A big part of my blogging journey via Risk Rejection is to continue writing as I did last year about my daily life. I tend to write from very strong emotions and sometimes it seems I have a lot of negative emotions. I am overall a happy person and enjoy my life (even with all the bugs in my house) but it’s true: I do deal with a lot of negativity in my emotions. Every day I learn how to deal with them in a better way, a healthier way. And today – this morning – is a prime example.
To you, it’s just a little bit of cheese. In fact all it was were crumbs – the leftovers from my breakfast. To me, it’s not just a few crumbs of cheese. It’s disobedience. It’s ANOTHER weird food issue/incident. It’s Marie making another bad choice, one she has made countless times over the years, and when I ask her why she did it, I get the same answer: “I don’t know.”
It’s down syndrome. Friends can tell me it’s not just down syndrome. Other kids struggle too, kids who are perfectly “normal.” But she has down syndrome so her brain works in ways I don’t think I will ever understand. Therefore, she has an obsession with food that Mr. Sexy and I have yet to figure out and overcome.
As I was brushing Marie’s teeth this morning I thought it was gross that she still had bits of food on her tongue from breakfast. Wait a minute. That’s weird. I asked her once what she ate. She immediately lied about it as I expected. I asked again and this time she gave a big sigh and looked down at the counter. Oh yeah, I was on to something. After a few minutes she did tell me she ate cheese.
It took a split second for me to go from relatively calm to shaking and hot with anger. An immediate time-out was in order for both of us.
I shut the bathroom door and basically ran down the hallway to call Mr. Sexy so he could help me diffuse the situation. Talking to him didn’t really help. (Sorry babe.) He was pretty stressed out with work and his answer was, “We should deal with it tonight.” The thing is Marie probably wouldn’t remember the incident by the end of the day.
I felt I had to do something. But what? I wanted to punish her and I wanted the punishment to hurt her so she would remember the pain and not make that bad choice again. Well, that’s no way to get a child to fix their mistakes. And do I really want Marie to make good choices out of fear? That type of obedience will never stick.
Now let me explain where I’m coming from here.
Back when Marie was just 5 years old she would get up in the middle of the night and raid the fridge. By raid I mean she had every single item out of that fridge and ALL of it was headed to her tummy. This habit continues today. We currently have some safeguards in place so she can’t get to food after bed time and we are hoping to work on the issue this summer.
It’s not just at nighttime that she likes to grab an inappropriate snack. Sometimes it’s early in the morning on her way to the laundry room and no one is around. Sometimes it’s when Nanna turns her back in the kitchen and then a cake pop has disappeared. And sometimes it’s while I trust her to be putting away dishes and not to snack from the crumbs on the counters. It’s an issue of self-control. She doesn’t have it.
So back to my room and blood-boiling anger and feeling totally alone in the situation. I had just used the one life-line I felt I had and it didn’t help. I paced my room and I grunted out of frustration. That’s a better choice than full out screaming in my opinion. I took some big deep breaths which only produced frustrated tears. I felt helpless because my emotions were so overwhelming I thought they would eventually completely take over.
I wanted so badly to come up with a good consequence for Marie that would impact her but not cross those lines into fear-parenting. I just couldn’t think straight. I paced, I grunted, I breathed big and deep and I cried. I was fighting against my sinful nature. This isn’t a new fight for me but that doesn’t make it any less difficult.
As I used my de-stressing techniques my heart slowed and I cooled down. Sentences. I used to have Marie write sentences. Yes! That would work! Sentences are not fun AND she could practice the correct action in her head during each one.
I was still pissed but no where near the boiling point any more. I was the one in control. I felt ready to get Marie, sit her down and explain her consequences.
But first, I had to tell her good job for telling me the truth. I’m sure that bit of the conversation sounded pathetic as she was sad and I was mad. But I tried. Thank you so much for telling me the truth. Telling the truth is always a good choice. I think I said those lines like three times hoping she would see that I actually was proud of her for that. Maybe I can talk to her about it again later and she will give me a real smile.
Then I laid out her consequences:
1. She is not allowed in the kitchen until I decide (basically when I’m ready to let go of the incident)
2. Because she has shown she doesn’t know how to handle food properly, I will be feeding her during lunch and dinner.
3. She will write 100 sentences.
I’ll bet some of you are reading this and thinking I’m a terrible mom because these consequences may
seem harsh to you. But the fact of the matter is Marie MUST learn to control her urges to eat food. I honestly don’t care AT ALL that she snacked on cheese. I care that it’s all part of the pattern of sneaking food into her belly when no one is around.
My hope is that if Mr. Sexy and I can I have regular, serious consequences for this particular behavior then by the time she is ready to move out (this WILL happen) she will have an appropriately learned behavior of when to eat and how to eat.
Again, eating a little bit of cheese isn’t a huge deal. But eating an entire jar of peanut butter is. Drinking an entire bottle of chocolate syrup isn’t that great for you. Eating half a bag of that cheap-o bubble gum isn’t great for your stomach and neither is eating an entire jar of vitamins. Marie has done all these things and more.
So eating a little bit of cheese, right after breakfast, while she is putting away dishes and I’m taking care of the baby, it’s a big deal.
Disclaimer: I understand that all our kids go through these issues. But Marie is 12 and she still continues to eat inappropriately whether it’s an entire loaf of bread she snuck to her room or crumbs of cheese she stuffed in her mouth as soon as I left the kitchen. I truly desire her to have self-control and the ability to make wise choices.