Food Glorious Food - Autism Chapter 10
Food Glorious Food
As a nation food is a huge part of our existence, our way of life, our enjoyment. Whether it’s nipping out for cake, talking about the latest fad diet or planning what we’ll eat for our tea – there are few of us who won’t spend at least some part of our day talking about it.
These days eating with my daughter is a pleasure. She loves to eat new foods and gets excited about trying new cuisines. There is little she won’t eat, and she often comes out of school excited because she’s been praised for eating her vegetables.
Life wasn’t always that way though. Not so long ago she ate fruit, cheese, plain pasta and cheese and tomato pizza and not a lot else. Oh and when I say that, I actually mean one particular brand of grated Mozerella. one brand of bread and closely inspected pizzas that didn’t have a herb in sight. Wet food was out, meat was out; in fact pretty much anything was out. Fruit thank heavens, saved the day more than once.
I remember going on one particular holiday with her aged three, a holiday on which she ate pizza every single night. The waiter I’m sure thought I was a terrible parent, as each night he tried to get me to give her something different. I resouloutly refused, we stuck to our pizza, she are it happily, the meal time was calm.
Was I right? Ultimately I have no idea. As parents we are called on to make decisions all the time. Some of them are right and some undoubtedly will be wrong. All I knew was that right then we were already battling too many battles. Even walking into a busy place was hard for her, she wouldn’t talk to anyone other than the most familiar people to her, and she was physically sick every time I sent her to nursery. We were in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by unfamiliar people, people who were trying to enjoy their well earned holiday. None of us, most especially my daughter, needed the stress of forcing her to eat non-preferred food right then.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t care. It doesn’t mean it was a battle I didn’t want to fight. I just didn’t have the strength to do it right then. As parents we need to prioritise our battles. There is no point fighting battles we cannot win, and we cannot win unless we fight them consistently.
Fast-forward two years and the battle began. And oh boy, what a battle it was. For six months meal times were a battle. We introduced new foods slowly but surely, we bribed, we cajoled and we introduced rules. Each new food must be tried on ten separate occasions, if after ten tries it was still hated we would scrap it. Surprisingly after those ten tries nothing was scrapped. She went from I hate it, to I can force it down, to I can put up with it, to I like it, to I love it all within a matter of months. It changed her life and by default ours. There were lots of tears, both hers and mine, but as time went on food became less and less a source of anxiety and more and more a source of enjoyment.
Sometimes it’s hard to stand by and watch others parent in ways we wouldn’t ourselves, and it’s even harder to stand back and watch ourselves parent in ways we would rather not. But life isn’t simple. We all have different challenges, different paths we must follow, different battles we must fight. If our journey so far has taught me anything, it’s taught me not to judge. Myself or others. We do what we can, we strive to be the best we can, and that is easier if we are kind both to ourselves and those we meet. After all, we never know what someone is thinking or feeling unless we have walked their path.