My Child Won’t Eat

“He will eat when he is hungry”. If anyone dared to say that to me again I’m sure I would have screamed the place down.

I always envisioned cooking wholesome one pot wonders for my son and I to eat together. As a Nanny in a previous life, I was used to cooking up nutritional masterpieces that were devoured by the little people in my care. How did it go so wrong for my now 5 year old son and I?

Baby led weaning was a fairly new concept when my son was ready for weaning. It was alien to me.  I was so worried about my son choking so we continued with pureed food for longer than the recommended age. He had such a great diet though and was thriving.

The Health Visitor called around one day to do an age assessment on Rory and I asked for her advice about introducing ‘normal’ food. Something I now wish I hadn’t of done. From then on my expectations of my child eating exceeded what he actually wanted, needed and desired and the nightmare began. My son became an ‘average’ child. On average he should be eating three meals and two lots of snacks. That is what I thought I had to achieve.

I am ashamed of my behaviour towards my son’s eating. And my justification was that he wouldn’t survive on the very little he was eating.  I decided that things were going to change. I took on board the advice that if my son was hungry, he would eat. This was a very low point for me because I expected Rory to eat unfamiliar foods. “A child needs to try a food 15 times” stuck in my head. It very quickly became apparent that my son would prefer to go hungry than eat. How can any responsible parent let that happen.

The final straw  was over a ‘ham sandwich’ incident. Rory ate bread and he liked ham. I made him a ham sandwich picnic and asked him to just try it. Hours and hours passed. I broke down in tears. My child was crying. What the hell was I doing??? He never wants to eat a ham sandwich again.

I have never apologised so much to my little boy. I had turned into a food martyr. Demanding my son ate because I was so scared of his lack of appetite. But why on earth would he want to eat when he has such a crazy mummy. Once again, things had to change and quickly.

All I needed to do was talk to my son. We made a list of all of the foods he liked, not many but it was a starting point. Thank goodness peanut butter was on there!

Friends recommended various ways to handle my “fussy” eater. The use of a reward chart system came out on top. However, I was not willing to “reward” my son for eating. Eating is essential for life.

I remember my son eating a couple of bites of food before telling me he didn’t want anymore or that he was full. “How old are you? 4? lets eat 4 more pieces then”. My son did not want to eat anymore. He was telling me this very clearly. Why was I not listening or believing him? I had done this previously when Rory had had one Weetabix for breakfast. I didn’t think one was too much to eat until I sat down with him and couldn’t finish off my one Weetabix.

“Make pizza faces”. “Make potato boats”. No amount of food art made my son want to eat the finished product. No amount of making ‘menus’ or cooking together helped.

It was during this time I found support in a local Gentle Parenting group. I learned to respect my son. To respect his choices. To give him control over his choices. I had to respect his choice of what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat.

I was always too scared to take Rory out to eat but in actual fact that is what I needed to do. For him to see eating as fun and social. I even overturned my ban of ever letting my child eat at MacDonald’s!

So this is where we are now:

  • I have accepted that my son eats very little compared to other children but for him, it is the right amount and he is thriving.
  • My son can help himself to food in the fridge and cupboards at any time.
  • Some days all he wants is a peanut butter sandwich and some milk and that is ok.
  • There will NEVER be any punishment or reward for eating or not eating.
  • He likes to keep his food separate on a plate.
  • He likes plain food.
  • I am grateful  he likes salmon and chicken and peas!
  • He regulates his own treat intake.
  • I respect my son.
  • He asks for rice and noodles from the Chinese takeaway!
  • He recently ate a whole Yorkshire pudding!
  • He seems to enjoy a variety of foods.
  • I am grateful that he eats and that he wants to eat.

Seeing my child, the little person who I love more than anything in the world, survive off a few grains of rice some days has been the hardest and most distressing part of parenthood for me. This distress caused me to handle the situation appallingly. Single parenting is tough. When you need support and reassurance from the other parent but have to cope alone. All I can say is that I have more than learned from my mistakes and strive to be a much better parent. I’m so sorry Rory.

 

 

 

Advertisements

A £10 day out in the City ……

As with most people, January is a financially depressing month. My son’s birthday is just before Christmas and most of my family members have their birthday’s in January! Our entertainment budget reduces dramatically so I am always on the lookout for cheap days out.

