Contrary to popular belief, I am not perfect. My flaws (albeit few) do exist. I occasionally misplace my keys, pour formula in my coffee, shred birth certificates, and make parental mistakes.
Currently, Simon’s in recovery from his eating disorder. Perpetual Anxiety Inducing Nausea Intelligentia Nervosa Macrobiotic Yearly Aristocratic Symptomatic Syndrome (P.A.I.N. I.N. M.Y. A.S.S.). He’s making great strides even without a twelve step program. He’s able to sit down and finish a meal that’s not covered in syrup and lick his peas. He even fits in his underwear. Not only does he eat to grow big and strong, he eats so he won’t turn into a skeleton like the one hanging in the living room. This will hang for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Election Day, and 30 days before and after any family member’s birthday.
In June, we were less fortunate. At his yearly checkup, this 4 year old weighed 31 pounds, 1 pound more than last year. The pediatrician confirmed that Brian and I were dealing with this ordeal correctly. Strict meal times and snack times. Everyone was given the same choices: variety, always with something he liked.
We tried acting like we didn’t care if he ate. He didn’t eat.
We made his meals fun.
He didn’t eat.
We knew that showing any emotion about eating would only perpetuate the insanity.
We knew that getting angry would show him he’s winning, provide negative reinforcement.
If he was given peanut butter and jelly two days in a row, he would only down a few bites.
I had told him, “No more PB & Js! You will NEVER eat another peanut butter and jelly sandwich again!”
This same went for Aunt Jemima. “No more syrup! You will NEVER have syrup again.”
I threw away the jelly and syrup.
Brian wasn’t happy with me about that.
Simon would eat, then go days without food. He would sit on the couch holding his stomach in pain and look into our eyes with a face that said, “If you would feed me a tootsie roll sandwich, this fasting would end.”
A few nights I snuck in to check his breathing.
Brian and I discussed feeding tubes.
Then, we discussed feeding tubes with him.
It was that bad.
There are only so many days you can witness your child starve themselves without turning into Michael Douglas in Falling Down.
I arrived home late from work that day to see my son at the table with a plate of untouched food. This plate had mixed vegetables, rice, and a the vegetarian equivalent of a turkey patty.
I ate slowly. He sat smugly.
After thirty minutes, I asked him, “Are you going to touch your food?” He said no. That’s when I informed him that if he wasn’t finished when I got home from picking Mali up from swim team, I was taking him to the hospital to get a feeding tube.
Brian opened my eyes. “You do realize you have to follow through with this.”
After returning home with my daughter, I told my little red head, “Get your shoes on.”
Mali wanted to know, “What’s going on?”
Simon smiled and filled her in. “I’m going to the hospital.”
My daughter was alarmed. “Should I go too. Is everything okay?”
I had the little boy tell her why. “I’m going to the hospital to get a feeding tube because I won’t eat.”
I put his untouched non-meat patty into a baggie and left hoping to have him eat it before we got home.
In the car, I attempted to make this false reality REAL, by LYING. I said:
You know that they won’t let you out until you’ve gained 10 pounds and you’ll miss Carter’s party.
You won’t be able to see Mommy and Daddy.
They don’t have television.
You’ll have to sleep in the dark.
He remained completely unaffected.
I drove around forever, took the long way, and got gas in silence. While stalling, I came up with the only plan I could. My last hope.
I parked in the parking lot as far away from the hospital as possible. I got him out of his carseat, stood with him outside of the car, and looked into his baby blue eyes. I opened my wallet, handed him my library card, and told him, “You’ll need this. This is your insurance card. It has your name on it. You have to walk in, tell them your name, and that you’re there to get a feeding tube because you won’t eat. They’ll call us when you’re ready to come out.”
All he said was, “Okay.”
I had him take the card, recite his name, why he was there then pointed him towards the big, bad scary building. And he started to walk towards it when I stopped him and repeated the process. This time I added, “What’s your phone number?” He stared. “You don’t know your phone number? I guess they’ll just have to look it up” and he walked…
He made it through two whole rows of cars without even glancing back before I broke down, scooped him up, and drove him home.