Monday, March 22, 2010

Is That A Light At The End of The Tunnel I See?

One of our biggest hurdles with Liam has been his diet. He's ridiculously picky. Once upon a time, when the world was new and Liam didn't know any better, he was willing to eat just about anything I put in front of him. Those days are so far in the past they live with the dinosaurs.

There's a lot of reasons that things got as bad as they did. The primary reason is that just as he was getting really picky he also got really sick and he stayed that way for months. He was losing weight and we were desperate for him to get calories of any kind. As a result we fed him just about anything he was willing to eat - even if he was surviving on mostly snack foods - because it was better than watching him continue to lose weight. It started a lot of bad habits on all our parts.

By the time we got to a point where we should have been changing the way he was eating I was pregnant again. Pregnancy does not agree with me and well, that whole 9 months was really a wash as far as progress with Liam was concerned.

So, by the time he was four we were really feeling like things were deteriorating. He preferred snack foods over anything else, was willing to eat about 5 different entrees, no vegetables, and very few fruits. He wanted to snack between meals rather than actually eat three meals a day and he filled in the cracks with milk. He was still growing but slowly (which I believe to be partially due to his genetic heritage - it runs in the family) and was practically falling off the growth charts. He was also vehemently opposed to trying new things and expanding his diet.

We had a discussion with our pediatrician and instituted some new rules around the house. We got him to cut back on the snacking and eat more of his meals so he was getting better nutrition. We pushed him to try new things with very mixed results. Over the course of a year we've managed to get him to eat one or two new things but beyond that he refused to expand his list of choices.

I was reduced to making three meals all the time: one for Scot and I, one for Liam, and one for Jamie (because he's still working his way into eating table foods). I hated it because I didn't feel like that was the proper way to parent the kid but in the same breath I knew he would just refuse to eat if I put what we ate in front of him. He's just stubborn enough to start losing weight again because he refused to eat.

In addition I was having the same argument with him twice a day at lunch and dinner. "What do you want?" "I don't know." Lather, rinse, repeat. He was frustrated that he didn't have more choices, unwilling to try anything new, and obstreperous about paying attention to me long enough to make a choice. I felt like all I did was fight with him and it was really seeping into everything. He was disrespectful a lot of the time and he was just not enjoyable to be around.

In the end the whole situation became untenable and we finally put our collective foot down.

I sat down with a list of all the things he likes to eat and created a menu for the week. The creation of this menu caused a huge tantrum on his part but we stood firm despite the yelling. He managed to tantrum himself right into his room. In hindsight, he knew this was an issue that he could manipulate us with and he really objected us taking away a button he could push.

The surprising part is that once he got over his initial upset he took to the whole thing like a duck to water. The arguments have disappeared because he doesn't have to make a choice. I look at the menu, tell him what he's having, and that's what he eats. He's much less frustrated about the issue and thus, so am I.

The truly shocking part is that suddenly he's eating about twice what he was before the menu. He will finish what I tell him he has eat and then tells me he's still hungry and at that point I let him pick what he would like to have in addition. Apparently he was so frustrated that by the time he got to eating he was just too stubborn and upset to eat a decent meal. It also meant that we spent 45 minutes at every meal badgering him to keep eating. We don't have to do that anymore.

Between not being constantly frustrated and not being constantly hungry because he's stubborn and starving himself, he has been like a new kid. He's finally eating and happy to be doing it, he's more respectful, more polite, and in general a lot less hateful than he's been for months. I don't spend my days ranting and raving like a lunatic because I can't take it anymore.

He's been on the menu system for a week now. I've been reluctant to say much because I don't want to jinx it but he seems to be in a groove with it. I'm hoping that if it keeps up it will trigger a growth spurt.

He still doesn't have a lot of variety in his diet. His entrees consist of peanut butter sandwiches, pasta, chicken fingers, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches. He has about the same number of fruits that he's willing to eat and there isn't a single vegetable I can tempt him to eat. My hope is that with the pressure and frustration he was feeling alleviated, he will eventually be willing to try a few new things. Only time will tell on that score.

Yes, I know that all of this should be obvious and yes, I do feel like a total idiot for not doing all of this before. In my defense there were reasons why not and by the time we got around to thinking about doing a menu, Scot and I felt so defeated by the issue that we procrastinated about creating a menu because we honestly didn't have any faith that it would work. I'm beyond shocked that this was the thing that turned the tide. We tried so many things (that I didn't include here because, Holy Long Post, Batman!) and none of them were successful. We had no hope that this one would be The Thing that would work.

So here's a big fat *fingers crossed* that this all continues to go so well.

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