Sunday, December 28, 2008

Single Mom By Choice

I live the reality of that everyday.  Most days it isn't a bad thing.  It really isn't.  Sometimes I even convince myself that it is better than the alternative.  But then I have nights like tonight.  And I feel so alone.  Alone in parenting challenges.  I think there is a reason that there is usually two people to tackle this journey called parenting.  It is tough.  We all know that.  The toughest thing out there.  And most of the time it is beneficial to have someone going through it with you; someone working toward the same goal.  And when that isn't the case, well some nights it just catches up with you.  That happened to me tonight.

The smaller issue I had was with eating.  The bigger issue is being in this alone.  Let me try and explain.  If you know me in real life, or if you read my blog with any regularity, you most likely know that my son has trouble gaining and sustaining weight.  He is small all over, but our biggest challenge is keeping him from falling into that "failure to thrive" diagnosis based on his weight.  I live with this everyday and most days it is just a part of my parenting.  Some days it gets me down.  And other days it backs me into a corner.  Today was one of those corner days.

You see my son is also almost 3 years old and is therefore in that stage of challenging everything.  I do my best to keep the upper hand and to make sure that he isn't "winning" by giving him boundaries and sticking to them.  But when it comes down to the eating thing, well...that is just tough.  You see, I am not in a "normal" position when it comes to food.  I can't just play the "this is what we eat, when we eat it, and if you don't adhere to that then you can go hungry" thing.  Because the kicker?  He will go hungry.  And he just plain doesn't give a shit.  Whereas most kids will most definitely not suffer any consequences if they skip a meal, or if they go a couple of days without eating, my child will.  He is perfectly content to eat just the bare minimum throughout the day and go to bed.  If he was left to his own devices he would not eat enough food to keep his current weight.  He would lose weight.  And losing weight makes him fall "below the charts" and into that dreaded category of "failure to thrive."  Bad things happen after that.  We start hearing about feeding tubes and long term consequences and well...it just doesn't do a mom good.  So I live my life trying to avoid getting to that place.  Part of that means that I work my ASS off on a daily basis to put as much food into that child as possible.  And I try so hard to walk that fine line of not making it a big deal so that he doesn't end up with food issues, but also making sure that he gets the nutrition that he needs.  And also giving him enough calories but also not developing horrible eating habits for the rest of his life.  It is a tough line to walk and sometimes I fall off the tightrope.  Hence tonight...

I make a point of sitting down to dinner at the table, no TV, just the two of us and a healthy meal every single night of our lives.  It is important to me.  And lately by the end of the meal I am nearly in tears.  You see, The Boy thinks that time is play time.  He really could care less about the whole eating part.  He takes his fork and he makes it into a train.  He drives it around his place mat while making noises.  He talks to the fish in the fish tank behind him.  He sings songs.  He does everything except eat.  He will sit and interact with me, but rarely does he put food in his mouth of his own accord.  So I end up saying things like, "[Boy], do you want me to take your fork away?"  "No!"  "Then take a bite."  "Okay, okay Mommy, I take a bite."  And then ever so slowly he will wedge a tiny little morsel into his mouth and eat it.  Then back to playing.  A few minutes later we repeat the process.  If I don't threaten him with either taking away his fork (aka his play toy), or that he will not get his dessert, then he will literally not put one thing in his mouth.  Needless to say, this does not make for a pleasurable dining experience.  What I wouldn't give to just put food down on the plate in front of him, sit down at the table and have BOTH of us eat our dinner.  I would give anything for that.  It just doesn't happen.  We could have that kind of dinner, but when I was done, his plate would literally be untouched.  And before you say that I should just allow that, pick up his plate and let him go on with his evening, let me tell you this.  He doesn't care.  It isn't like 2 hours later he is going to come to me and ask me for some food.  Nope.  He will just go to bed like nothing happened.  And the next day?  Will he be extra hungry and eat a little more?  Nope.  Sure won't.  In fact if I let him, we could just go on like that for days on end.  Sure, he would eat something.  He won't starve himself to death.  But he would most likely eat a grand total of about one half of a meal of a "normal kid."  All day long.  And guess what happens when that is the case?  Yup, he loses weight very quickly and I start hearing about feeding tubes.

Now I know that a good portion of this is his bratty three year old self knowing that this is the one issue that kills me.  He somehow knows he has the upper hand here.  How he knows it, I will never understand, but he does.  He gets attention during dinner by the fact that I have to literally beg him to eat every bite.  Negative attention is still attention, and I understand this.  But my normal mode of dealing with this doesn't work in this situation.  Because while he can go abnormally long periods of time without nourishment, he is also stubborn as a mule.  I blame his father.  But this is a situation that could be helped by having two brains.  Two brains trying to figure out the best way to handle this.

Normally I can call a friend, or talk to someone in my family.  But this situation is unique because of The Boy's issues with weight.  All the advice I have heard goes along with the technique I would use.  That is teach him that he doesn't have all the power by giving him a few nights where he doesn't eat at all.  He will get hungry enough that he realizes that this isn't working.  Tried it.  He just becomes lethargic due to lack of energy but still doesn't regain the hunger.  And he's still doing the same things.  And after trying to explain to all the people who are trying to help that my kid is different, and that I can't just sit back and hope he will get it, I just get tired of asking.  What I want is someone going through this exact thing with me.  Someone else who sits at the same table for dinner every night, and who goes to those doctors appointments, and who knows that this really is more serious than I usually let on, and who just understands my child the same way that I do.  And I don't have that.  The Ex is his other parent.  But while she is a wonderful and doting Mom, she rarely eats a meal with him.  It has been over 2 years since she has attended a doctors appointment.  She spends a great deal of time with him, but not a lot of that time is spent parenting.  I am in this alone.  And the struggles that I have are not very many.  But this is a biggie.  This whole food thing just kills me.  I wish that I could just get it through to him to JUST EAT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!  But it doesn't work like that.

I need to mention that I have my mom in this with me.  And she is wonderful.  In fact, after my meal tonight, I called her and cried to her on the phone because she understands like no one else does.  And we talked for a half an hour and I have a plan.  And the reason I have that plan is because I am lucky enough to have her on this journey with me.  But the fact remains that she is my mom.  She is not my partner.  She will never be the one sitting down to dinner at our table every night of the week.  She will always be there to help me, but she can't really be in it with me.  And here I am about to embark on this journey all over again with another child.  Single mom by choice.  Please just let this second one eat...

3 comments:

Billy said...

Wow, that is difficult! And doing it all alone - on one hand you are the only one to make decisions, on the other hand, you are, the only one, to make decisions. You don't have to agree or not agree with someone else about how to raise your child, but you also don't have someone else to offer another way of dealing with XYZ(and I agree that advice from the outside is never the same as from someone who is actually dealing with it).

Sara said...

So sorry this is so hard.

gwendomama said...

Wow. this is a lovely and loving and touching post for many reasons - one of which I am so very envious of your relationship with your mother.