knew there was one ingredient he would not like, but basically everything else in it is something he will eat in one form or another. A huge battle ensued. He sat at the table for over an hour. He took a miniscule bite – not enough for him to be able to get a real taste – but that was it. Spouse and I have agreed that when one of us set a rule, we have to back each other, at least in front of the kids, unless it’s completely and totally out of line. Spouse told Little Man he had to stay at the table until he ate what was on his plate. It wasn’t a big serving…maybe less than 10 bites. There were tears. He yelled. He jumped up and down on his chair. We ignored him. We attempted bribery. We threatened. Finally, after over an hour, with the food cold on his plate, he had not even attempted another bite. We sent him to bed. We sent him to bed without feeding him anything else.
I went upstairs 45 minutes later. He had grabbed Spouse’s iPad and was watching videos – a huge no-no in our house as screens of any kind are not allowed in their rooms. I calmly took it from him and walked to his door. He asked for a snack. I told him no, said goodnight, walked out, and closed the door. Then the tears began. He cried for half an hour, then wore himself out. I felt horrible. In my mind, I called myself a bad parent for letting him go to bed hungry. Do I believe we did the right thing? Ninety percent of the time, the answer to that question is yes. I know food is one of his issues. But I feel if I continually give in, his food choices will continue to narrow. I will have to do more and more work, cook separate meals daily if we don’t hold the line at some point.
We do need to get calories in him. Everything I make, everything I give him to eat revolves around that thought. He does get to snack on his favorite things between the end of school and dinner time. We give him the weekends off from his ADHD med in an effort to encourage his eating – as well as curb his anxiety as much as possible. I hate nights like last night. We were all drained and exhausted by the time bedtime rolled around. It’s so hard to find that fine line of keeping food options open, and getting him to eat. Some days we win, some days none of us wins.