Food Glorious Food

I know that I am a feeder – it makes me happy to bake and create food that others enjoy. That is partly why I started the school coffee mornings I think, because I could see that many parents at Joshua’s school, needed to be cheered up with some sweetness in their life and a shoulder to cry on, or at least some willing ears to listen and empathise. I have always used my baking to thank people who are important to me, whether that is family, colleagues, teachers, school nurses , respite or friends. I have made shortbread this week to cheer somebody up who was having a rough time, leaving it as a surprise on her doorstep. I also use it more sneakliy perhaps to make my client or school meetings more memorable and more pleasant. I find baking a  relaxing activity as it is so absorbing that it makes me forget other worries and so it benefits me too, as I rarely eat what I create.

Given that I use homemade food in this way for a variety of purposes, it always makes me sad when Joshua does not want to eat what I have made for him. It has made me very happy over the summer holidays that he has eaten so well, both eating out -when it was invariably scampi and chips! – but also at home. When we have had spells when he will not eat – due to tonsillitis, painful teeth or seizure activity for instance – I become very anxious about him and it makes me sad. I try hard to tempt him with all his favourite treats and somehow, the harder I try at these times, the more reluctant he becomes to even try anything , Joshua is a slim, tall young man so he has not got many reserves to fall back on when he refuses food, and he soon looks skinny and gaunt.

One of the things we tried for seizure control back in 2010 was the ketogenic diet and that was a horrendous 6 months for both Joshua and me : it is like a very extreme form of the Atkins diet , which removes carbohydrate and so his food was very high fat and protein only – we even had to change to a bicarbonate of soda toothpaste as there is sugar in standard mint toothpastes! Everything had to be carefully measured and homemade, with no snacks. Towards the end, Joshua’s face would drop as I produced yet another greasy omelette for his breakfast, so it made us both sad. It might have been worth it if he made ketones which helped with seizure control, but he never got ketotic and so there was no benefit at all. I realised then how important food was to my parenting and after 6 months of torture, I admitted defeat. I would have been willing to continue if it had had the miraculous impact that some children have enjoyed , it has allowed them to come off the anti -epileptic drugs, but sadly it did not help Joshua in this way.

Given that Joshua had been so easy to please with his meals in the holidays – he gobbled everything up – I thought that I would try him back on school dinners rather than a packed lunch. But he refused to entertain the hot meal he was offered on Wednesday, so I gave up and reverted to a pack up yesterday, which he enjoyed. I hated school dinners when I was at school and used to get upset when it was dreaded liver and onions on the menu, so I would never force my son to persist with meals that he did not like or want, even if it is the routine that he is objecting to. We might try again when the weather turns colder but, as a self-confessed feeder , it is most important that his food makes him happy, as it is one of the real pleasures of life.

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The Food Programme

Food plays an important role in Joshua’s life, as when he is in the right mood, food can make him very happy. He can be suspicious of the food that he is offered, always examining it closely before putting anything in his mouth! On the drive across to our Mums on saturday, my husband bought some Galaxy Golden eggs at the motorway services; they were chocolate caramel mini-eggs that were ‘dusted in gold’ for effect. He offered Joshua, one but he rejected it on closer examination; he seemed to be concerned by the coating, thinking that Daddy had forgotten to unwrap the foil off his sweet. He refused to open his mouth and spat two out that his Daddy managed to pop into his mouth!  But by yesterday on the way home, he had come around to the idea and he enjoyed two and held his hand out for more. I have no idea what the difference between the two days was, but it clearly made sense to him.

My mum had made a lasagne for lunch yesterday, usually one of Joshua’s favourite dishes and he had been hovering around the kitchen while she was cooking, looking ravenous. But when we sat down at the table, he would not entertain his lasagne and had just a couple of spoonfuls before leaving the table. He is pretty determined about his eating and having rejected something, he will rarely change his mind. He disappeared off to play the piano in the front room while we finished our lasagne, which was delicious. He snuck back to the table however, once we got onto pudding, which was the remains of the chocolate cake that I had made for the party , the day before. He tucked in and enjoyed  a large slice. Now some people would say that he should not have had any dessert, having not eaten any main course, but as it was his own birthday cake, I was not going to ban it on Mother’s Day.

We drove home last night  and stopped at the services around 7pm, teatime. We bought some fastfood at Burger King. Joshua grinned as he devoured a burger and then his fries, feeding himself as finger food. So maybe he is more like a teenager than we appreciated, enjoying a diet of chocolate and burgers with chips! As I have mentioned before, what Joshua choses to put into his mouth and eat, is one of the few things that he can control in his life and so, within limits, I am happy to allow him to make some of his own food choices. Although he had a bad diet yesterday, I am confident that he also gets enough fruit and vegetables ordinarily, that I know he is eating well enough. All of the diet advice tells us that nothing should be banned but that a healthy diet involves everything in moderation and so with this in mind, occasional fast food and chocolate is allowed.