by Jennifer Dyer
Rachel was underweight for the first five or so years of her life. Food allergies on top of autism-related sensory/texture issues compounded to make every mealtime as fun as a dental exam. Worse, the only foods she liked were the ones making her sick.
Each time I had to say no to Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, or her favorite chicken nuggets, her lips quivered, her eyes watered. Though she could not talk yet, I felt as though she was thinking, “Why are you starving me, Mommy?” Every “No” I uttered and each tantrum related to food our family weathered shoved knives into my gut.
So, one day I found this simple recipe for peanut butter cookies:
- 1 cup peanut butter.
- 1 cup brown sugar.
- 1 egg.
Rachel loved watching the mixer, so I decided to try the recipe (with only 3/4 C sugar, just FYI). I didn’t expect her to eat it, but hope springs eternal around here that she will at least try something new.
Before I dropped some chocolate chips into the batter (well, someone had to eat the cookies, yes?), I offered her a spoonful.
And she ate it!
I called hubby and Eldest into the room to witness the marvel: Rachel was eating a new food! Not only that, but the doctor had recently given us a mammoth list of supplements to try on her, which, as you can imagine, I always ended up wearing. Day-glo vitamin orange is not my color.
This new discovery of peanut butter opened an entire world of possibilities to us.
Is how I found myself Several Years Later…
Mixing brown sugar into peanut butter for Rachel.
A few weeks ago, I woke up from this nightmare where I scrubbed peanut butter from my carpet and recliners daily. Except it wasn’t a dream. Somehow Rachel had trained me as her personal peanut butter slave.
She isn’t underweight any longer, either. We currently have the opposite problem.
Standing at the kitchen counter over a bowl of Rachel’s fav snack, I felt as if two mommies sat on my shoulders tossing verbal blows at each other:
What if she develops type 2 diabetes because I’ve let her eat herself unhealthy?
But she hates most other foods!
But she can’t go on like this!
But she’ll cry and beg for peanut butter if I take it away. I can’t do this, can’t live through days, weeks, months of more food tantrums. I feel like such a bad mom when she’s hungry.
Are you a big girl or not?
Urg! Sometimes I want to punch the sky. I know I have to be the mom. I even manage it with Eldest. As much as she would love to try, I do not let her eat ice cream for every meal.
But after almost a decade of fits lasting for hours and possibly days with Rachel, I have the strength of hot pudding. The thought of enduring days of screaming, spitting, stripping, peeing on the carpet, and banging her head against the wall until the plaster breaks makes me feel as if I’m pressed under a thousand bundles of plastic grocery sacks, pushed under the surface of a murky lake. I’m drowning, breathless, and I wonder if I’ll ever see the sun again.
But … I was awake after all these years. So I had to try. Being the mom sometimes means pushing through my own issues in order to help my child.
It’s been over a week without peanut butter. The first five or so days, she asked at least 5 times a minute unless we had her distracted by swimming, running an errand (but NOT in a grocery store!), driving aimlessly in the car, or we had to ignore her, which is about as easy as ignoring a tyrannosaurus in a wedding dress sitting on the couch.
We even wound up with another hole in the wall.
But, so far we have been free of the food-which-must-not-be-mentioned lest it start another round of the aforementioned food battle. I’m not sure what will happen the next time we have to take her to a grocery store since she knows where every store in a ten-mile radius keeps their peanut butter (oops! Said it…) and brown sugar–she might have a future in maps.
Sometimes, in the spirit of the Chinese proverb, A journey begins with a single step.