DC’s reactions are not always immediate. Due to these delayed reactions, it is not always easy for me to figure out just what is going on or what the problem might be.
When he was 4 or 5 he stopped eating – completely…. for close to a month. He would not swallow solid food. With a lot of coaxing he would put it in his mouth, but that was as far as it went before he would spit it out. After a few visits to the doctor to be sure this was not a medical issue, I, with the help of his teacher and IA, started looking for ideas to get him to eat again. I bought all of his favorite foods. They worked with him in the classroom. I even resorted to candy. Nothing!
One day, I was making him a steak, one of his favorites at the time. It was right then and there I realized what was going on. He actually looked frightened of the steak. This wasn’t a sensory thing, it was fear. After seeing the look of utter terror on his face I remembered a choking incident with a bagel one morning about a month before. The thing about it was that he didn’t react right away – otherwise I would have figured this out much sooner. He was fine afterwards and even finished the bagel he was eating.
I couldn’t pin-point exactly when or why the delayed reaction kicked in but it did and he was afraid to eat. Once I figured out the reason, I was able to help him get back to eating solid food again. We started with pudding and yogurt and just dipped the tip of the spoon in, just so there was a taste on the spoon. I continued this way, increasing the taste on the spoon until he was taking a regular spoonful. I added other foods like applesauce to the menu. When that part was behind us, I started breaking up bread, into almost crumbs, until he realized it was safe for him to eat again.
DC used to ride horses. He rode once a week for a good 5 years, if not longer. One day his teacher had him riding in the outdoor rink (I’m sure there is a proper name for that, but I am calling it a rink) – he didn’t ride in the outdoor rink very often. Most of his lessons were inside. When he did ride outdoors, it was usually down the driveway, across the street and up the dead-end road and back. On this particular day in the outdoor rink (seriously, Kathleen is not going to be happy that I don’t know the proper name), his horse spooked, reared up went galloping wildly. It scared him, it scared me, but he stayed on and continued his lesson with no problem.
His indoor lesson the following week went well. His ride outside on the driveway route was fine too. It had to be a few months later when they tried to take him out to the outdoor rink that the fear kicked in. He wasn’t having any of it. He acted like he was never on a horse before. After thinking about it for a minute, I remembered and explained his reaction to the assistant. He was a little better once they went back inside but not at the level he was at the beginning of the lesson. The outdoor rink brought out his fear and that fear carried over to the indoor rink. It took a while for him to feel comfortable again.
About a year later his horse spooked during his inside lesson. Again, he seemed fine – Me? – Not so much. I was close to heart failure, but I didn’t let him see that – and rode the full hour as if nothing had happened. But… the following week he was terrified. He continued to be terrified until we finally just gave it up altogether. even though I was relieved to let it go, it was a shame because at one time he really liked it. Horses were one of the few animals he was not afraid of. He was actually pretty good at it.
So… over our Christmas vacation, DC got sick. Other than his bouts with his allergies, he rarely gets sick, but when he does, he really goes big! For a good few days afterward, he really didn’t want to eat at all. He seemed fine otherwise so I wasn’t really sure if he was still not feeling well or if he was just afraid to eat. I believe and still do, that he was #1 – exhausted from being sick and #2 – he was afraid and relating his illness to food. As we were on vacation and eating in restaurants daily, this was probably at least partially the case. He was eating lots of things that he doesn’t normally eat, at least not on a daily basis.
When he did finally feel like eating at little bit, there were certain foods I wanted him to stay away from so as not to upset his stomach all over again. He continued to be a little bit leery about eating for a good week after we were home. Last week, after going to see the Buddy Holly Story with his friend, BB, we all went out to dinner. DC ordered a cheeseburger with bacon. When it arrived, he removed the bacon and left it on the plate. I asked why, but I couldn’t get an answer. Now, I am almost positive he had bacon at least once since we’d come home from vacation, so I didn’t really think all that much about it.
DC discovered bacon a few years ago on a cruise ship and like his garlic bread, takes every opportunity to order it. I used to buy it for him, but decided that he really did not need to eat that much bacon, so I let it become one of his “restaurant only” foods, like cheeseburger and fries.
This week, at the hotel where we were ‘Snow-cationing’, bacon was available on the breakfast buffet. I didn’t really notice it until morning #3, but there was no way that DC had not seen it on the previous two mornings. I asked him if he wanted bacon. He started signing “all done”, a sign that he still uses when he REALLY does not want something. I asked him if he was sure. “No, Bacon!” – while signing more adamantly. “I don’t want to get sick! I don’t want to get sick!”.
Bacon had been one of the things I did not let him have after he got sick on vacation. Now, in his mind it was the reason he had gotten sick. There were a couple of other people in the breakfast room and I didn’t want him to continue yelling about “getting sick”, so I explained quickly that he did not have to have the bacon, but bacon was not the reason he became ill on vacation. He was getting more and more anxious about it, so I just let it go.
I know that some may disagree, but bacon is not really a necessity in anybody’s life, so I am not going to push it.
Now if I could somehow get him off the cheeseburgers and fries…….. hmmmmm.
Isn’t it fascinating? It must be a processing thing, that lag between event and reaction. Jim did the same thing with bike-riding. And now I’m wondering if former favorite foods on the ‘Do Not Eat’ list are victims of this, too. I’m with you–life without bacon is a real possibility…
It really is fascinating… and while I was writing about steak being one of his favorites back then – I realized that he hasn’t eaten that in years either, probably due to that same incident. Yes, I do believe that life without bacon is certainly a possibility 🙂
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I think that the way anxiety affects our kids cannot be over-stated. It really is like being a detective to figure out the source of the behavior and tracking back to the anxiety that caused it.
Life without bacon – hmmmm. Before I would take that drastic measure, I might try bacon bits, just to see how that might go over… 😉
Yes, and we have to learn to think in an entirely different way in order to get to the cause of the anxiety.
Bacon bits might just be an option…. 🙂
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Yeah…it tastes great, but it’s ultimately a pretty even mix of fat and protein…good for calories in an underweight kid (like my Lily) but not particularly “healthy”.
The delayed reaction thing is, I’m sure, something you forget about at times and then it strikes you out of the clear blue. I find stuff like that. Like I’ll forget to give Lily a timer to transition and then wonder why she transitions poorly. Then I’ll have one of those headslap moments and think…TIMER…always better with a timer!
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Yes, I have no problem at all with him not wanting bacon (unfortunately he’s at it again but not to the extent as before) – and yes, those delayed reactions do slip my mind at times and it takes a little while to figure out what is going on.