Monday, June 6, 2011

To Eat or Not To Eat

That is the question.

Well, really it should be "Will he eat or won't he eat?".

I'm sure you remember when I mentioned Ade's voracious appetite when we brought him home 4 months ago. It was as if he had never seen where food came from in his whole life. And in truth, it is likely he hadn't.

I will expand on that statement with this.

What we think looking back over our time in Ethiopia is that for the children in the foster home food just appeared. They weren't involved in the purchasing, preparation, cooking and plating of the food they ate. And how could they be? There were something like 60 kids in the home. Insanity would ensue if they tried. Not to mention how many kids came from having no food at all before the foster home.

When we finally took custody of Ade, we used the little kitchenette outside of our hotel room to make meals. One of us would stay in the room with Ade while the other went and got breakfast, lunch etc ready. We ordered in food quite a bit from the surrounding local restaurants. On occasion we go out to eat in a restaurant. So, when Ade would eat a meal the food just came to him.

As we settled in at home, it became clear to him the big black thing with handles had food in it. He could also see the fresh fruit on the counter. Something primal in him triggered. I think( in my opinion) it was the "I haven't been getting what I need in terms of amounts of food or kinds and now it is available to me whenever I want/need it."

I think the worry of food not being there again or not having enough to eat caused him to constantly want it. Who could blame the little guy! If you have constantly had to fight for food for fend off those trying to take your food, once you know it is readily at your disposal you will want it all the time. Even if you aren't hungry. You just want to have it in case it isn't there again.

It was hard to watch him standing at the fridge crying. The first weeks home he would be at the door with his hand up trying to open the fridge and sobbing. It broke our hearts and frazzled us a bit too. We knew it was something that could happen but to actually see it for yourself is something else. We couldn't communicate to him the food would always be there. We just had to get in a routine of showing him inside of the fridge and telling him there would always be food and he didn't need to worry.

The need to be satiated all the time with food has slowly passed. He is confident the food will be there. He doesn't freak out or melt down if we don't get breakfast made in 30 seconds. We can tell him and show him the food is being cooked and will be ready soon and he understands it.

I can honestly say watching him cry for food has been one of the hardest things to see in all of my life. It was the desperation and fear which was so difficult to witness.

But now the toddler aversion to food has kicked in. He feels so comfortable the food will be there he has become uber picky! The "Toddler Handbooks" I have all say this is normal. It is even evolutionary we have been told. A Darwian lesson of the strongest will survive, if you will. I.E. he only eats what he thinks is safe and won't poison him. Weird hey!

"Don't take it personally" they say. Or as Yvan likes to say "Let it go". It's not that I am taking it personally it is just so damn hard to think of new meals to cook when Ade's taste is like a moving target.

One day he likes baked beans. The next he turns his nose up to very same beans he couldn't shovel fast enough into his mouth. Don't get me started on meat. As long as it is stew like or in a sauce we are good to go. But if you were just to put little chunks of chicken or hamburger or fish on his plate he avoid it like the plague.

Fruit, some veggies, oatmeal, crackers and muffins are all good! He will eat those no problem. So he gets lots of those.

He used to love scrambled eggs. Made them for breakfast this morning and you would have thought I had served him a steaming plate of pooh the way he swiveled his head vigorously saying "NO!". So, I did what I have always said I wouldn't do.

I put ketchup on the eggs. He ate them. All!


He used to eat red peppers and hummus with me. Now he prefers Beefaroni! More like Barfaroni! I would make scrambled eggs with spinach and avocado for us and he would gulp it all down and ask for more. Those days are long gone.

I didn't want to be the mom who gives her kid processed food from a can for lunch. I can feel all the moms of the world "tsk, tsking" me!

I want my son to know I love him and care for him which is why I just may "take it personally" or can't "let it go". I know love isn't shown with food. I am trying, I think, to instill positive eating habits in him. I think about it all day long, by the end of the week I am so frustrated not to mention tired, because I just can't think of another thing to make for supper.

I guess I best just let Darwin's theory play out for a while and hope he doesn't grow up to be on Freaky Eaters eating nothing but potatoes and cheese or corn starch! I know, I know...quit watching those kinds of shows.

Creative meal making is hard.

I wouldn't trade the days of watching him cry in desperation but I do long for the times we sat at the island sharing hummus.


boltupright said...

He'll probably come around to the hummus again one day! Hopefully before he's twenty. Heh.

I can totally relate to initially celebrating the pickiness - as a sign that they are now confident in the food supply - and then within days having it drive you nuts. Remember, there is no logic in toddlerdom.

Brendan and Mary said...

It took Ekaete several months to not go crazy around food (and other inetible items she could get in her mouth) and then toddlerhood set in. Just keep trying everything and remind yourself that he is crazy...I mean, a toddler. It's not's him. ;)

Shannon said...

Sounds like you have a healthy, normal toddler on your hands. I know. Doesn't make you feel any better does it? I'm still struggling with it with my 5 year old. How to make food not a battle? It's a tricky thing. But I am hopeful. My 7 year old eats a lot more things now than she did a few years ago, even things she doesn't really love, she has learned to eat and be satisfied with. That is a HUGE step. Just know that you aren't alone. :)

Karen said...

We had a couple of years where E's diet was basically oatmeal, whole grain bread, fruit and yogourt. I alternated between stressing about E's refusal to try anything new and being happy that the few foods he would eat were at least relatively healthy.

At four years old, E has started to eat a bigger variety of foods, and he'll try at least a bite of almost anything. I was SHOCKED last night when he voluntarily ate four slices of cucumber.

