Monday, August 12, 2013

Battle Choices

Totino's pizzas.

You know, the kind we bought in college because they were less than a buck? Pepperoni only. Not the circle kind, the little cubes. 

Burgers. Not homemade. With cheese and catsup ONLY. 

Macaroni and cheese. Kraft. Squiggly kind is most likely to be consumed. 

Cheesy chippies and ranch. Basically nachos. Just cheddar cheese grated and melted on top of chips. 

What do these have in common? 

Yes, they're all not vegetables. They're also the only things Ryan will eat for dinner. 

One thing I could add is grilled cheese. Kid loves the stuff, calls it " Hungry hungry grilled cheese" as of this summer. That's been lunch just about every day.   Lately, I've been able to get him to eat a banana after his main course and just before he starts asking for "black cookies and milk".  

This is the same child I fed homemade baby food that I threw through the blender and froze in ice trays in perfect little proportions.

This is the same baby for whom I quit caffeine, fake sugar, tried to quit as much processed food as possible, and tried hard to eat healthy for the first time in my life.

I worried about, measured, read, and fretted.  I did things as close to by-the-book as I could, even attempting to follow the "only so much formula in a day" rule.

SO many of these worries have been filtered through autism, and just didn't make it.

There is so much that we don't even realize we do for him.  In trying to cram it all together recently, I realized again that it's next to impossible to stick one's life into a fifteen minute chunk of chatter.  No matter how bad I want to, no matter how much time I have to cook it down or how hard I work to do so, I can't really do it.  Of course, neither can anyone else.

Eight years later, the same mama who by-the-book'ed it as much as possible, poring over every developmental milestone email is praying he won't scream at me when I hand him something from the Ryan menu other than pizza.

Yes, screaming.  Hitting his head, the table, his legs, pounding his fist on his hand laid flat on the table. Yelling "NO cheesychippiesandranch!" as loud as he can.  Or macaroni and cheese.  Or whatever.

I'll let you in on a little secret.

This is just not something we can handle.

If I give the kid something that is not on that list of a few things, it gets ugly fast.  Not just tantrum ugly.    Genuinely upset, confused, why is my world upside down ugly.

We have attempted to address it, through lots of hard work and a wonderful ABA therapist.  Things got a little better for a while, after a lot of being as positive as we can about Ryan stimming on the way to therapy saying, "No gagging.  You will not gag" and "No feel sick" over and over.  Randomly, he'll ask for something he hasn't had before, or that he hasn't had in a long time.

We do worry about his eating habits, but on the whole, there are so many other things to be concerned with that food aversion takes a back burner.

Maybe someday when I can ask him to wash his hands just because they look icky without having a fifteen minute screaming, hitting fest we'll address eating broccoli.

Maybe someday when we don't worry so much about him hurting himself we'll start pushing him to eat tacos instead of chips.

Maybe someday when he's learned not to yell out random things like "STOP! cried Thomas!" as loud as he possibly can in perfect quiet, I'll have the nerves left to insist that he eat some grilled chicken... or chicken in any form.

I know it's not best.  I do worry about his nutrition, and I worry about his eating habits for other reasons, too.  His brother and sister are stuck at the table with their new dishes while Ryan's having his comfort zone foods.  He eats a few other breakfast foods, but lunch is a bit of a challenge.  Especially school lunch.  What do you send?  He used to eat peanut butter and jelly, then that dwindled to peanut butter and bread.  Then to peanut butter crackers.

At some point, we all have to draw a line.  We know what we can handle.  In deciding what to push and what to relax, we have to reach for a balance between helping him grow and making sure that he is having a good life.  After all, how would you feel if someone lined your home with giant versions of things of which you're terrified, arranging for them to pop up and scare the bejeebers out of you at random intervals?  Now imagine that you have two friends who are truly concerned with your welfare.

He has to be able to trust us.  He has to be able, within reason, to be himself.   But there's where the problem is.  Everyone has an opinion, if given a chance, of what is within reason.  We have been told by a few people that we spoil him.  I used to give that weight in my heart, which in turn started a flurry of panicky change in the house.  You can imagine how that goes with a child who thrives on routine.

These days I'm more comfortable with who and where we are and what we do and why.  Slowly I'm learning that not only is it impossible to prove to everyone that we're doing the best we can, it's not necessary or required.

It is hard enough to find our "within reason" while dealing in the raising of three kids, one of whom has special needs, every day.  But to add the pressure of the opinion of everyone who has felt the need to comment to our... and his... frustration?

There is no reason to do such a thing.

We choose our battles as intelligently as we can.  And the things we mess up?  We thank God for his grace and mercy.  We love Ryan, Richie, and Maelynn with all our hearts, just the way they are.  In all their hot-tempered moments as well as their sweetest, as they do us.  We choose our battles.  We try not to let the successes fade in the wake of the worry of the things that aren't improving.

And, of course, we have to forgive and extend mercy to ourselves and each other for the battles we just can't fight.

Thanks be to God for the reminder that while the array of choices and sometimes the battles themselves are bigger than we are, he is sovereign and his providence is sure.

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