On being a bad mother, or a good one. And food. Let’s talk about food.

by Veronica on November 14, 2011

in Autism, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Food-Issues, Headfuck, Isaac

A month ago, I was talking to my therapist. Oh yes, I’m in therapy now, to learn how to manage anxiety attacks and get some support in the middle of this chaos that I call my life. Anyway, I was talking to her and I said:

“I have to learn to let it go. My children’s behaviour is not my behaviour and I cannot control it. I can’t fix their meltdowns, even though I can do damage control and try to prevent them in the first place. I am their mother – it is my job to support and guide them and show them what acceptable behaviour is. I cannot force them to act in a particular way.”

It was an epiphany for me, because until I articulated it, I didn’t realise how much guilt I was dragging around. Guilt that my children are louder in public places, that Isaac will scream and thrash, that Amy will lose her temper and shout at me and that they both have a particular set of wants and needs that are not always the socially acceptable thing.

It’s ridiculous really, to be feeling guilty because when my son melts down, I can’t make him silent and approriate.  Because I can’t change his behaviour to suit my wants – all I can do is sit next to him and wait for it to pass. And the looks I have gotten, when I’ve done this.

Contrary to popular belief, I am not a bad mother when I let my son scream in public. I am not a bad mother when my daughter shouts at me and I am not failing to provide discipline when there is yelling and screaming in the supermarket.

It is not bad parenting that my children didn’t sleep through the night. It is no fault of mine that Amy has trouble falling alseep, or that no one will eat greenery.

My children are small humans. They have wants and needs and likes all of their own, that I don’t get to control. Not even as their mother.

I am fed up with society telling me that I am wrong. That I am failing in some way, because my children are not round pegs. And I am also sick of parents with entirely neurotypical children, assuming that they have the “right” way of parenting, because they don’t have the struggles that we do.

I am HAPPY that your child loves kale. I truly am. And I LOVE that your kid prefers corn on the cob to sweets and anchovies. But don’t delude yourself into thinking that it’s something you’ve managed as a mother. It’s LUCK. You are LUCKY. And that is AWESOME, but you are no better than the rest of us.

I had to reassess my thinking tonight and instead of thinking about age-appropriate food, I had to think seriously about what my son would eat. And then I made the decision to trial baby food again, because we have feeding issues. We have SERIOUS feeding issues and I am sick of feeling like a bad mother because my kid won’t – CAN’T – eat anything that I want him to.

We saw a speech pathologist last week, who confirmed our suspicions. On top of Isaac’s textural anxiety regarding food, he has swallowing issues.

Is this the autism? Or is this the Ehlers Danlos? We don’t know. What we are pretty sure is happening, is that he is having trouble firstly chewing food and secondly, moving it to the back of his mouth to be swallowed.

His eating difficulties are not my fault. They aren’t something that I can force to disappear, even though we will be doing serious therapy for it, along with some medical tests to make sure that there are no physical reasons for the swallowing issues. But I can’t fix them. I can put the tools in place for Isaac to learn to fix them himself, but I cannot swallow for him. His entire digestive system is affected, to varying levels. I can’t change this and I can’t magic it away. It is something that exists and it is no fault of anyones.

I am sick of feeling judged when I say that my son has feeding issues. When meals are a daily struggle because I don’t care WHAT he eats, I just need him to swallow something (anything, for the love of fucking god). Like his feeding issues are something I can control.

It’s not that easy, but I wish it were.

I will continue to cheer every single time my son swallows something that isn’t liquid. I will count dinner tonight a success because egg noodles dissolve well enough with minimal chewing to slide down his throat easily.

And if this means that he lives for another year on apple and pear puree, then THAT is what I will do, and fuck everyone who says that I’m “ruining” him.

Because at this stage, I don’t care about ruining his long term palate.

I just want my kid to learn to swallow.

Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo November 14, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Babe, Boo has only just learnt how to use a knife and fork in the last year.

And sometimes he still stabs the food, brings it to his mouth and then takes it off and eats it.

Pick your battles. Fuck everyone else.


Tassiegal November 14, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Honey – take yourself over to http://khebert.blogspot.com/ and read. While not in your league – her youngest has a feeding tube due to textural feeding problems. Some of what you are articulating here, she has also done. I think you are brillant, and even though life has been a bit of a bitch you have thumbed your nose at her and said “NAH, MY TERMS and BRING IT”. Which I couldnt have done. (or you can tell me to piss off and stop trying to make you feel better…)

Kathy November 14, 2011 at 6:58 pm

An epiphany indeed V & you speak absolute truth. We are none of us in full control of how our children behave or what they will & won’t (or can’t) eat. All we can do is try to understand them, help them, advocate for them, and give them every chance to learn ways to sekf-regulate in ways that are appropriate to the people *they* are.

