As parents, I think we all have things in which we know we could do better. And during the summertime I think those things can be worse for multiple reasons. If this doesn’t resonate with you and you’ve got all of your ducks in a row; let me ask you, “How do you have time to read this?” In the past, I’ve felt terrible guilt over the amount of screen time, junk food, lack of structure, and so many other things. The dreaded “Mommy Guilt” which is about as useful as the expired old navy cash in my wallet.
My Easy Button is Everett’s diet. It’s not for lack of knowledge, but truthfully it’s just plain lack of will. In this specific category, he has won the battle of the wills. Maya Angelou’s quote that says “when you know better, you do better”. Well, that’s not always the case. I love Maya Angelou, but truthfully every time I hear that quote I want to tell Ms. Angelou to stay in her lane. I KNOW that Everett grazing on pretzels, dill pickle chips, and cosmic brownies all day isn’t a good thing, but most days during the summer it’s that or McNuggets and fries, or a lovely combination of all of those things. I know better, but I don’t do better. And while I would love to blame all of this on his autism and that his sensory processing makes him incredibly picky (which it does), that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t prioritize only offering him better options.
Everett loves food. If I’m out of his favorite food, he starts saying “mom, we need to go to Brooks (our local grocery store) for snacks.” I’ll ask him what he wants for me to buy and he spouts out a grocery list of about 10 items that are all junk. I have to pre-portion a bag of chips into smaller bags and ration it out for him. If I don’t, he will open everything that we’ve bought and lay it all out on the dining room table for a splendid buffet just for him. I have different hiding spots for food that he usually finds. His only nutritional saving grace is that he will only drink water. That’s it, nothing else ever.
Last fall I watched the Netflix documentary The Magic Pill about the keto diet. In the documentary is a little girl with autism whose parents try keto out and she has some dramatic results medically and behaviorally. I don’t remember exactly but the girl went a couple of days without eating and then gave in and ate what she had available. I don’t want to get into the keto diet or how it may or may not actually help Everett’s outcome. What got me thinking was the logistics of what it would take to actually change his entire diet. I’d have to take an entire week off of work, remove all unhealthy food that he already eats, replace with new healthier options for him, and get hunkered down ready to take the impact of a nuclear bomb. What will it take to get Everett to try new things? Starvation.
I know this seems extreme, but that’s what changing established behaviors and routines for kids with autism is like. Doable, but doable in a surviving the zombie apocalypse kind of way.
The thing that is difficult for everyone, not just autism families, is that our culture sets us up to create our children’s pickiness. I’ve had the conversation so many times with parents who try to eat healthier and cleaner, but their children’s diets suffer because kids won’t eat it. So, this double life of healthy for me and crap for them gets instilled.
I don’t stress about Everett’s eating habits or push him to eat things he doesn’t want, because it just makes it all worse. I don’t have the answers, and at the beginning of next year I plan on doing a complete overhaul of Everett’s diet. My motivation isn’t trying to lessen his autistic behaviors but to widen his food options for his overall health.
The point of all of this is that we all have things that we KNOW we should do better with when it comes to our kids. I personally get stumped with perfection and control, but really what I need to focus on is progress and routines that produce progress. Everett’s diet has gotten a tiny bit better, and better is better.