Thursday, March 27, 2014

Food fights

I have been fighting food battles with Richie for two years.

"When did it start?" asked The Shrink. And I remembered so clearly a hungry boy Richie at the ma-hoo-sive first birthday party we threw for him, as a thank-you-deity that he was still alive, hoovering up scrambled eggs and sausages off Ouma's plate like a normal-eating child.

I also remember so clearly the Woolies chicken and broccoli bake children's meal that three-year-old Felix and 18-month-old Richie were sharing when Richie suddenly said, "No."

That was the last time he ate rice, or chicken, or cheese, or broccoli. He then turfed pasta and potatoes and meat and all other veg and any new food and a million other things off his menu. Occasionally wee would win a small victory - a friend ate a carrot stick, and so did Richie. We sold butternut fritters as "bread" and plastered them in Bovril and he accepted them.

Nothing out of the ordinary was going on at 18 months, in fact, au contraire, we were emerging from the Year Of Hell when Richie contracted superbugs and weird diseases and was very sick for much of the time. Things were looking up and Richie hit us with the next curve ball.

Only when I was in tears at the shrink did I realise to what extent FOOD has become a monster in our lives. My feeling: Richie has enough to deal with, can he just not be a fussy eater on top of it all? His social life will be smoother if he would just eat normal damn food. He has constipation (actually, larger bowel) issues, can he try to eat a healthy diet? And what did I do wrong, lazy, Woolies-food-buying person who learned about baby-led-weaning too late. Didn't I give him enough cucumber sticks to teethe on?

Shrink suggests Richie could be using food as a substitute for bowel control - "there are only two things a person can't force another person to do," she says, "swallow and shit." If he can't control the shit, he can control the swallow. So maybe let him. (She says, "What if you let him...?" of course, she doesn't say, "Let him", and we pretend the revelation came to Sean and me with a minimum of interference, because that's what the good shrinks do.)

I took to Facebook with some hesitation and asked about now-grown fussy eaters' experiences as children and was overwhelmed by the gentle honesty from everybody. It was a revelation because, while people have been telling me to chill on the food front for some time, I was still scared to contemplate the adult life of an extremely fussy eater. And my friends graciously showed me that adults I respect, who are well rounded and liked and who have decent social lives, could have been, and still be, terribly funny about food. And so what, basically?

That, and that people have serious tomato issues.

Richie has met The Shrink, finally, considering I have been going there for ages to talk about him, his anger, the tantrums and the five-week-long school refusal (yes, I haven't blogged in a long, long time). He loves her, and he tells her stuff he doesn't verbalise otherwise. Sure, she's leading the horse to water, but still, you know? It's working for us.

I decided to try to give up shouting at my children for Lent (what with Felix attending Catholic school and all). I liked the sense of it as a strengthening rather than deprivation exercise. (That, by the way, is also really, really working for us.) I told of my resolve at a social gathering. "Bloody hell you have rules for everything," commented one Commenter.

Indeed. I am annoying, first-childy, jobsworthy, extremely desperate to please, and be good, and sensitive to criticism. I irritate myself. But I still want to write. The stint at Ackermans (80 blog posts, one a week - that's a year and a half of blogging there) was good - but it was censored, and themed, and what I didn't say exceeded what I did.

So I'm back.


  1. Yay for you to be back. I don't really deal with too much fussy eating on my end. But that being said my son does not eat tomatoes, anything vaguely spicy, and now that I think of it, quite a few things.

    My daughter only eats things in multiples of two. OCD much?

    My youngest daughter has decided that she no longer eats anything but rice.

    I am too old to fight this stuff - I choose things I know are going to be less of a fight, and then self medicate so I don't have to over analyse.

    Good luck ......

  2. Oh yeah! Welcome back true and honest Margot!. Well we fight the food battle, these days mostly confined to L - who does exactly as the shrink says - bowels and food. Control when they feel out of it. But mostly we win these days. We just kept on fighting. And we kept to ordinary food - nothing out of the normal family range. Stir fry is still out of bounds but normal mince and rice, pasta, stews, chicken etc are in. I will also compromise a bit - if you do not want a baby tomato but will eat a peach go ahead.

  3. really good to have you back in my inbox :)

  4. Super happy that you are back in the blogging world. I have really missed your posts. I was a very fussy eater as a child and it did lead to health issues as a teenager. I am fine now but karma is a bitch and my son is just as bad as I was.

  5. Hi Margo

    Nice to see you're back. I was the worst eater in the world... I passed out once from hypoglycaemia. I hated meals, hated my mother during meals, and I still remember how disgusting food was for me. My mom used to try and guilt trip me with pictures of Biafra (shows my age), but pictures of skeletal people eating rats did not increase my appetite.

    Once when I was forced to finish my food, I dreamt that night that I was eating shit and blood from a plate. I can still remember it, the plate was plastic... I couldn't face food for about a week after that.

    You've seen me: I wish I still struggled to eat!

  6. Glad to see you're back.

    I was not a fussy eater and neither is my husband. My daughter eats everything and my son eats everything if distracted by something (like television).

    However I had a friend who ate virtually nothing except milo and niknaks from when he was at preschool till when he was about ten. It does not seem to have adversely affected him in anyway.