Last week was…difficult. I was hesitant to write about it because I didn’t want to make a mountain out of what could have been nothing but a mole hill. I don’t like people to know when I’m upset. I’m more the type to help people through their business than to air my own, and so I tend to just sit on it until it goes away. It always goes away, thank goodness, and so I know it’s only a matter of time. Everything is temporary, for better or worse.
Calm your nerves. Everything’s cool now. Like I said, everything is temporary. It’s just a matter of remembering that while you’re in the moment.
Avery stopped eating last week. Pretty much completely. She said she couldn’t chew and refused to even try. She wasn’t sick, wasn’t in pain, just stubborn as a bull and would not eat. For the first day, she refused to even drink, thinking she also couldn’t swallow. After 24 hours of this nonsense, I took her to the walk-in clinic. I don’t go to the walk-in clinic often. Colds are colds, the flu is the flu, and the best cure for both is rest and fluids. There. I don’t need a rushed and overly stressed resident doctor to tell me that. But on Monday, Avery wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t drink, and was clearly suffering the effects of dehydration. She was listless and had no energy, slept in my arms for most of the morning, and her pudgy little baby belly was gone and I could see her ribs, so I took her to the clinic. If you’ve never experienced a Canadian walk-in clinic, you’ve never lived. We sat for 2 hours in a clinic in the middle of a Walmart only to have Avery refuse to let the nurse check her mouth or throat. When the doctor came in, she looked in her ears and determined she had an ear infection and handed me a prescription. What? We were there because she won’t eat or drink and the doctor finds a mysterious ear infection and expects her to drink her medicine? When asked what to do when she won’t take it, the doctor told me, and I quote, “she’ll have to.” AIR PUNCHES.
So the doctor was no help. But a few hours after Avery went back to my mom’s house, she drank some strawberry milk. It was enough so that when I came to pick her up after work, she was mostly her usual bouncy self.
As the week went on, she ate a spoonful of honey Greek yogurt. Then some vanilla pudding. Then a french fry. Then two. But she was still not consuming enough calories to keep a gnat alive, still insisting she can’t chew.
And then on Friday I heard that she has said in the past, twice, that she shouldn’t eat because she doesn’t want to be fat for school, which she starts in September.
She shouldn’t eat because she doesn’t want to be fat.
Just typing those words brings tears to my eyes. We don’t purposely talk about weight negatively in our house. Anything we say, if we have said anything before, would be in jest, light-hearted in intent, and never, EVER, out of criticism or judgement. But sometimes, in adults at least, even the best intended comments can be hurtful. After hearing what she had said, I panicked. I took to Google to see if eating disorders are even a thing at age 3. Apparently it is. It’s rare, but it’s a thing. I read articles for hours. I desperately asked Twitter if anyone had experience with extremely picky children, clinging to the hope that that was all this was. Hopefully the “fat” issue was just a misunderstanding and this “can’t chew” excuse had more to do with typical toddler control issues and not about restricting caloric intake.
Sometimes with me, I just need a moment or two of complete internal panic before my mind sorts itself out. I’ve said before that I pride myself on being calm and rational in an emergency, but this threw me for a loop and my ability to reason was a little slow. After a few hours of crazy, after a week of worry, I came up with a theory. Avery has always wanted to stay a baby. She still, at three and a half, sits in her baby car seat sometimes. She would squish herself into her old Bumbo seat until we hid it. She constantly talks baby talk during play time, much to our frustration. She wants to stay a baby forever, but I’ve been filling out the papers for her to start school. And, as any parent or person who was a child at any point in their life knows, a common parent phrase is “eat [random healthy thing] so you can grow up big and strong.” But…what if the child doesn’t want to grow up big and strong? What if she doesn’t want to grow up at all? What if going to school sounds fun, but not if it means she has to stop being a baby?
In her baby mind, to stop growing up, she had to stop eating the foods that we’ve been telling her will help her grow up big and strong.
And then, as always happens, the moment the worry is at its worst is the exact moment the problem solves itself. She started eating again. She’s still picky, but she’s eating. She’s had potato salad and watermelon and toast. She’s had cereal and fishy crackers and chocolate. Rice, ice cream, a few bites of chicken. Just when I started thinking about tiny little IVs feeding my baby child, and right when my sadness was at its most intense, thinking about how on earth a child of only three could possibly be concerned with body image, everything rights itself.
She’s eating. Her belly is back. She hasn’t said one single thing about her weight. She doesn’t have an eating disorder. She was and is a stubborn toddler trying to take control. She wants to stay a baby forever and for a while, until the hunger got the best of her, eating was the enemy because eating is what makes her big and strong. But she’s back and I’m done worrying about it. It was a phase. Everything is always just a phase.
I just need to remember this before I kill myself from worry.