Thursday, August 2, 2012

Felt Food & Performance Anxiety

My daughter has been enamored of pretend food since she was a toddler. She rarely ever plays with it, almost never pretending to eat it or serve it to other toys, she just hoards it. It tapered off for a while, and we told her we weren't buying more of the same things since she had a boxful in the closet already. Then she started requesting felt food...

I made her a deal: if she would try one new food, one full bite of something she'd never eaten before, I would make her three new felt foods. (Yes, I blackmailed my child into eating. It worked. Try it.) These felt foods were simple, flat (2-dimensional) representations of food, some rather crude. She seemed happy enough with them. Happy enough that they fill a box.

The box is about shoebox sized. On top is a pizza with extra cheese.

Earlier this summer, she asked for a "green riding hood," and we thought we figured out what that was. She kept saying "iron" and we thought she meant "iron-ons" and we went to the fabric store to look at felt appliqué iron-ons. She was unhappy with those, so we told her "show us" and she lead us to the sewing machines in the center of the store. "Iron" was apparently "sewing machine," though neither of us have any idea how she got those things mixed up. So I dyed a white sweatshirt green (she specified she wanted it to have a white zipper) and hand-appliquéed onto it a "happy strawberry." She seemed happy. (Though she wasn't thrilled that I didn't use the sewing machine.)

It was late when I finally finished it; I let her stay up
so she could have it before bed.

Happy to have figured out what she wanted (or so we thought), I noticed the store was having a huge same on t-shirts, so I bought a pile of them, to sew on felt representations of the various "happy" foods inspired by Heidi Kenney. I made a t-shirt with the milk carton on it. She was not as thrilled. It wasn't what she wanted, and now we're both frustrated. Now what?

I'm not exactly sure when, but some point this summer, she discovered Etsy. More specifically, she discovered felt food on Etsy. No longer content with the 2D variety, she finally managed to communicate to me that she wanted stuffed felt food - 3D representations. THAT was what she wanted when she said "iron" (and meant "sewing machine"). She did still want the green riding hood, I do think we got that one right, but she must have thought I was an idiot for making the milk carton t-shirt...

A pre-high school physical revealed that she is a bit anemic, and the doc wants her to eat more (ha! try ANY) green foods, more (again, HA!) red meat, and take a vitamin with iron. I spent 30 minutes reading packaging at Walgreens, trying to find a vitamin that was going to work for us. I ended up with Flintstones chewables with iron, and a liquid vitamin supplement with iron. I figured if she couldn't tolerate the Flintstones, we could use a medicine dropper for the liquid. Turns out, the Flintstones are working just fine. (My husband and I were both stunned. The first few times, we watched her to make sure she was actually eating the thing, and not hiding it in the library or sneaking it to the dog.)

ANYway. The same rule, modified, would apply to the 3D foods: Try something new, get one new stuffed felt food. Green food... ok... butter lettuce. Reasonably innocuous, and not as devoid of nutrition as iceberg, right? So I took some cheese slices and rolled a piece of lettuce inside, and told her it was a "salad stick" and if she ate that, she could have a felt food. It worked! (Mental handsprings!)

Not to scale: The purple blob under the grapes is purple cabbage,
and to the right of that is a head of lettuce.

I started adding pieces of lettuce to her cheese tacos, and she ate that, too. Felt food is a huge motivator for her. Wanting to get more iron into her, and a few more vitamins, I switched from the butter lettuce to baby spinach. Again, success. I'm so excited that she's eating it without complaining or gagging, that the "new" food is no longer a requirement - eat spinach and a vitamin, get felt food. The red meat is still going to be an issue, unless I can convince her to eat hamburger on her pizza.

I was talking to a friend about all the felt foods, and they asked me what she did with it. I explained that she didn't do much with it other than add it to a hoard. They told me that I was a good mom for making all this stuff; I tried to shrug that off - it's only time and felt is cheap, plus it's good practice sewing. No, I was told, I was doing the "right thing, not the easy thing" and for that they considered me their "parenting role model."

I was stunned.

I am rarely at a loss for words, but for a moment, I didn't know what to say to that. Finally, I said "thank you." I was, and am, humbled and touched by that. Coming from someone I consider to be an excellent and loving parent, and honestly someone whom I envy, it was very humbling. And wow, no pressure there, nope! I don't think I've ever - knowingly! - been anyone's role model, even my daughter.

And you know, it also felt pretty damn good. Diana rarely acknowledges the lengths I go to to make her happy, and that's fine. I mean, I'm pretty sure I didn't acknowledge all the stuff my parents did for me, either, so that's really sort of a kid thing, not an autism thing. Rarely do I get much praise or recognition, and I don't expect it. You don't meet your garbage man on the curb and tell him what a great job he's doing, do you? (Well maybe you do, in which case you're a better person than I.) Anyway, my point is, I'm just doing my job. I'm her mom, this is my job: make her healthy and happy and help her grow.

My friend's timing was pretty awesome, too. I've been feeling pretty low; it's been a rough summer for me for a number of reasons, and I'm happy it's nearly over. Getting a pat on the back was unexpected, but needed. Sometimes something as simple as "you're a good mom" can mean the world. So, to my dear friend, again my heartfelt thanks. I needed that.


Sharon said...

Your dad and I have told you many times how proud we are of you and what a good job you and Marc are doing with her,but I guess coming from us you shrugged it off as parental patting on the head. LOL.

Wendy said...

No, it was never "shrugged off." Knowing I've made my parents proud of me means a great deal. But I also know that you may be - just a bit! - biased. ;)