Friday, December 19, 2008


I know that we’re supposed to pick our battles with our children. That when we do, we’re supposed to win every time. That some things are best not turned into battles in the first place. And I try to remember that, but some things just drive me batshit crazy.

With Secondo, one of them is eating with utensils. Or not eating with utensils. It drives me crazy that he often flat-out refuses to. That he will grab a handfuls of oatmeal and gleefully squish gobs of it between his fingers with obvious enjoyment and then wipe his hands on his shirt. That I’ve occasionally caught his overly-motherly Salvadoran nanny feeding him in order to prevent messes from happening, even though I’ve asked her not to. That my friend with the toddler who eats soup without spilling a drop makes comments about children needing to learn table manners and then glances pointedly at my kids. I tell myself not to get so frustrated about the whole thing, which is getting harder the older they get, because there are some things they should just be able to do by now, dammit, and it all ties in to my expectations for Secondo and my constant worry about what behavior is just your average three-year-old behavior and what isn’t. Because some of it isn’t. The autism, it always lurks, and it can mess with my mind.

I sit with Secondo and snatch his bowl of food away as he lunges at it with his hands. Con la cuchara, I remind him. Con la cuchara, he repeats, and takes a spoonful. Then he lunges with his hands again, and he’s really, really fast.

Tonight I take a different tack, something I’ve tried before, so it’s not exactly new. I will be positive, I will not let my frustration show. The boys are eating spaghetti, and Secondo takes a bite with the fork. ¡Excelente! I yell, and he looks at me and giggles. I’ve never been quite this enthusiastic, and I've obviously hit upon the right word. ¡Excelente! he repeats. Then takes another bite. ¡Excelente! I squeal, and this time I clap my hands and praise him profusely. Now Primo is laughing and wants in on it, too, so when he takes a bite: ¡Excelente!

And we are all having so much fun and laughing so hard that I don’t notice when Secondo grabs a handful of spaghetti, like a flash. I grab the bowl. It goes flying. There is spaghetti everywhere. I put my head in my hands and take a deep breath. Several seconds go by.

No tan excelente, Primo observes, finally, breaking the silence. His tone is sober.

Not so excellent, indeed. But at least now I am laughing as I clean up the spaghetti.


Christine said...

Ha!! You are not alone, sister!!! If you took a poll of bloggers with kids on the spectrum I'd bet a whole lot would tell you they have the same battlefield at every meal. Sometimes I just tell myself it isn't important. Sometimes it gets to me. Oliver is six. He CAN use utensils but prefers not to for some things. Oh well. One trick I have found works sometimes is to ask him to hold a napkin in the hand that isn't holding the utensil. Don't ask me why it works for us but it seems to keep his focus on the fork.

Merry Christmas!!

Tricia said...

My almost-four-year-old is perfectly capable of feeding himself, but prefers to be fed. I try to insist he do it himself, but sometimes it's just so much easier to give in. He has two older brothers and we have places to go, things to do, and sitting around for two hours while Malcolm decides he's hungry enough to eat without help isn't always do-able. Ah, well...