On Saturday before Braziilian Jiu-Jitsu Class, we stopped for Chick-Fil-A( a huge treat, right?). My older son took one bite and said “I don’t like it”. Will you please make me burgerS with avocado and tomato when we get home from class? And this is how it goes. I always offer my sons foods they like, maybe not their favorites or the thing they are currently in the mood for, but never “offer” the two choices of: NO food OR whatever I provide you, regardless of what feels palatable (and with a
generous serving of shame and guilt for what a pain in the ass you are)…no matter the inconvenience. Sustained hunger, for us, creates difficult energy and unnecessary stress. The boys had a playdate scheduled straight from BJJ. S2 was ready because he ate his Chick-fil-A. S1 returned home with me for burgers with avocados and tomatoes. (Note: I totally get that what tastes delicious on one day may turn my
stomach on a different day, makes no sense, and yet—it is true.) Totally unreasonable things are often true!!! Have I mentioned my sister and my ex? Ach! Anyhoo,There is ALWAYS a third, often less convenient and totally doable way. Anything for my boys, within reason. Letting anyone of us become too hungry is guaranteed discord. Who needs or wants that? We can fight about so many other things, but not this. I choose the relationship over being food boss.
Each time I feed them I say to them…”do you know how fortunate you are? Do you?” And I remind them, with stories of my experience with food in my childhood and still present day with my FOO. The following facts are of utmost relevance:
- I have severe sensory issues– so certain consitensices and smells are unthinkable-intolerable-impossible to consider.
- The sight of something gooey, a smell, or even a sound that has zero effect on most, will make me gag or vomit. I like to avoid that.
- I am an empath and the idea of eating animals has always tormented me.
- I have the metabolism of a hummingbird and low blood sugar issues that left me hospitalized and in a coma as a 4 year old and continue to this day.
- All to say; I am almost always hungry and eat inconceivable amounts, people, including myself, marvel that I am neither immense nor obese. My boys have the same metabolism, eating meal size portions 4-5 times a day, large meals.
I recall as a nursing mother, both my ex and my mother made the exasperated comment, “You just fed him!” And I was like ok…well he is hungry, so…. Imma feed him again. Kaaaaay? People judged my need to stuff a back pack with food for even the smallest trips, to the store, to the park, wherever, even to dinner with friends, and especially with family. I do not expect anyone to consider and to accommodate them and am prepared for when the offerings are not suitable for them. I cannot bear the idea of them hosting that feeling of deep deep hunger that grows into something so much bigger than the need for comforting if not adequate nourishment and nutrition. That great big hole inside that tells you: you are not enough, but maybe, just maybe you can numb that feeling in one of so many unhealthy ways. Fuck that. I will feed you, all the parts of you, all of the days–the best that I can. I am your mother.
For me food always served as a source of intense anxiety: If I said I was hungry and had recently eaten, I was told why I couldn’t or shouldn’t be hungry. OR I was scornfully offered something I COULD NOT EAT because of how it affected me at a sensory level.
I am naturally high strung which may or may not be related to the above conditions. When it came to food, eating and being comfortable at the most basic level, I was in a state of constant panic over my inability to just relax and eat shit I hate. Fear of saying I was hungry. Fear of being offered something I could not eat and the fallout for being ungrateful and impossible. Fear of staying hungry because, to this day, I lose my shit when my blood sugar drops too low. Trying to survive constant hunger, I failed to be one who slept and woke well, have adequate energy for exercise and attention to studies– My ability to thrive was diminished– and judged, harshly. I just wanted some chicken, boneless, skinless chicken with a cucumber and some noodles. Ok, a lot of (non-animaly) chicken and cucumbers and noodles. Was that too much to want? Apparently so!
As soon as I was away from my family or in the presence of non-upsetting food I could eat, can you guess how I handled myself? I bet you can. Binge and gorge, stopping only once in pain or food supply diminished. I learned to drink, eat, shop, and have sex this way. And then I found recovery and learned about healthy self care and boundaries, which I can now model for my children. I will not hand this down to them.
I will mess my boys up 1000 ways but not for lack of being fed, acknowledged and nourished. I will require a sustained state of hunger for them, nor demand they eat things which I know they dislike. Being NOT hungry and NOT overly tired, and NOT fearful of openly expressing basic needs are values of ours. Being in close proximity to anyone requiring or allowing it and then judging the results— is not for US.
Being hungry or “picky” as the shamers like to call it–are not character defects.
Reminder: I make no claims to parenting expertise or gifts of writing, just a sharer of my experience- choosing authenticity over adaptation as a way of living and parenting.
I am CERTAIN that denying/debating/punishing basic needs will fuck your people and relationships up at many levels, teaching distrust of self and others. Requiring betrayal of self will guide children directly into unhealthy coping. Drugs, Isolation, Bullying, Gangs, Cutting, Sex, Shopping, Perfectionism, Food.
I prioritize honoring my children’s needs, though often it feels terribly inconvenient and as if I am being taken advantage of. I create opportunities for rest when needed, palatable(for them)food when hungry, space or closeness as indicated by them.
My children’s calm and faithful acceptance, in this time of transaction is proof to me that I have earned and sustain their trust. I cannot help but marvel. As we plan to relocate, leaving a home and school friends we adore, they look forward expressing only hope and excitement, just as they did when we moved cross country two years ago. Because I accept and honor their needs, they are growing into self assured young men who know and trust themselves and know how to trust and when to trust others. I believe that DNA(nature) loads the gun and that nurture pulls the trigger. While I have not control of the DNA, I damn sure have control of what I teach them about self care and self awareness. Because when you lack those, it s impossible to have genuine awareness and concern for others.
Until you know what wholesome love is, you do not know what it is not. They know the difference. My sons are wholesome badass little dudes, not starving or desperate– in a state of needing deeply something they cannot have.
Nourishing and abundant compassion and love are wholesome and for badasses, but too much for others, for whom judgment and withholding come naturally.
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