With £10 in my purse, my 5 year old and I set out for a day of adventures in Cardiff town. Now I must apologise in advance but I told the bus driver a little white lie. Well not a lie as such but when he assumed my son was under 5 and didn’t qualify for a fare, I didn’t correct him. My bad! So, £3.60 spent for a day return into the big city. I drive most of the time so a bus journey is a treat for my son.

The day we chose to venture into town, Cardiff was hosting one of the biggest sporting events: Wales v England in the Rugby. Being a welsh rugby fan myself I loved taking in the atmosphere. The town was buzzing with dancing dragons and daffodil’s! A chorus of rugby anthems and musical talents echoed from street to street. I just had to have a dragon face painted onto my cheek and a bargain at £1. My son Rory declined but soon changed his mind when he saw how cool his mummy looked! £4.40 left in the pot.

Our first port of call was the Cardiff Story Museum conveniently located in the centre. Neither of us had been before but we will definitely go back! On the first level there were interactive stations explaining all about the history of Cardiff. Rory was chatting away on the hand held listening device! He enjoys anything that allows him to push buttons and there were lots of buttons to press.  I finally persuaded him to follow me down to the children’s section on the next level. What a fab place! There is so much to do. Rory loved the toy kitchen and train in the most in the wonderfully named ‘Dewi’s Den’. For me, I thoroughly  enjoyed reading the displays showing the changes to this marvellous city throughout the years. We ended our visit by creating our ‘Peace Mugs’ on paper. Discussing what ‘peace’ meant was a lovely way to end our visit, however after 2 hours, Rory did not want to leave and it was only because it was lunch time that I got him out! The Cardiff Story Museum is free to enter and explore.

Our original plan was to go to Macdonald’s for our lunch. I am not a fan of Macdonald’s and we rarely go. But the Happy Meals had just changed from Angry Birds to Batman Lego and I have a big Lego fan. However, that all changed when toilet needs called and we popped into Pillars restaurant. 2 children’s meals ordered, including drinks for £6. Sitting in the restaurant chatting away to my little boy was well worth going over budget for!

As more and more rugby fans descended on the city we took ourselves across to the much quieter Civic Centre and climbed the steps to the National Museum. Not before Rory had an impromptu dance with some buskers! We have been to the National Museum many times and for a little boy like mine who likes to roam free, this environment is ideal. And once again, free. He takes me around the building as if he is the tour guide! You could easily spend a good couple of hours in this Museum. If pennies permit there is a coffee shop/café on the lower ground which has a little play area. Very useful if you need a coffee and a sit down to recharge your batteries whilst your little one still has bundles of energy!

By this time, I have more than reached my daily target of steps and ready to go home! £11.60 spent on an exhausting but fun and educational day out. Rory fell asleep on the bus home!

20170211_113745

Is School turning my Son into a Robot?

20170122_091548

“Good afternoon madam, which class is your child in?”. This sentence came from a young child carrying a clip board as I entered the hall where I was due to have a parents meeting with my 5 year old son’s teacher. More children were lined up very efficiently, also with their clipboards, reciting their lines to other parents. The reception was very polite. Very formal looking. But very robotic.

My son’s school is ‘very good’ by all standards. It is welcoming, colourful and it has a lovely ‘feel’ about it. A tremendous amount of work is obviously put in by everyone who works there but I can’t help but feel my son’s schooling will turn him into a “yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir” young boy.

Before I go any further I will just add that I have the upmost respect for Teachers. I trust them with my child’s life. Increased classroom sizes and learning outcome demands must put so much pressure on teaching. I could not do this job and am in awe of those that do. But this is the problem I have, is my son’s presence at school purely a ‘tick box’ exercise?

My son’s teacher dove straight in to tell me he was on the right path for achieving the targets for his age. Yes he can write ‘sat, mat, hat’. Yes he can count to the required amount. No he isn’t interested in reading the ‘Biff and Chip’ books he brings home! But does anyone know of the remarkable stories he tells from his imagination??? Or the books he reads from memory? “Here is a leaflet that explains how to make reading more fun at home”. Hmmm, I will let you come to your own conclusion about my internal reaction to this!