... it'll get better. In the meantime, although I'm no expert, I'd suggest you just keep offering healthy choices, try not to stress about it, and know that when he's hungry, he'll eat!

Anonymous said...

"So, I did what I have always said I wouldn't do ..."
Welcome to mothering a toddler Rana! I can't even count the number of things I swore I would never do - things like adding chocolate to milk, offering a second version of a dinner she wouldn't eat ... so many things I thought I was sooooooooo above!
Food has frustrated me to no end - especially when she fell off the growth curve with her teeny stature (doctors and their damn curves!) I am sure she ate the equivalent of 5 cheerios for a week or two. She survived - and she is back eating avocado and hummus again.
Let it go ... it should be the mantra of motherhood! Just wish I knew how to do it! If you find the answer -please share. And, damn it, why do the husbands always seem to be better at this?
PS Imagining Ade sobbing at the fridge nearly broke my heart.

Katie said...

It's one thing to read that it's normal, but quite another thing to deal with trying to hit the moving target of a toddler's appetite... :) I've found that smoothies are the worried mother's best friend for sneaking in healthy food - squash, spinach, wheat germ, flax, cooked carrots, yogurt, avocado, fresh fruit, etc - even nut butters!!! I just have a bunch of the litterless juice boxes that you can get in the tupperware section of your grocery store and we're good to go - I make one almost every day (sometimes 2!), because otherwise Owen's diet would be something like ketchup and fish crackers. :)

hang in there!!!!

Claudia said...

Heh - ketchup and fish crackers would be one more food group than my two eat.

I totally sympathise with you, Rana - UGH. Hate the pickiness. It's a hard one to 'let go' of - feelin' it along with you!

darci said...

haha! you won't hear me 'tsk taking' you that's for sure. My oldest was SO picky..she is much better now at 11. :) Honestly, loved ketchup (still does) so ketchup was on most things...

Liz said...

Elfe arrived here smack dab in the middle of the toddler picky stage, and is just now starting to come out of it! I remember one morning three or four months after getting home, I think I offered her four different options for breakfast (as in, cooked and served them - not just suggested them) and she refused to eat any of them! I think with a bio child, I would have just shrugged and said "she'll eat when she's hungry" but it's been SO hard not to push food on her when I know she probably didn't get enough to eat at the beginning of her life.

Hang in there, it does get easier...

CinnamonOpus said...

Hurray for toddler pickiness! Seriously. It's a good sign developmentally. And the doctors say, a toddler can survive on very little and very little variety, but they will eat what they need to eat when they need to eat it, so go with it.

Don't stress. Whenever you worry about opening a can for your kid, remember me, whose child after 3 years has yet to eat a piece of fresh fruit that is not a banana, or a piece of meat that is not a cheeseburger, or a fresh uncooked vegetable, or a noodle... You're doing just fine.

John and Alicia said...

Love this post and all the responses.
We have been home almost 3 weeks with Mek who is 3 years.
He has been picky since day 1! It is crazy. He eats enough to feed a horse but has a limited diet. It is so hard to find things he will eat! The only meat he will eat is ground beef. And he eats about 2 dozen eggs a week. He is going to have high blood pressure or something. lol

Have you tried mango? Mek loves it. He got so excited when we started cutting a mango. He was kissing it. He likes to suck on the pit. We blend the mango and he eats it in a cup with a spoon. You can hide things like fish oil in there ;)

natasha salaash said...

Oh no! Isn't it funny how things change!! I would definately say to keep offering healthy choices and don't let it turn into a control thing at all. Don't let him know that you care at all whether he eats or not! It should be about him and how the food makes him feel. Make the food and if he is hungry, he will eat. If he says no and refueses something that you know he likes, just say "okay" and keep on eating. Eventually he will catch on that you won't just whip up something new everytime he says no. They just love to watch us sweat! Honestly it is such a slippery slope and I know so many people who have to make 2 different meals every night! Really, he is playing you! Obviously if you know he truly doesn't like something then you don't need to make it for him, but I think it is okay for everyone to eat things that aren't their favourites sometimes. Thats life. Hope that doesn't sound too harsh, but I promise it works.

Sabrina said...

Occasional stalker who linked through a friends-friends adoption page chiming in for the first time here.

With a 3.5 and 1 year old I hear what you're saying. My youngest gets black beans from a can when I can't think of anything else - bush league, I know. Somedays it works though, other days she's into only soda crackers and cheerios. I keep chopping stuff and throwing it on her tray, and then tossing most of it into the garbage hoping she ate enough.

Two sites that help spur the ideas when the well of recipes/finger foods has run dry:

Sure sounds like you're doing a great job.

And the crying at the fridge almost made me teary...that has got to be a heartbreaking experience. Glad it's passed.

findingmagnolia said...

Toddler eating is so hard! They're so opinionated, and when they've not had enough food in the past, you really want to make sure they're getting SOMEthing. What I've noticed about our daughter (age supposedly 4) is that she'll go a week eating very little, then a week eating a lot. In my experience as a nanny, this was very common for toddler/preschool kids. So when she refuses what I offer, I just tell myself that it must be a small meals week. We are pretty strict at our house about not offering a different meal if she declines the first one. I do try to put at least one thing on her plate that is usually a hit, and if she refuses even that, I go back to "It must be a small meals week." This allows me not to stress about it and sends her the message that there's plenty of food, but you don't always get exactly what you want. So far, so good--I mean, she's still trying to put us in the poorhouse by outgrowing all her clothes, so she must be getting enough, right?