"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

the toll of picky eating

There are two things that, without medical intervention, you simply can not do for your children: You can't make them sleep and you can't make them eat. (You also can't make them use the bathroom, but we're actually all doing okay in that department for the time being.)

They're the two most stressful parts of having a newborn: Is he eating enough? Why isn't he sleeping?!

They're the two issues that have plagued Evan's life forever. The sleep was the first major obstacle to enjoying pure Baby Bliss. He didn't sleep for more than two-hour stretches EVER in infancy and, when he did hit that two-hour mark, it was because he was attached to my boob. Finally deciding that letting him Cry It Out was the only way to preserve my sanity at 10-months was the single biggest disaster of our parenthood (and yes, I'm remembering the time we took two kids in diapers, including an 8-week old prone to diaper blow-outs, on a four-hour long boat cruise WITHOUT A SINGLE SPARE DIAPER).

As a toddler, his sleeplessness continued. He would lie awake for hours in the middle of the night, quiet in his bed, twirling his hair. I'd watch him on the video monitor while I was up nursing Max. He didn't seem bothered by the insomnia, aside from the fact that his over-tiredness cast a terrible dark shadow on every aspect of his being from the age of 3 until he finally started sleeping again at 4 years old.

Throughout this time, eating was also a struggle. Picky by nature, compounded by his multiple and severe food allergies, and with a touch of sensory issues thrown in for good measure, introducing new foods was challenging, to say the least. Food scared him (anything that resembled milk or nuts) or made him squeamish (noodles, rice, cereal in hemp milk), or was too "spicy" (anything with any kind of flavoring, sauce, or marinade).

And so, Evan's List of Approved Foods was made early on, never amended (unless by deletion--we miss you, Sunbutter!), and impossibly short. Here it is, in its entirety:

plain chicken
plain hamburger
chicken nuggets, hot dogs
plain bagel/crescent roll/naan/or other bread with butter
bananas, apples, strawberries, mangoes, grapes
soy yogurt (vanilla or, if it has to be strawberry, with the strawberries strained out)
hemp milk
water, juice
crackers, pretzels, popcorn
Annie's double chocolate chip bars

Plus a daily multi-vitamin and treats. That's it. Literally.

And he eats like a bird. Four bites of chicken and four carrot sticks and he's full.

Feeding Evan been a struggle ever since I weaned him. Somehow, though, he's managed to hug the bottom of the growth chart, maintaining a steady curve. At each yearly physical, his doc and we exhale a sigh of relief and cross our fingers until the next appointment.

Today was that Next Appointment we'd been dreading.

At his well-child check-up this morning, we learned that, despite continued height growth, he's actually dropped weight since his last appointment. His BMI is so far below the chart it looks like an ink smudge on the paper. His hemoglobin (iron) is in the Deficient range.

The doc gave him a You've Gotta Do Your Part and EAT, Buddy! pep talk (you can imagine how well that went over) and me a list of foods to get into his body....somehow. (To which he responded to me later with, "Well, I guess I can't trust any food you make for me anymore. What are you going to do, start putting avocados in my waffles?!" Well, I'm already adding flax and chia seeds, kiddo. I doubt you'd notice.)

She prescribed a multi-vitamin with iron and in-office weight checks every three months until we get back on the curve. She also gave me that Thoughtful Doc look that no parent ever wants to see as she wondered about the swollen lymph nodes all over his body. He had a slight fever a few weeks ago, so I'm telling myself it's just a result of that.

So now it's up to him. And me, of course, as the buyer and preparer of all of his foods. I dropped him off at school and went straight to the grocery store and impulse-bought every high-iron/high-protein food I *think* he might eat. Organic, grass-fed 100% beef burgers I can pull out of the freezer for him twice a week. Black beans to (yup, sorry Ev) hide in his brownies. But most of it was bought under the presumption of so much optimism that I'm practically living in a dream world. Edamame? Yeah, right. Sunflower seeds? Doubtful. Dried apricots? Forget it.

But do me a favor, will you? Think good, healthy, fatty thoughts and send them in his direction for the next three months...and beyond.

Lesson Learned:

Parenthood. I tell you: there is, literally, always something to worry about.


  1. Getting food into them is always difficult. That sounds really horrible though. Our thoughts are with you and with Evan.

    1. Thanks, EtF. For once I'm glad our lives are not eerily parallel!!