Re the swallowing and food, ugh, and also argggh. As I think I mentioned to you on Twitter, my brother had similar restrictions as a toddler and he slowly pulled out of it but it was incredibly stressful for my mum. I feel for you so much.

About a Bugg November 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Our daughter still doesn’t use a knife and fork – much preferring her fingers (she is almost 7)… that’s when we can even get her to eat. She will spend an hour eating a piece of toast, such is her ability to concentrate on the task at hand… not too mention the sensory issues…

Anyway – you are doing an AWESOME job. It’s tough… it’s shit… and it’s no-one else’s business what you need to keep your kids happy, fed and educated. The judgemental stares and ‘tut tuts’ are not needed – spend a week in your life and then judge.

Toni November 14, 2011 at 7:03 pm

What Kelley said — pick your battles. My son (who is now 18) had all kinds of food issues, would throw up when given veggies and to my knowledge has NEVER eaten a piece of fruit. He won’t eat butter or cream or jam or fat from a lambchop or many many other things that most people regard as normal.
And I had judgers on my case ALL THE DAMN TIME.
I wanted to stab those judgers in the eye with a fork — HOW do you make a child eat when he won;t swallow or throws up? this is NOT a fight you can win.
For the record, as he got older he began to choose to eat certain things, and meantime I gave him a vitamin supplement and he’s now well over 6 feet tall and healthy as a horse. A good horse, that is.
So ignore the smug people, they’re everywhere. Take your victories where you can get them, and fuck everybody, V. Keep your sanity.

Rusty Hoe November 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Babe you’re not a good mum, or a bad mum, you’re a mum. (I hate those fricken judgmental words by the way). You’re a mum who is doing the best she can, for children she obviously dearly loves. Forget other people’s judgements. Some people spend all their time judging everyone else so they don’t have to look at their own lives. Do what is right for you and your kids and, as the wonderfully wise Kelley says, “fuck everyone else”.

Natasha November 14, 2011 at 7:14 pm

My 3 and a half year old nephew is autistic…he eats soup…the other day he ate a cashew nut, it was cause for celebration :)

My completely ‘normal’ 2 and a half year old eats no vegetables and pretty much no fruit I can’t imagine how little she would eat if she were sick like your son.

No way in the world you are a bad mum!!!

Trish November 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Yes what Kelley said , I have people ( family) roll their eyes at me over my boy with food sensory issues and the fact I give in to him. I don’t worry too much anymore what he eats and I won’t battle on most things , life is easier once you let go of the guilt.

Kylie @kykaree November 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

It doesn’t matter what other people think, you have to rise above it and ignore them. They haven’t walked your path they have no idea.

Jayne November 14, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Screw ’em, only the truly brain-dead, pig-ignorant twats claim kids are spoiled when something doesn’t suit their ideals *rolls eyes*.
You’re a normal mum, you’re not a sheep to follow the mob to make Isaac fit that round hole .
And just remember – those who brag about their kids’ eating are compensating for feeling guilty in some area of parenting

drhoctor2 November 14, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Oh, Honey..you know..I just feel for you. You get to parent the kid you get. One of the reasons I never got all “CLEAN your plate !!” with my kids is that I clearly remembered an aunt forcing me to sit at a table and choke down dry pancakes.for hours….I could’nt have been much more than 5 but I remember just wishing I could get it over and done with and yet not being able to choke the garbage down. Certainly wasn’t defiant behavior, it was truly disgusting to me. As it would be to an adult being screeched and forced to eat. Add on the anxiety of dinner time and swallowing/texture sensitivities and your kids’ extra medical issues and it seems reasonable that it would be extra tough on your children. The very best thing you can do is try to meet their needs as quickly and pleasantly as you can. The rest will fall into place, really. Feed them what they will tolerate and use vitamins or supplemental drinks for the calorie count. I hope all the struggling with food issues eases up as you all find out what works for your family. And you know, ignore everyone else, I know it’s hard but you wouldn’t judge their kids so don’t worry about them judging yours. Your doing such a good job with so many difficulties. I think you should give yourself a bit of a pat on the back. As I said, We’ve got to parent the kids we get. Sometimes that takes some unique methods. Everything will be ok. Promise..

