I wrote about five paragraphs of this blog post yesterday…and then all but the first sentence disappeared. Don’t trust the internet, kids. Not because it’s full of porn or sexual predators or misinformation but because it’ll swallow up your hard work (I have learned my lesson and am saving in Word from now on). Okay, so a large portion of the post was about a spider above the window (which has worryingly disappeared today) but I still feel cheated (and a little worried the spider will appear again somewhere closer…).
So, I’ll be writing this week’s blog on a Sunday instead of a Saturday (yes, a week runs Monday-Sunday and I’m not having any of that Sunday-Saturday crap – Saturday and Sunday are called the weekend). The topic this week is fussy eating.
I have read/heard the phrase ‘I hate fussy eaters’ or ‘I can’t stand adults who are picky eaters’ or some other variation many, many times and it does feel like a personal attack. I have mentioned my own fussiness in this blog where I looked at whether I was autistic.
I think the picky-eater-haters tend to fall into two camps.
The first camp don’t think there’s any excuse for being fussy with food full stop and if a child is picky then it must be because of indulgent and/or lazy parenting. Again, this feels like an attack (wow, I’m obviously feeling very defensive today – I think it must be the assumption that spider could ambush me at any moment) because as well as being fussy myself, I have fussy children. I hate being a fussy eater and have tried very hard to make sure Tyger and Baby Bear don’t have that sort of relationship with food. From first weaning them onto solids I gave them variety and healthy, balanced meals and even made sure I cooked them foods I don’t like so as not to pass on my own distaste for certain foods.
Tyger was actually a relatively good eater as a baby. I mean, it was quite hit or miss and even with the foods he liked, they tended to have to be prepared certain ways but he’d eat a good variety of fruit and veg. as well as a variety of carbs. Gradually he got more restrictive but that’s common with kids as they come up to the year mark so I carried on making those meals he’d gone off in the hope he’d come round again, though they tended to go uneaten and he’d have breadsticks/crackers and raisins instead.
Then we all caught a stomach bug.
That was the beginning of the end. It started one evening when my stomach very suddenly swelled up (that does not sound right at all…swold, swolled, swalled…nope, none of those sound right, either) to about three times its usual size. Luckily, I wasn’t pregnant with a vampire baby (I wasn’t sure whether to keep that reference because my knowledge of a certain set of popular vampire books isn’t really something I’m proud of – I’ll have to include either a good geeky reference or a highbrow literary reference later on in the post to try and reclaim some dignity); unluckily, I started violently throwing up and this continued through the night with the Wolf joining in (not at the same time – I’m all for doing things as a couple but that’s just gross, not to mention impractical). Tyger seemed blissfully unaffected and I thought maybe my superboobs had passed on immunity. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and partway through eating his dinner Tyger was afflicted with the dreaded bug.
I promise all this talk of throwing up is relevant…Well, the very last part is, at least; maybe the rest was just an overshare. The following day Tyger seemed to be all better but come dinner time he gagged on his mouthful of food and brought it back up. The next night he started gagging before the food even reached his mouth. We had to abandon the use of the highchair for a while because he’d obviously made an association between it and being sick. He also stopped eating most meals, including his favourites.
I’m not sure what the ‘fussy children just have indulgent parents’ brigade would have had me do. Force feed him whilst he gagged and screamed? Only serve him food I knew he wouldn’t eat and let him go hungry? Actually, I know lots of parents do this and almost always have a ‘my parents did it to me and I lived’ attitude (because…you can do anything to a child so long as it doesn’t kill them??). I mean, I often give Tyger a meal I know he does like/will eat and he refuses it so I tell him it’s that or nothing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that; I refuse to run back and forth to the kitchen half a dozen times trying to find him something he fancies (which would invariably be plain pasta, drained and then dried with kitchen roll at the moment). But I don’t make him something I know he doesn’t like and then stand over him, telling him he must eat it whilst he cries. Even if I didn’t think that’s pretty cruel, it simply doesn’t work. I know plenty of people who – as adults – shudder at the thought of certain food because they were forced to eat it by their parents or by some horrid dinner lady as a child. So, what’s the point in forcing them??
I still give Tyger food he doesn’t like because he’s never going to like it if it’s never even available for him to try. But I just give him a small amount alongside things he does like and I certainly don’t force him to eat it. In fact, his beloved pasta was actually quite a recent conquest. Going back a few months, he wouldn’t touch it.
I also give Baby Bear food he doesn’t like in the hope he’ll at least try it now and then. He has always been funny with certain food textures (as I wrote about in more detail here) and I don’t hold out much hope he’ll be any less fussy than Tyger but he does at least eat some vegetable at the moment, even if his fruit selection is more limited than his older brother’s.
So, I do feel miffed when parents of fussy eaters are attacked. I don’t think I’m complacent when it comes to the diet and health of my cubs but they’re still both picky little things. That’s just how they are. Perhaps it’s related to ASD, perhaps not. Either way, I don’t see it changing any time soon.
Then, there’s the second camp of critics. These people will accept or at least tolerate food pickiness in children but can’t stand it in adults. I guess it’s something people should ‘grow out of’. I don’t really know what to say to that. I haven’t grown out of it. I’m not sure how to force myself into growing out of something. There’s this great myth that health visitors and proponents of the belief adults shouldn’t be fussy will tell you: apparently, if you eat a food you dislike a certain number of times (say, 20 times) you’ll train yourself to like it. Bullshit. I can tell you, categorically, that is not true. I have eaten onions probably hundreds of times and I still detest them. I want to like them. Do you know how hard it is to find food you like when you’re a vegetarian who doesn’t like onions?? My life would be much easier if I liked onions, tomatoes and peppers (apparently the basis for any and every vegetarian meal in all restaurants ever) but I don’t.
My mum also heard this myth and tried it with my youngest sister, who is also very fussy. She gave my sister hated foods again and again – possibly in the hope she wouldn’t have another fussy eater on her hands – and my sister still hates them. Talking of siblings, I’m not sure how anyone who blames parents for food issues explain the fact me and my sisters are all pretty picky but my brother will eat anything and everything. We all have the same parents!
I’m also not sure what the people who hate fussy adults want me to do. They seem to think being fussy is in some way a deliberate act to inconvenience them. Well, you know what? It’s far more inconvenient for me. Yes, I feel hugely guilty when I go to someone’s house for a meal and they have to cook me something specially but I’m really not doing it on purpose. Insulting someone you like by telling them you just can’t eat the food they’ve put time and effort into making is not fun. In fact, generally, I don’t say anything. I will always mention beforehand that I’m fussy in the hope the host will take pity and ask me what I do like but if I am given a plate or bowl of food full of my most hated ingredients I don’t tend to speak up unless an understanding family member has cooked. I normally try to eat as much as I possibly manage to be polite. I chew the absolute minimum and desperately try to hold in the gagging that involuntarily accompanies certain foods. I wish I had some funny anecdote about surreptitiously feeding dogs under the table or stashing food in my bag to dispose of later but I wouldn’t dare do anything like that for fear of being caught; you’ll just have to imagine your own amusing scenario.
So, please go easy on us poor fussy eaters. We really aren’t doing it on purpose and I can guarantee you our fussiness is more difficult for us than it is for you!
I’ll end with this quote from my favourite poem, The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot:
And I have known the eyes already, known them all-
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase.
Not because it’s particularly relevant, you understand, but because I still feel embarrassed by the Twilight reference earlier and hope this will redress the balance.
Also, there’s still no sign of the spider. If I never write another blog post, you’ll know it pulled off the ambush and I’ll never annoy anyone with my fussiness again.