There are a number of topics I could blog about today. I could blog about my sadness and reflections on the recent passing of a very good, kind man I knew. I hope he rests in peace. I could blog about some recent racism I’ve encountered. I could blog about my daughter’s first week of school and how I already have contracted a hacking cough from the germ factory that is school. So many things to bitch, I mean blog about, so little time.
However, there is something important that has troubled me for many months now. I feel trapped and totally powerless to control this situation and I’m hoping the mere act of writing down my frustrations will somehow alleviate them.
My Baby Girl is quite possibly the slowest eater to walk the earth. I cannot imagine any other 4 year old child taking 2 hours to consume an orange (removed from the peel and diced into bite-sized pieces), 1 scrambled egg and 1 piece of toast. Is this normal? I hear from a few other parents that they too experience this trauma. No, that is not an exaggeration. It is traumatic for me to be sitting at the breakfast table, watching the clock and knowing we have been sitting there for well over an hour and seeing that Baby Girl has only taken 4 bites out of the meal as I observe her playing with her toes under the table, mouth full of food yet jaws completely still. VERY traumatic. Because no matter what I say or do, she won’t eat any faster.
Now, I know what you all are saying or thinking: Why the HELL doesn’t this crazy broad just set a timer and when it dings, remove any remaining food so that eventually Slow Eater will understand that the hunger pains she gets are because of her slow eating and she will step it up a notch to avoid those hunger pains.
Well, that is a GREAT idea. Except it doesn’t work. I’ve tried it. First of all – she doesn’t care. Sure, there are occasional tears or words of frustration when the unfinished meal is removed, but my Baby Girl is stoic when it comes to giving mama the satisfaction of feeling like my consequences have accomplished anything. She RULES at the “I’m NOT going to let you think that your consequences have got the best of ME” game. So who cares, you say? I do. Not because I really, really, really want the smug feeling of knowing I’ve shown her who’s boss (I do want that feeling sometimes) but I care because what I usually end up with are feelings of extreme guilt. And those who know me know that guilt is not a feeling I often felt prior to becoming a mother.
See, Baby Girl had a rough start in life. The details of which are her private history, but suffice to say that nourishment and hydration were not in bountiful supply in her early months of life. It shatters me to imagine ANY child crying for food or drink, but when I know it was my OWN Baby Girl, I simply have to shut it down and pack those thoughts away in a little trunk in the back corner of my mind in order to cope. So for me to TAKE food AWAY from her just seems cruel and heartless and awful. It kills me. It makes ME want to cry, never mind her tears. It also makes me wonder if the whole reason she is such a slow eater is because of her late introduction to nutrition and hydration. That perhaps she doesn’t eat quickly because she wants to hold on to every mouthful to savour the feeling of a full mouth. To hold on to the morsels of food as long as she can because deep in her cave of early memories, she is worried that maybe, just maybe, she might run out of food again. Despite having regular access to a very full fridge and pantry, there is that tiny hard-wired fear that what is in her mouth could be the last bite she takes for an unknown period of time.
Now I don’t know for sure that this is the only or even a contributing reason why she’s such a slow eater. Maybe she just really lacks focus, because believe me, when I watch her eat, all I can think about is how soon can I get this child assessed for ADHD. (No, I didn’t say that in a mocking tone of ADHD. I was serious.) She doesn’t sit still. She plays with her food. She stares into space at nothing at all. She falls off the side of her chair. She runs food-covered hands in her hair (anyone with a kinky-nappy haired child knows that this is a HUGE ordeal). In general, she acts as though the LAST thing she wants to do is eat. Which is contradictory, because she loves to eat. Just very, very slowly.
So, it is torture. Because despite my heartache at the possible reasons of WHY she is such a slow eater, the fact still remains that no sane adult can sit through a child taking 2 hours to eat a meal without wanting to take a fork to their own eyeballs at some point. I will confess to voicing my frustrations to her (ok, AT her) from time to time. I can’t help it. Now that she has started school, I have no choice but to remove her food, which leaves me walking away from the Kindergarten gate every morning wondering if she will make it til lunch without hunger pains. Yet one more thing to add to the “School Worries” list. Not to mention worry that she won’t get enough food into her AT school. She only gets 20 minutes to eat lunch. In our house, that’s about one bite of a sandwich, a swallow of milk and a few squirms, stories, finger-twiddling and kicking the table. Not much to keep a kid going through a hard day at the office. I’ve already seen how crabby she is when she gets home at 3pm because she has had such a full day and has not had the same amount of food going in as she used to get in a day at home.
I cajole, I threaten, I beg, I ignore, yet nothing seems to motivate my sweet, darling love-of-my life to shovel food in any faster than the pace of a snail. Nothing, that is, except a Happy Meal with a side of the Playland beckoning…amazing how quickly THAT food disappears.