You Don’t Have a Picky Eater, You Have a Problem Eater

Photo 2013-05-29 09.03.43 PMMy beautiful little boy is extremely smart, creative, funny, and witty. He does so many things well. He’s excellent at reading, counting, building, using the iPad, identifying shapes, colors, and numbers. He can dress himself (when he wants to), get his own water from the refrigerator door, and clean up his toys when we ask him to.

He can do all these things that are a clear indication of his intellect and charm.

But he can’t do one thing well that most children do so naturally.

My child can’t eat.

It’s not as bad as it could be. He can physically eat some things. Oatmeal, cookies, chips, candy and other junk. But it’s been 2 years since the boy has allowed a vegetable pass the precipice of his lips. And up until 2 weeks ago, it has been equally as long since he’d done the same with a fruit.

He started refusing foods and refusing to feed himself shortly after he turned 2. We brought this up with his pediatrician on many occasions and where simply told “He’ll eat when he’s hungry,” or “He’ll grow out of it.” But I kept telling them he wasn’t growing out of it. In fact, he wasn’t doing much growing at all and today he is in the 5th percentile for height and weight. I kept telling him he gagged, made himself sick, and made mealtimes a stressful event. I kept telling them that he wasn’t simply being a picky eater. Eating is a stressful experience for him and even foods that most children will eagerly eat, he struggles with and gets frustrated long before he’s had an ample serving.

Photo 2013-05-29 09.03.37 PMAt his 4 year old checkup my child was diagnosed with hypertension. At the same visit I discussed his horrible eating habits, his gagging, and his refusal to try new foods. I had read a book title Just Take a Bite: Easy, Effective Answers to Food Aversions and Eating Challenges! This book really helped me to know how to talk to the pediatrician about his eating problems so se would pay attention. I was weary that perhaps his salt intake may be the cause of his elevated blood pressure. What kind of a mother let’s their 4 year old develop high blood pressure?

This mother. This nurse. This parent who had no idea because her child was completely asymptomatic. But in the back of my mind I question if this is my fault for giving in to his terrible eating habits.

But what choice have I had? It’s junk or he refuses to eat. What mother could allow their child to starve themselves? No me. Not any decent parent.

I’ve told so many people about my child’s poor eating habits and his refusal to eat “real” food. I asked others for help, support, prayers, only to often be criticized and told that we (the parents) are at fault for his inability to eat like a normal child.

Photo 2013-05-29 09.03.41 PMToday I know I haven’t done this to my child. Today I know that oral aversion and food neophobia is real issue that causes some kids to refuse foods and make meal time a terrible experience.

It’s been years since my family has been able to sit down and eat a meal together without the stress and frustration of a potential breakdown occurring at the dinner table.

I spoke at length today with healthcare professionals involved in his team. She helped me to understand that in order for me to explain my child’s eating difficulties with others that I need to make clear that I don’t have a picky eater, I have a problem eater. She helped me to forgive myself

Today I know that it’s not always going to be like this. While the underlying cause of my son’s hypertension is still being investigated (we have an appointment with a pediatric hypertension expert soon), at least I know we can help him learn healthy eating habits that will hopefully last a lifetime.

Today I know that my little boy, with therapy, will learn to eat.

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