So, we're in the car two days before Thanksgiving, and this is the dialogue between me and the three-year-old boy:
Frank: Mommy, this week is Thanksgiving.
Me: Yes, it is, on Thursday.
Frank: (very matter of fact) I'm not going to eat the turkey.
Me:(slowly) Okay...why not?
Frank: Because I don't want to. I don't like it. I want to eat my food.
Me: Okay, but here's what's going to happen. You will have turkey, and sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes on your plate, because I am making some for you [with fake milk and butter, to accomodate his food allergies]. You will have some of your food, too. You don't have to eat the turkey and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, but they do have to stay on your plate.
Frank: (thinks it over) Well...all right.
Me: Oh, and the plate will stay in front of your place. You will not push the plate away from you and cry.
Frank: (silent for a minute) All right, Mommy.
And that's exactly what happened. Last year, when I put regular Thanksgiving food on his plate, he threw a huge hissy fit. This year, calm acceptance. He only ate a few of his chicken nuggets at dinner because he'd been snacking with his cousins all afternoon, but he didn't get upset when a little sweet potato actually got on a nugget- he just discreetly wiped it on a napkin and ate it!
This is a pretty major deal for a kid as orally defensive as my son is. Sensory Processing Disorder becomes a behavioral issue, as well as a physical issue, in many kids. I guess it's because he's so little, and there's so little he can actually control about food, so refusing to eat it is one way to control it? I don't know for sure. At any rate, exposing him to different foods is actually one part of his therapy. I'm not as good with it as I used to be, and don't do it every day, as I should, though.
I keep trying to engage him in dialogue about food. He needs to start eating at least one fruit and one vegetable, neither of which he eats at this point, unless you count my homemade tomato sauce and applesauce (that's not homemade). I keep thinking that if I can get him to be able to explain what exactly about this food or that food is unpleasant to him, maybe we can figure out the "right" foods for him.
I get so frustrated with his food issues sometimes, and I try not to show him how frustrated I am. I mean, I come from a family where, in the words of my brother, "If someone presented us with the ass end of a skunk and told us it was good eating somewhere in the world, you and I would give it a try." Not wanting to eat something just because I've never eaten it before is a foreign concept to me. I lose track, though, of the progress Frank has made since he started occupational therapy at 17 months of age. He actually eats like many toddlers do- not terrific, but at least somewhere within the realm of average, and I tend to lose sight of that.
7 years ago