I’m afraid the very strict 10 minute appointment slot for generic information, is wasted on me. The things I need to know are:

  • Is my son happy? How do you know if he is unhappy? How would you support my son if he was sad/upset/unhappy?
  • The theme this term is ‘Homes’, how are you supporting my son from a Single Parent home throughout this subject, as a minority in his class? How are you ‘normalising’ different family types? What resources do the school use for discussion around homes and family life?
  • Why is my son putting bread in his pocket at dinner time because he doesn’t have enough time to eat his dinner?

Please put all of these in a tick box for me! At this young age, my son’s emotional health and development is more important than academia. He needs friendships and to learn the value of these friendships. Develop social skills. I sometimes wish we followed the Scandinavian schooling system where 7 is the starting age. Children have more time to be children, to learn through play as they are designed to do.

I hate to think of my son being a number amongst 30 others. I hate to think of him conforming at such an early age. He sits with his legs crossed, does as he is told and puts his arm up to ask or answer a question. Do we do this as adults????

I remember my son coming home after his first full day. He was desperate for the toilet. He hadn’t been all day because he didn’t know who to ask or where to go. I remember him coming out of school a few weeks ago looking a bit peaky and he said he had felt poorly all day but didn’t tell anyone. Now that made me sick to my stomach. My son is a human being with his own needs and feelings. Why is nobody seeing this??

I have spent the last couple of years encouraging my son to make his own choices. The need to conform as a class takes its toll on him and most days after school, he is like a bottle of pop ready to explode. The emotional intensity of school life at such a young age is concerning me. Take the school Christmas Concert for example, my son wasn’t ready to parade in front of strangers, singing songs that have been rehearsed diligently for weeks and weeks. He wanted his mummy but he sang up on stage upset because that was what was required of him. For entertainment! For school recognition. And I still bought the DVD! The pressure on these children is just too much in my opinion. Did my son have a choice to take part??? I bet he wasn’t even asked.

So the next parent’s session will go somewhat differently. I will have my clipboard and checklist and my ten minute timer. I will ask about my son. Not about his ability to build a tower of bricks and to recite the colours of the rainbow, but about his personality. About his likes and dislikes. And most of all about his happiness. Because to me, at 5 years of age, that is all that counts.

 

‘Only Child’ Grief

“When can we have a baby?”. “Please can we have a baby?” “Can we call the baby Tess?”. “Mummy’s got a baby in her tummy”. “When I’m a big brother ….”

Not a day goes by when my 5 year old doesn’t check to see if I’ve got a baby in my tummy. And to be fair, after over indulging throughout the Christmas period, I sometimes do look pregnant! My son tells everyone I’m having a baby!

Joking aside, it is very upsetting not to be able to give my son the one thing he wants more than anything in the world. And the words he used shortly after starting full time school last year still haunt me: “we are not a proper family”.

We are amongst the 1 in 4 single parent families living in the UK. Our little family unit is “PROPER”. We both have an overwhelming desire to increase our family but it is just not going to happen biologically. Will the longing to carry another baby ever leave me? The yearning to have the miracle of life growing inside of me once again is so strong.

You are lucky you have a child”. This is very true but it does not stop me grieving for what I want. What I want for my son. Given the choice I would have a whole brood of children. And although I do have choices they are not compatible with childbearing.

Shortly before my Chemotherapy started for Breast Cancer, I attended a fertility appointment where I was given various options available for a single person like myself. Options I would never have thought about before. My referral came too late though and I began my life saving treatment plan without looking back.

In recent months I have been researching my particular hormone driven cancer and future pregnancy outcomes. I have spoken with my Oncology team and Fertility specialists. I am on Endocrine Therapy for the next couple of years but all teams are happy for me to have a medication break should I try to get pregnant. But it all comes down to this: I fought so hard to be alive for Rory. For my son to have his mummy. To see him through all of his incredible milestones. Pregnancy will have its risks and these risks I cannot take.

We are so lucky to have support from Single Parent groups and Single Parent friends where we ‘normalise’ our family type. Never again will my son have to think we are not a proper family. I may not be able to give my little boy a baby brother or sister, but what I can give him is a family unit full of love, respect, kindness and adventure!

Not having another child is a decision I have to make peace with. It is very difficult, but I know, one way or the other, I am destined to have a house full of children. We will have our dream one day.