That didn’t turn out like I expected
The time has come to deal with food.
MapKid eats about five foods. This would be bad enough, but which five foods changes frequently and without notice. He’ll always eat chicken strips and french fries–his default order at any restaurant. I keep a bag of frozen nuggets in the freezer, and I try to contain my irritation that will gobble down preprocessed chicken mash-up but utterly disdains any home-prepared chicken, including my truly yummy panko-breaded chicken strips.
As for the other three foods, take a guess and hold your breath. One day he adores spaghetti and meatballs–the next time I make it he won’t touch it. One day he thinks Life cereal is the best thing in the world and will devour bowls of it. The next it’s “disgusting” and I end up throwing away a nearly full box because it’s gone stale.
What’s even worse is that eating has become so angst-ridden that it often escalates into a meltdown. I tried to fix him lunch the other day and he ended up lying on the floor of the kitchen screaming, “But I don’t know WHAT I want!!!”
I’ve tried all the tricks. I’ll offer him two reasonable choices. For breakfast, I’ll ask, “Do you want cinnamon toast or Rice Krispies?” For dinner, “Do you want spaghetti or quesadillas?” No go. This child has seen through the two choices question and defies it utterly. He ends up back on the floor, wailing, “I don’t know WHAT I want!!!!”
Oh, and if you were noticing the relatively starch-laden and veggie-free nature of those choices, you are entirely right. I gave up offering broccoli and carrots and whole-grain bread ages ago. I just want the kid to eat. Something. Anything. (My, how the idealistic have fallen. When this child was an infant, I bought him organic vegetables at the food co-op, steamed and riced them myself, and rejoiced greatly in the sight of my progeny downing endless bowls green beans, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes. I quoted endlessly the books that claimed that by introducing vegetables early, you were priming the child’s taste buds and he would continue to eat these foods as he grew up. Ha.)
I’ve also tried the trick of providing the food we were eating with the caveat that if he didn’t want it, he could get himself anything from the kitchen he could fix himself. Yeah. Well. One time this resulted in a magnificent meltdown when he tried to make himself toast and then lay on the floor screaming that removing the toast from the toaster was “too hard” because the toast was “soooooo hot!”
I’ve let the food thing go the last few months because I had other things I was dealing with and I find it exhausting wrestling with Every. Single. Thing. I hoped, actually, that my increased flexibility with food matters would actually pay off with a slightly wider diet once the pressure was off, or at least fewer screaming fits if I gave in and allowed him to eat buttered white toast for every meal.
No luck. It’s gotten worse.
I’ve tried to understand what’s going on. Perhaps (probably?) there’s some food sensitivity here–most kids dislike strong flavors, and Aspies seem even more averse to the them. Perhaps there some element of trying exert control. Even more crucial, I think, is the pressure of having to make a choice. I try to get him to decide what to eat, on the theory that if he picks it, he’ll eat it. Not only is that not true, I think sometimes the requirement to make a choice completely overwhelms him.
So! I’m done with this nonsense.
We’re implementing new food rules around this house. I’m cutting out choices. I will provide him food; he can choose to eat it or not. If the kid misses a few meals as a result, so be it. He’s not going to starve–this house is positively bursting with food. At this point, I think about the only leverage I’ve got is his hunger.
I don’t intend to be unreasonable. I’m not going to insist he down asparagus and arugula the first night. I just mean that if I fix him a bowl of cereal for breakfast, that’s breakfast. He can scream all he wants. I’m not going to sit on the floor and try to pry out of him what his delicate palate would prefer today.
However, I do intend that he start eating more of the foods I make for my husband and I. Of course, I won’t make him eat our spicy kung pao chicken. If I deem our meal to be completely beyond his taste buds, I can always whip out the frozen nuggets. But in almost everything I put on the table, there’s something mild enough he can eat–even if it’s just the rice that goes with the kung pao.
Our new regime started earlier this week. I prepared a quite lovely meal, if I do say so, of pan-fried rainbow trout (caught by MapKid and his dad in the mountains), sauteed squash with sweet onions and tomatoes, and roasted potatoes. I dutifully cooked up some nuggets, but I also informed MapKid that before he left the table he needed to eat some of the potatoes.
There was squirming and whining, but really less resistance than I had expected. Maybe he was in a compliant mood–maybe there was some glint in my eye that made him think a fit would be a bad idea. We placed two beautifully browned roasted potatoes on his plate and said, “Eat up.”
He picked up his fork and slowly speared a potato. He held it up to the light. He examined it as one would study an alien bacteria from Mars. “Oh, just get it over with,” my husband said.
MapKid put the potato in his mouth. He chewed. I braced myself for screaming.
“Hmm,” he said. “That’s pretty good.” He stabbed the other potato piece and gobbled it down. “Can I have some more?” he asked.
Wordlessly, I piled his plate with potatoes. Gleefully, he shoveled them all down. Later he announced to his grandparents that he just loved roasted potatoes.
I did not see that one coming.