I have been trying to find the right balance of how much spoiling to do versus discipline. It is really hard to know what to do when you have a child with special needs. We do anything and everything to get Parker to eat because he has always been so skinny. We have always been desperate to put weight on him. So desperate at times that we would set him in front of his favorite TV show to feed him. We have always allowed him a toy at the table and when he became bored with TV, we bought a CD player for the dinette area to play his music. Now, Parker is 9 years old and he feels that a meal just isn’t right without entertainment. This was really hard at first when he began going to school. It was his first time to encounter a meal without fun. Since he had a home based teacher for awhile and didn’t begin going to school until he was 7, he was very conditioned to all the wonderful spoiling. I imagine that his teachers had some difficulty feeding him until he finally made peace with an entertainment free lunch.
Well, I recently went with Parker on a field trip and it really hit me that my husband and I have really spoiled him and made him rather impossible to lunch with. I have been on all the field trips with him and it occurred to me before that he was a difficult lunch date; but, I think he wasn’t quite as difficult to deal with on the previous trips. Maybe because he was younger than and not as strong as he is now. Also, he was more drugged with seizure meds. We had to cut back last year when his blood levels were too high and he had night terrors and depression due to the meds. With the VNS, we have not had to experience the roller coaster ride of medication, which has been wonderful. But, apparently he is more clear headed and more determined to fight for his cause.
On this latest trip, he made his feelings crystal clear. He is unable to speak, but he manages to convey a world of information. First, he pushed the table away with his hands and feet continuously. We moved him as far away from the table as possible to prevent the loss of our food. He still leaned forward to push. He kept grabbing my dad’s hand to show him that he was looking to push buttons on a toy. Yes, he knows how to communicate his desires! The one thing that drives me more nuts than anything was his refusal to eat. He knows that I will do most anything to get him to eat. I told him under no uncertain terms that he would be eating his lunch and that he would not be getting any toys at a school event. I also threatened him with no toys after school if he did not eat now. That seemed to work after awhile because he did eat his meal. Unhappily, he ate his meal. When the lunch was finished, they passed out ice cream for dessert. Now Parker loves dessert and usually goes for it in a big way. He reached up when I tried to give him a bite and pushed the spoon out of my hand and it went flying with a big scoop of ice cream messing up the floor. Most people would recognize this clue for what it was, but I thought that it might have been a mistake. I tried again to show him his dessert and once again he was ready to hurl it across the floor in disgust. All this because I refused to get a toy from the car during his field trip. The other children were happy to be eating and sat nicely with each other at the table. Obviously their parents didn’t use bribery to get them to eat.
Later on in the day, I was discussing what happened during lunch and someone suggested that for the next field trip I make myself scarce at lunch. Apparently, when I’m not around, he doesn’t give the teachers the business he gave me. Maybe over the last 2 years he has learned that when he is being fed by a teacher there will be no toys coming and no TV or music for his entertainment. I guess when I am present he instantly expects for me to oblige him in all the ways he has become accustomed to being treated. Who knows, maybe if he sees that I don’t stay for lunch during the field trips, he will put 2 and 2 together and realize that he better not give me the business if he wants me to stick around. It is not his fault that we spoiled him. Unfortunately, we have to help him learn a hard lesson about when he can expect and when he cannot.