Tuesday, June 22, 2010

dinner in a special needs household

Some people comment on how little Acorn eats - or, more accurately, they comment on things like him crushing up tortilla chips instead of eating them, on him putting things in his mouth and pulling them back out a half dozen times before he swallows, and so on.

For all that there are some issues there, we're working on them, and for a kid who we were told might not eat anything solid until after his trach is out, we're thinking he does pretty good most days, though of course, more would be better.

The thing is....this is not the special needs household I'm thinking about tonight.

Tonight we're having a dish that we've named "Stuff in a Pot" - a large stock pot full of veggies (and sometimes fruit, like apples), and sausage (kielbasa, or chorizo, or something else spicy and tasty), cooked for an hour or so, with salt, pepper, and lots of garlic. This is usually a "cleaning out the fridge before things go bad" sort of meal for us - and it makes tasty left overs, and freezes well.

In the house I grew up in, this meal could not have been served. It's not  on the list of 10 or so things my father eats, and it includes veggies he would never allow in the house (leeks, chard, bell peppers, and raw garlic, for starters).

It's clear to most of us that my dad has Asperger's Syndrome - his need for strict schedules, his limited food and clothing choices, his difficulties with making and keeping friends, and his obsessions with certain topics are all classic hallmarks of the diagnosis that probably would never have been made in his childhood, and isn't terribly useful now, other than as a way of framing past experiences

By the time I was 12, it was my job to cook dinner every night. Now that I'm a parent, and a full-time-working-out-of-the-house one at that, I have a better understanding for his desire to come home to dinner waiting.

Then again, now that I'm that same parent, I find his methods for enforcing that desire to be even more unconscionable than they seemed at the time.

I was accused of being a picky eater - and I'll grant that I am, sort of. I don't like pancakes. I don't like peas, mushrooms, sushi, broccoli, or beans. I can't stand canned carrots or frozen spinach, but eat them raw. I don't care for raw apples, but love apple pie and apple sauce. The fact that my father harped on these things (because he loves pancakes and apples) is a joke in our family, but was never a laughing matter for me. It colors my relationship with food to this day

So...my experience as a child informs my treatment of my own child's eating challenges. We give him small portions of just about everything we eat. He rarely hears "I won't eat that" come out of my mouth. He rarely hears comments on him not eating something, other than from other people when we're out at restaurants.

We cook...which I did growing up too, but now we cook with mostly fresh fruits, veggies, and meats; we use spices in this house. We enjoy the cooking process, rather than rushing through it as a means to an end.

And in the end, we sit down together with our dinner, and eat together as a family, without any judgements about who eats what or how much.

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