Do you ever have those days where you feel like a complete parenting failure? That was me today. We’d had a lovely day, I’d done things around the house, the children had played nicely, we had lunch out and played with friends in the afternoon. I even sneaked in a little McFlurry treat. I was winning on the parenting front…until dinner time.
Dinner time will usually get me but today it was worse. Bean is the most ridiculously fussy eater (she has selective eating disorder) and I don’t deal with it as well as I should do sometimes. I’m pretty sure her baby brother is going the same way. It is a condition that is just so frustrating, and there is no help for it, no cure, no magic medicine, and not even really any therapy that can help.
I’d like to say I have accepted her eating problem, but I haven’t. Every day I wonder if I did something differently that would work – she might eat something. I waver between forcing her to try food and leaving her be. I just don’t know what to do for the best. I worry constantly about her health. She is thin, her teeth are awful and her hair is thin and lank. I worry that her bones are brittle and her high sugar diet is causing long term health problems. I worry that pressuring her to eat is causing her stress, I worry that she is feeling worried or upset herself.
Today I made hummus with pitta dips and carrot sticks for dinner. I knew she wouldn’t eat it as it wasn’t shop bought hummus. I took her aside before dinner time and just asked her not to make a fuss about it. Could she do it? Of course not. She tried a little and ran screaming hysterically into the kitchen dancing around screaming her mouth was on fire. I’m not kidding you, it was normal hummus. Not spicy at all.
I have a big issue with this behaviour because her little brother and sister are watching her, they look up to her, they learn from her. What did they learn from this experience? That the hummus was bad, don’t eat the hummus. I had to cajole a hysterical 5 year old into trying it before she realised that no, this hummus was just like normal hummus and would not kill her. Obviously the baby cannot be so easily convinced and spent the rest of dinner time crying and throwing his food on the floor – behaviour mimicking that of his oldest sister.
It’s bad enough having one child with eating problems but to have those problems spread to the others is a complete nightmare. So I lost it. I shouted, I despaired, I threatened, I was a horrible mother and human being. I handed them over to Daddy when he got home and collapsed on the sofa with some chocolate, immersed myself in other people’s lives on Facebook and cried my eyes out because I felt like a failure.
I’m writing this to let it all out. I’ve given myself a good talking to don’t worry. I don’t want to be that mother. There are lots of better ways to deal with the situation than how I dealt with it. I’ve learnt from the experience. But I am human. I am a mother and providing healthy food for my children is so vital to me. When you have a child with selective eating disorder there is no reprieve. They won’t get better. There is no answer, no specialist doctor and no magic pill. The cold, hard truth of it is that every mealtime will be a struggle for them, and for you. The worst thing is that I know that there will be evenings like this one again.
I know that I will continually feel like a failure because I can’t get my child to eat.