Super Sarah November 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm

I think this is just the kind of breakthrough that many of us parents should have! You are SO right, these are not YOUR issues, they are your children’s issues and you are doing your very best to guide them, support them, nurture them and keep sane yourself. I think you are wise beyond your years on SO many levels! xx

FMIDK November 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Awesome epiphany. I’ve know people to have a business card so that when people start in on them they are gently stopped and given the business sized with information about what’s going on. Saves on angst and informs. Or you could go with a simple fuck off :-)

Laura November 14, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Yes yes and yes – my oldest is 9 and I still battle with similar feelings of guilt.

Like somehow because I allowed my child to crawl at 6 months it is now my fault she is in OT or the fact she wolfs down brocolli but wont touch fish was because I never exposed her to it (but my son loves sushi and tuna??)

I actually just love this post – LOVE IT!

Sarah November 14, 2011 at 9:37 pm

a – what.a.CHALLANGE.

Way to go for sticking to your guns (in a nice way – I dont like guns per say!)

I know what you mean about society expectations etc and so forth. I often find it is expectations that I have put on myself because I believe that is what society thinks!!! I, like you have had to learn to let go of them so I can function and enjoy and trust in myself to do the best I can with what I have and know.

Stick in there – you are doing GREAT!

Fiona November 14, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Love, love, love this post. I think in the end you have to compartmentalize people for all your own protection sometimes: put boundaries around the ones who just don’t get it or are too small-minded or ignorant in themselves, keep them at arm’s length. The insensitive ones who can’t resist the boast about their own kids…all at arm’s length. And bring into the fold the ones who really get it and have your back. Keep doing what you do, make the decisions you believe in, you are doing an amazing job.

Alicia Webster November 14, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Thank you for this post. It made me feel less alone and less “abnormal”. I have three kids who behave 90% of the time. Unfortunately for me, the remaining 10% of the time that they throw tantrums, scream, yell, and stomp their feet ALWAYS takes place in public. I am humiliated several times every week, and I feel that people are looking at me and thinking, “Wow, what an awful mother she is”. I do say “no”, lay down the law, and punish by withdrawing privileges and treats, and to no avail. Nothing works. So I wait it out, and turn three shades of red, and sweat profusely, and hope that this tantrum is shorter than the last one. Sigh….

Marylin November 14, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Oh sweety, you know these people who look down at us for letting our children ride out their meltdowns (I had to sit down on the pavement, with Max sitting on my knees, screaming for about 10 minutes last week), they are in blissful ignorance, and they will stay that way, as they are lucky enough to have had neurotypical children.
You do what’s best for your kids.
Anyone who knows you, who reads the posts like this that you write, they know this.
I never knew my skin could get so thick… but it seems to have happened without me even realising it. Getting rid of the guilt definitely helped.
*hugs* and lots of love xxxxx

Liz (@KallieT) November 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Stick to your guns :) My Miss13 is a fabulous eater, well-behaved etc. Mr7 is the total opposite. They are who they are & as you say, that’s not me… Even their father gets on my case about not parenting Mr7 well, he forgets Mr7 is an individual with issues that Miss13 never had… *sigh* oh well, I’ll get through them & continue to ignore MrRantyPants ex husband :)

sophia grace November 15, 2011 at 2:15 am

I’m glad you wrote this.

I think sometimes we all need a reminder to not be so quick to judge.

Also, sometimes it’s good to hiss back at the stares from people in public. It’s good for the mind!


pixie November 15, 2011 at 9:47 am

I hear you on the food issues.Katie got sick when she was about 3 and didnt eat for a few days.After that food become a huge issue……..she just about faded away…….people tell you toddlers will never starve themselves………………..well mine did.The only saving grace was hospital strength sustagen.So I hear you hon…..I really do.

Lisa November 15, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Excellent, intelligent post!! Kids are little humans … in fact.. I’m wrong. They are like cats. Did you ever try to make a cat eat something it doesn’t want to??
Or like chicks.. did you ever try to make a chick not chirp? It takes 18 years to make an adult, with adult manners, sleep patterns, understanding and social skills. Why do we expect a 3 yr old to have mastered them. People are stupid.
Your a great mum. Fuck ’em!

Mary @ Parenthood November 15, 2011 at 12:39 pm

I gotta say, before having a picky eater myself I secretly was sure that picky eaters are created by (bad) parents.

