Have you seen that movie, "The Miracle Worker?" If you haven't, it's the story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. If you have seen it, then I'm sure you remember that famous scene when Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller get into that hard-core battle of the wills over Helen's refusal to learn how to sit and use utensils at the dinner table. That scene is so intense! Food flying, wrestling on the ground, Helen pinching, hitting, and spitting in Annie's face. You can see how physically, emotionally, and mentally draining it must have been for both of them. Watching it I used to think to myself, "If I were in Annie Sullivan's shoes, would I have had the same strength to go the distance?" The reward was immeasurable, but it was A LOT of work, and Helen Keller wasn't even Annie Sullivan's child. That woman had heart! While I am no Annie Sullivan, I can now, as a parent, understand how it feels when you get to that cross roads with your child in a subject matter where a decision has to be made and acted on, for the child's own good, but you know it is going to bring you to THE ULTIMATE BATTLE OF THE WILLS.
Ironically, the battle of the wills for me, was trying to get Chase to eat. I know!...Right!?! Chase? "Mr. I-come-up-with-my-own-recipes-want-to-be-a- food-critic-chef-own-my-own-restaurant." Believe it or not, Chase's interest in food has only been over the last few years. Prior to that, Chase was an intensely picky eater. Severe food aversions was another symptom of his diagnosis. People who didn't understand what it was like having a child with severe food aversions, would down play it, or make comments like, "Oh, I had a picky eater, it's no big deal." To a certain extent, we are all picky eaters. Everyone has something that they don't want, or would prefer not to eat. But for parent with children who struggle with severe food aversions issues, it's a different ball game. Their immune system is compromised.
When Chase was a baby, he would only nurse. He refused to take a bottle. I was in good health, so he was getting all of the nutrients he needed, and he was in good health too. This was okay at first, and at the time, I wouldn't think to classify this as an issue. It was normal for a baby to want to nurse. However, when I went back to work when he was 4 months old, he stayed with a sitter, and he would refuse to eat from 7:30 a.m until I got home at 5:30 pm. I tried every bottle and nipple combination on the market. We even tried spoon feeding my milk to him. He was not having it. He would just wait until I got home, and then nurse all night. When it was time to introduce solids, the only baby food he would eat were green beans and potatoes or chicken and rice. That's what he ate every day. He wouldn't eat any of the fruits, or any other veggie or meat. Didn't matter if it was homemade or from a jar. As he got older, and other foods were introduced, it was a nightmare trying to find something that he would eat. I tried everything. Every kind of food, every kind of method myself, his therapists, and the books had to offer. It was not working. Things that may roll around or move in anyway on his plate, would freak him out. I have never scene a child react to Jello the way he did. He literally had a melt down the first time he saw it move. Textures and smells were magnified for him.
Introducing any kind of new food brought tantrums, anxiety, or total shut-downs. I had to bring food for him wherever he went because he would only eat 6 foods. 5 layer dip (had to be from Trader Joe's) with corn chips, chicken stars (could only be shaped like stars like at Carl's Jr), pepperoni pizza (minimal sauce and only certain types), apples (sometimes he liked them and other times he didn't), and of course sweets. Most anything with chocolate. You think, well 5 layer dip has beans, some tomato, and a few other things. Well, Chase liked the look of 5 layer dip, but would only actually eat the sour cream, cheese, and the beans. Most of it was left on his plate. These were his meals for what seemed like an eternity. Then 1 day I just said, "That's it!" Decision making time! My will must be stronger than his, if he is going to get out of this. I can't let malnutrition threaten my sons quality of life. He had bags under his eyes. He was lethargic. He was getting unexplained rashes on his skin. He was catching every seasonal flu that came our way. I couldn't keep watching this happen. I made up my mind, that weekend we were going to have a SHOW DOWN. I went into it NOT expecting that he was going to all of a sudden decide that he loved every food that was presented before him, but with the expectation, that by the end, he would know that my will was stronger, and I was not going to let up on this subject matter. I made sure that what I cooked him for this occasion was close to something he was already familiar with. He liked chicken stars, so I prepared him a lightly breaded halibut nugget. He had smelled it before because I would eat it myself, so I knew it didn't make him nauseated. It was the same color as the chicken stars, and I even gave him ketchup just like he had with his chicken. The requirement was that he eat 2 bites, and then he could have his regular chicken stars. He of course refused at first. He knew when my breaking point was, and as usual, he was prepared to hold out. He did his normal "go fish mom" routine for the first hour. Then he realized, Mom is not going away like she normally does. That's when the sweat and crying began. Literally. I was literally sweating trying to stand firm while, he was crying his eyes out. There was no physical altercation, but for the next 2 hours I stood my ground... and it paid off! Dinner started at 6 pm, and those 2 bites were taken by a little after 9 pm.
The rest is history! Those 2 bites set him on the road to good health, and changed his life forever. And no, he was not traumatized. And yes, he loves fish! Like anyone else though, he still has those foods that he doesn't like. But that same boy that would only eat chicken stars, french fries, and cookies, ordered beef tongue for himself at a Korean-Bar-Be-Cue restaurant, and is looking forward to trying alligator and frog legs! LOL! Who'd have thought? My goal that night was to get Chase to try new foods. If you would have told me that night, that Chase would grow to be a young man who would one day choose to watch the food channels, over cartoons, any day of the week, be making up his own recipes, have the desire to own his own restaurant, be a food critic, and a chef, I would have laughed you out of the room. Now, Chase is willing to at least try just about anything, and he has a pallet and sense of adventure for food that many adults don't even have.
I'd love to hear what some of your battle of the will stories are, and how they forever changed your child's life.