Today J came home to a shoe box with neatly packaged portions of food. He had one small bag of Cheez-Its, a package of popcorn (lightly salted,) a serving of penne rigate (uncooked,) a serving of veggie-smart mac and cheese (with the necessary amount of veggie-smart fake cheese,) his small soda and a 1-cup serving of cereal. If he had come home to find that his mother had turned into The Minotaur he wouldn’t have been more shocked. He opened the shoe box, looked at the contents, looked at me and sounded like Scooby Doo for about ten seconds. Then he asked for the mac and cheese, the Cheez-Its and his soda (which at this juncture was like a man who’s had a bad day at work asking for a shot of whisky,) and went upstairs to change out of his school clothes.
Because even superheroes have to go to the bathroom from time to time, a ten second break (what? You never went to basic training? Either you pee, shower and get ready fast or you’re doing push-ups frequently) gave him an opening to nab the cereal while I was gone. As soon as I walked back into the kitchen, J looked at me and said “NO!” Incapable though I am of raising an eyebrow, I gave him a look and he covered the shoe box and handed it to me. I put it in the least accessible place I could think of (on top of the fridge) while issuing a dire warning: “it’s going to be a very long night if you go through this box, dude…dinner is a few hours away, and you don’t want to be snack-less before bedtime, right?” My son’s lips formed an O…his eyes followed suit. With a great deal of energy, he packed up his placemat, put the dishes and cutlery in the dishwasher and headed to his room.
It’s not Paris in 1919, but there’s a lot of negotiating going on around here these days. 🙂 In about an hour and a half, he will have to stretch and run, and then dinner will not take place until 7:00 or so. So his before-bedtime-snack is NOT going to consist of penne rigate and it obviously WILL NOT be cereal. Methinketh my childeth has screwedeth himselfeth…and that’s something he will have to learn from today’s desire to jump head first into the snack box. I can just see it: a bowl of popcorn and a large bottle of water to tide him over when he wants his next snack. I am sure tomorrow he will think more carefully?
If one parcels out a large box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in one-cup portions, a box will last two weeks. That’s the new rule. You get one cup at a time and one cup a day. A box of mac and cheese will give you two healthy-sized portions so you can stretch it for two meals. One cup of pasta is more than enough to satisfy him. If he respects the box, he will graze contentedly and with less caloric intake than he really needs. J might believe we are starving him to death, but in a few months (between proper portioning of food and steady exercise) he might be able to wear smaller pants.
I don’t know if this is going to work, but it’s a start. My 2001: A Space Odyssey moment will come when I attempt to give him a small orange “Cutie” for a snack. Either he will make me wear it or he will at least lick it…of course, I’d rather have him taste the thing and like it, but I’m not holding my breath. Right now I am over the moon with joy because he didn’t eat all the snacks and the box as soon as he came home. The willingness to negotiate is key in this endeavor.
I am negotiating with an autistic teenager, and this is one of those things where one is teaching several things in one fell swoop. I’m teaching him to self-monitor, to wait and be patient, to understand the right amount of food that needs to be on his plate (he used to gingerly approach the stove and add noodles behind our backs…then we’d have a mountain of noodles and a seemingly innocent child waiting for a meal)… I am sure we will not enjoy this all the time, but -like I told the psychiatrist yesterday- I have the time and I’m willing to put in the effort.
Hopefully, in about a month, this will all become second nature and we’ll be ready to move on to the next big thing… If I can teach him that his relationship with food is now medication-driven, and that eating does not constitute a hobby, we’ll make a great deal of progress.
Our willingness to participate in this nutritional overhaul is important. We can’t cheat and say “well, I don’t feel like running today.” If we don’t run, J won’t want to run…and if he decides that it’s something that one can put aside because one’s not in the mood we’ll all be back to square one. Right now, as I type this, my pedometer claims I’m close to the 10,000 step mark for the day, and I’m ready -after all I’ve done around the house- to sit and complain about my aching feet, but J doesn’t need that…J needs me to say “hey, let’s run to the tune of Bruno Mars or The Donnas!!!” As long as I model this behavior and I am peppy about this, the kid will realize that it’s fun and good and he’s not the only one suffering through it…
Left foot in…and hold…hold…hold…