I remember a friend when I was really little who wouldn’t eat anything except rice krispies. (Literally) I was super sure that this kid’s “issues” were caused by overly permissive parenting and clearly I wasn’t going to make mistakes like that.

It was a real shock when our daughter didn’t like solids. At all. Wouldn’t take liquids out of bottle or cup (nearly three, she STILL doesn’t drink more than a couple of sips at a time. Except for hot chocolate which she’ll drink a whole half cup!) She started out “growth restricted” and then has been on a 3rd percentile weight curve since, so breastfeeding was clearly critical, but so many judgy people telling me that extended bfing the cause of her not eating. “If she’s hungry, she’ll eat”. Yeah, so I believed that with all my heart and soul and it just didn’t work. She finally started eating a bit more at 14 months when she discovered chocolate at Easter. She’d even eat other things to get more chocolate. We swore we’d never use dessert as a lever to try food, but until we tried it she ate three things and wouldn’t even taste anything else (so sure she would hate it I guess?)Wouldn’t eat any meat or fish (aside from bacon) until the day we prepared whole fish with head and made it talk to her. Now she really likes meat, as long as she can connect it to the animal (disturbing to her parents, but hey- she eats it!)

What I’m saying is I have had a taste of eating issues and people who think that parents can magically wave their parent wand and “make” a child eat are delusional. I was so humbled by realizing how little we can control eating habits. All we can do is model good choices and provide healthy options that kid will eat along with encouraging more adventurous behaviour.

So hold your head up high!

Maid In Australia November 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Maybe your kids got you as a parent because you are not one of those other judgemental parents. You are patient and you do absolutely everything you can to help your kids. You are doing a fantastic job. I admire you so much! And erm, what Kelly said. Fuck everyone else. Much love.

janet November 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm

My kiddos are big now, but your post brought back memories. Mark at that age couldn’t bear the texture of applesauce. We worked around it at home, but my friend tried to spoon-feed it to encourage him and got doused when he gagged. Now he’s 6’7, newly-married, and eats everything. At family parties I used to let all of them eat whatever thy wanted, so we could all enjoy ourselves and relax, and was often criticized for that. They ate better at home, and one unbalanced day wouldn’t ruin them. My daughter ate peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread every single day before kindergarten. It wasn’t worth the stress of changing her routine. She eats all her vegetables now, and introduces new ones to us! Keep doing what you’re doing. You know your own children best.

Marita November 15, 2011 at 12:54 pm

He is eating – screw how, what, where etc.

He. Is. Eating.

:: celebration ::

Kylie November 15, 2011 at 1:27 pm

A few of my thoughts while reading your post…
1. I use to HATE it when my Mum took my behaviour and choices on as her responsibility. Obviously my awareness of this was when I was older but she did this my whole life and to some extent still does. It is something that I am trying really hard not to do with my own children and I think you have said it in a nutshell. Good on you! It is their bad mood/poor choice/overreaction. You can choose your own response but you don’t own theirs!
2. This one is something I have heard from others often. It bugs me but is true…. you rarely see an adult year old that isn’t night trained/chewing their food/using cutlery……

Leslie November 15, 2011 at 3:05 pm

“I am fed up with society telling me that I am wrong. That I am failing in some way…”

Yes. YES. The weight of that judgement can be crushing. I’ve felt trapped under it lately. I love that you wrote this.

Dina November 16, 2011 at 1:31 pm

I love your rant, and I totally agree with you.

I wish parents of easy children would realize that it’s not all due to their wonderful parenting abilities.

Dina November 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm


I should say “easier” children and not “easy”.

No child is easy.

Parenting always has it’s challenges; but yeah…some people have more challenges.

Bright & Precious November 21, 2011 at 3:52 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more about other people’s kids eating ‘healthy’ food and somehow implying that I’ve failed as a parent because my daughter exists on corn chips and thin air. Love what you have to say!

ChaseNtaylia November 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Soooo TRUE!!! this sounds exactly like my life as a mum! thanks for helping me have a laugh about it x x

Cara December 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm

You’re definitely not alone. I have chewing problems due to EDS and am starting to experience swallowing problems too. My mother has had intermittent swallowing problems for years.

I recommend this mini-documentary regarding dysphagia to remind you that you’re not alone. http://youtu.be/MrbEUDO6S5U

It must still be bloody terrifying and awful, but there are some people who understand.

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