Friday, January 8, 2010

Justification Eradicates Guilt...Really, it Does!

Oh, I’m justified, all right. Most mothers are, although they don’t necessarily see it at the time. I’ve been given a challenge by The Crazy Hip Bloggers and Parentopia to talk about mommy guilt today, and I’m only too happy to do so. Yes, I feel guilt on a daily basis as Samantha’s mommy. For a variety of things, one of which I’ll talk about today (food & feeding). Guilt sometimes accompanies fear, and as my only child, she gets the full force of first-time-parent disease. You always hear the parents of multiple children talk about 2nd child syndrome, where the 2nd (and 3rd, 4th, etc.) child is allowed to do all of the things that they were too afraid to allow the first to do. I read a quote by an unidentified author that said, “Guilt is regret for what we have done. Regret is guilt for what we didn’t do.” I honestly think regret is too strong a word when talking about “depriving” our children of something for their own good. I prefer “justification.”

Samantha is an incredibly picky eater. We’re finally starting to make some headway, as she’ll now open her mouth to try something new rather than clamping it shut and shaking her head from side to side. I feel huge amounts of responsibility (and hence, guilt) for this. Back when she was younger than 2 years old, Samantha pretty much refused to chew her food. She would try to swallow things whole, so we kept her on formula and pureed Stage 3 baby foods for the most part. Not a terribly exciting diet, but it was certainly better than chancing the alternative – choking. Add to that the fear that her extra chromosome could possibly dictate a future weight problem, we kept a fairly tight reign on her intake.

Samantha used to love the idea of food, too. Any food. Anything you gave her in a crumb small enough to allow her to swallow it was eaten with relish, to the “yummy sounds,” mmmmmm mmmmm… (Young Frankenstein, anyone?) We worried that if she started to eat something she wouldn’t stop. When we told her something that she was enjoying at the time was all done, she threw a fit, saying, “more!!” and crying. Whenever she saw one of us eating something, she’d make the yummy sound and cry if we didn’t give her some. Then she’d want more and more. Steve was working with the Special Olympics at that time. One of their athletes, a young man with Down syndrome, had an issue where he didn’t know limits to what he was eating, and would eat and eat until the source was removed. His parents reportedly had to keep locks on the cupboards at home. This, frankly, scared the crap out of me. Was this common? Was this something we had to look out for? How could we live like that? How could we ever expect her to have an independent life like that? What would happen to her socially? And on and on… We began to eat out of her sight, and rarely took meals together (mainly because of my work schedule more than anything else). Eventually, at 2, she began to chew more, and her desire to try different foods decreased. And I felt responsible. I had to nearly force her to try things, conning her into opening her mouth while I popped something new in. She either chomped down on it, discovering that it actually tasted good, or, more often than not, spat it out, not even giving it the benefit of leaving its flavor on her tongue for her to consider.

I like to think that her reticence came as the result of a random childhood virus she had shortly after her 2nd birthday. It seemed that her pickiness coincided with it. It makes me feel a bit better to justify it this way.

There are so many other things to feel guilty about, too, with regard to deprivation. We avoid giving her candy of any kind (although her nightly cookie for dessert is ritual), or soda (which we don’t really drink anyway). I already know that she likes sugar, so why give her more of that when we could be working on introducing her to fruit or vegetables? (Woo hoo! She likes carrots and broccoli and green beans and apples now!!) We still badger her about chewing, and watch her like a hawk while she eats to make sure she does. Her chronic constipation causes us to make sure she’s getting enough fluids every day, so we harass her about that, too. Sheesh, maybe she doesn’t want to drink that whole big cup of milk/juice/water after eating a big meal!?! But you know what? We’re going to stand over her until she does. It’s for her own good, right? Guilt tells me that she’ll have big food issues when she grows up. Maybe not, but hey, what’s one more thing to worry about? I had a Jewish grandmother – I know how to do this well…

1 comment:

Kacey Bode said...

Oh my goodness, I so feel ya on this one!!! Well, not the picky part, I often swear the kid doesn't even have taste buds she will eat any and everything, but the eating in general. Ella NEVER feels full, often cries after she just got done eating and saying "Ella humree," It is SO sad, but I know she's not hungry. Although, the last testing she had done because of frequent barfing showed that she didn't really have acid reflux like they had always said, she has "severly delayed motility" meaning that her food barely moves once it goes down and therefore takes forever to reach her intestines, stomach whatever. So maybe she does feel hungry I don't really know. But I do know that I cannot feed her everytime she says that and it breaks my heart to see her cry. The fluids issue is huge for Ella too, she has horrible constipation also, luckily most days she drinks pretty well, we give her a tiny bit of no sugar added apple juice in a cup and then fill it the rest of the way with water.

I feel for ya. Guilt is a horrible thing, but like you said we are SO justified, we are just watching out for their best interest!!!