The Heartbreak of a Picky Eater
By: Amanda Buck | Date: August 31 2016
“How much should your average 4-year-old weigh?” It was an innocent question posted in a Facebook mommy group but immediately it made me cringe. Unable to stop myself I clicked on the comments to see what others had to say.
It’s no secret that mommy groups on Facebook can be both a blessing and a curse. Mostly I use them to keep up to date on kid friendly happenings in our community, but they can also be a bit of a guilty pleasure. Sometimes the rants, drama and everyone’s subsequent opinions, are more entertaining than the mundane happenings of mom life, like having to explain, yet again, why we can’t leave the house without pants on.
I discovered this mother was asking because she was concerned for her niece, a picky eater who looked, “just too skinny.” My blood started to boil and I had an overwhelming urge to leave my own comment advising her that every child was different and if she was so concerned she should speak to the mother directly, instead of posting to social media (there may have been some more colourful words sprinkled in there originally).
Then I started reading more comments. Not one mother felt as I did, instead they were all offering advice, some as outlandish as taking her niece to a walk in clinic. Not one of them suggested that the issue was best left to the child’s own mother. Was I alone in thinking it wasn’t really her business? The thought seriously irked me.
Then I started to wonder why this made me so angry. Clearly the rage induced in me by the well-meaning post of a concerned aunt spoke more about my own issues than of hers. So here’s my confession; I have a soon to be 4-year-old who is an extremely picky eater.
At last weigh in, my daughter was only 32 pounds to her 3’3 frame and much skinnier than her friends. Although I try not to obsess over her weight and eating issues, the fact is, it kills me. When I see kids her age all eating together, and the enormous volume they take in compared to her, it kills me.
My daughter has a rare disease called cystinosis and a side effect of the disease, and the medications she takes, is nausea and little to no appetite. The first symptom she developed at 9 months old was picky eating and that’s when all my concerns, fear and anxiety began. For over 3 years I’ve spent more time and energy trying to get some food in her mouth and meat on her bones, than anything else. I’ve researched, worked with an OT, looked into intensive feeding therapies and tried every trick under the sun to get her interested in food.
When people make comments about how skinny she is or start offering their own advice on how I might get her to eat more, it infuriates me. To me it feels like a comment on my failings as a mother. Like it must be something I’ve done, or that I simply haven’t tried hard enough or exhausted all options. Outwardly my daughter doesn’t look like she has a chronic illness so it’s easy to assume that her picky eating might be easily fixed, and while I tell myself they’re trying to help, more than anything I just want them to butt out.
So I think about the mother of this child, whose own sister, or maybe in-law, is publically posting that her child is so skinny you can see her ribs, and my heart breaks. That people suggested the aunt bring her niece to a walk in clinic is mortifying. Who’s to say that, that mother is not doing everything she can to get her child to eat. That mother could be just like me, attending seminars on how to help her picky eater, staying up late reading blog posts or researching the best books to buy. Her daughter’s light weight could be tearing her up inside, making her feel inadequate, and the last thing she needs is a bunch of strangers weighing in.
Feeling judged for something that you’ve tried so hard to fix, and realizing that it hasn’t made a bit of difference is demoralizing. So it’s no wonder an innocent post about the weight of a child the same age as my daughter was such a sore spot for me. While it’s nice to know there’s people out there wanting to help, sometimes you just want to look after the issue yourself.
Unfortunately, mommy groups are prone to over sharing, and there’s always going to be something found in the posts and comments to get upset about. I think for now I’ll have to reserve my comment reading to posts like, “Where’s the best water park?,” or, “Can you believe what my husband just said?,” because the former is why I joined the group in the first place, but the latter is what keeps me coming back for more.
About the Author
Amanda Buck is a mother to two beautiful children and began writing, after her daughter was diagnosed with the rare disease cystinosis. She started the blog Elsinosis: Living with Cystinosis to chronicle their story, advocate for her daughter and help other families in similar situations look for their silver linings. Her writing has appeared on The Mighty, Good Mother Project, Coffee + Crumbs and she was a cast member of Vancouver’s inaugural Listen to Your Mother Show. You can also follow her family’s story on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.