That is the number of minutes to give my dear son his meal!
KB and I have gone through some kind of learning process together in the last two weeks! He has been a difficult eater - mostly because he is extremely slow...plus he loves to read or talk about some story or sing some song while having food in his mouth. Two other things - he used to open his mouth just a tiny bit for each spoon and he really (even now) cannot ingest too much food at once or he tends to gag. I have a very strong gag reflex to (as commented upon by my dentist, that it is stronger than he has seen in most people) and he is the same way. So if I try to shove more food than he is comfortable with, he just pukes it out. In all, this has been a battle of sorts for both me and KB. It wasn't as much of a problem before baby girl arrived - I would grit and bear and sit through what ever time it took to feed him. Now I am less patient and also have less time. And I also have baby girl who is spoiling me with her amazing - zip, zap, done mode of eating! In all this, both B and I discovered that the main reason why baby girl finishes her food fast is just from the simple fact that she opens her mouth much wider.
B has been working late for the past two weeks. As it is, he comes home around 8.00 - 8.15pm from work. The last few weeks he has been coming anywhere from 9 - 11.00 pm. You can imagine the drain on me mentally to suddenly be alone until bedtime. He would be tired when he got home, so naturally he would just go to bed. He was just not available for me most of the time even when he was home. And I think KB too missed him a lot - the one or two hours at night when he spends time with his dear daddy.
One morning, I think on Jan 13, I gave KB his lunch. Usual dal/rice/vegetable combo.
He kept asking me for some book or the other, ones that were not in the basket under the dining table - so I had to keep getting up to go get him the ones he wanted. And he asked for some CD or the other to be played. He then asked me to warm up his food again. I just lost my patience (partly because I was really exhausted mentally from feeling like I am doing all the work for the kids) and yelled at him. Yelled is an understatement. I was sounding like a maniac, I am ashamed to say. I told him very loudly, "Open your mouth - BIGGG'aaa"! "Don't open it like a little bird, open it like a tiger...AAAAAAA...appdi open pannu, big big big" I shouted at him. He was really angry, upset and started yelling back at me and crying saying "SMALL'aaa" and he was in tears. I usually hug him right away if I even yell at him mildly - but I was so upset, tired of so many months of my hoping that he will get better at eating and nothing really changing...I just had no patience that day. I was myself hungry (I should have had some juice at least, but I didn't) and baby girl was sitting the bouncer and I had to eat, then feed her and then make the kids take their nap. I just let him cry it out.
For the first time, he sulked and looked really sad. After he ate, he just sat on the "moda" stool by the CD rack and looked outside and sat very quietly looking really sad. He just looked outside the window and kept listening to music that was playing. I wrote about this in this post. KB normally after lunch is a very happy and extra energetic and immediately hops on his chicco train and goes for a round and then pulls up near baby girl and pulls her hand or plays with her...to see him looking so quiet and sitting in one place for so long was really scary for me. It was all too heart breaking for me.
That night, he asked me to read this book called "When Daddy goes away" - about a father who has to travel on work and comes back home. That's when I realized it was a culmination of two things - my yelling too much at him and daddy not spending any time with him for a few days all of a sudden. I was so nervous about his behavior that day that I called my sister (the pediatrician) and asked her if kids can get that upset or depressed...B got very mad at me for using the word depressed. He said I was being so paranoid and dramatic. We got into an argument over this. This wasn't helping the situation any. The next day B emailed me some links about making meal times pleasant for your child. Somehow those two days became somewhat emotionally charged at home. It is amazing how just the previous day I complained to B that KB is such a fighter and that he is just not afraid of anything I say to him and will only do what he wants...and here I was so worried that he was suddenly not fighting me back instead looking so sad and down. I just could not take it. It was too heart breaking for me. I hugged him and kissed him and that night I just made him have as little as he wanted for his meal. I even let him skip dinner the next day.
Somehow in all this drama, we both seem to have emerged the better. I am now more aware that a)he is now more grown up and he can express emotions more like an adult - not cry loudly but look sad and feel sad. He was missing his father and conveyed it by asking me specifically to read that book a few times. b)if he is not able to eat fast, it is not fair to push him to do so at any point - does not matter if I have been patient for two years, I am not allowed to push him unfairly before he is able to do it on his own willingly.
KB too seems to have gone through some learning experience in this. That he can actually open his mouth just a little wider. He sees his sister eating her meal so fast and I also tell him - just to make him feel good - to tell her "Samatha sapadnum. Big'aa vai thorandhu sapdanum" (You should be good and eat well. You should open your mouth wide and eat). After she finishes, I tell him "See, just like you told her, she opened her mouth big'aa and she ate fast"! Somehow I think this has had an impact on him. It may just be that he is more grown up now. But I have a feeling seeing his sister eat fast along with the emotional show down we had the other day is making him put more of an effort in this regard. It is heart breaking - he is such a good kid really. He is so sensitive to the fact that he has really pushed me to the limit. He now even shows his dad how big he can open his mouth even when he is not eating! And while I give him food, he starts opening his mouth like he used to - small...and then he opens it wider more consciously and says "Aaa"...
Every day now we cheer and celebrate and immediately call his dad and I tell B on the speaker phone "Innik KB evvlo fast'aa saptudhu theriyuma? Big'aa thorandhudhu" etc and B applauds and KB again talks to him and says "KB chamatha Sapturthu inniku"! (KB ate fast today). It is just sheer joy really - this break through. That he is making an effort itself feels like a prize for me! And that is actually showing results - can't tell you how good it feels! KNOCK ON WOOD! If it stays at half an hour per meal, I will be very happy! Let's see - 30 min on good days and 40 min on not so good days is how it is now. If it averages out to 30 min per meal, I will be so happy. All this may seem like a bit too much detail and drama to someone who has not had a difficult/slow eater. But I am sure that anyone who has had to put in a lot of time and effort to feed their child will totally relate to this new found joy of mine! I just feel blessed with such good children, Lavs! :)