A letter to my well-meaning relatives around the holidays: Why my picky eater won’t eat your famous homemade cranberry sauce…
We love seeing you around the holidays! Family is so important to us, and we look so forward to the warmth of a festive home, the scents of dinner cooking in the oven, and the time interacting with our family to celebrate these special days.
This time of year can be hard for my child. The hustle/bustle of gift shopping at crowded stores filled with sparkly and scented shelves and swarms of people sets my little one on edge. Bright lights that decorate your house are a lot of visual input for small, tired eyes. Hugs and kisses from relatives is a squeezy experience all it’s own. My child spends the holiday season overwhelmed, and the family parties are no exception.
Then comes dinner time.
Days were spent preparing your famous cranberry sauce. You bought special cranberries, soaked them, washed them, mashed them. I’m sure you bought a unique ingredient at the ONE special store that carries it, and you got it JUST before it went out of stock. There was mixing and cooking and chilling. The beautiful treat was placed in the perfect serving dish so your entire family would be able to enjoy your masterpiece.
At dinner, my child has trouble sitting politely at the table. After keeping it (mostly) together during the appetizer/pre-dinner activities, my child is quite jazzed. His system has a hard time processing all of the aspects of the evening that have lead up to the main event that is dinner. Asking them now to sit nicely in their chair next to their siblings/cousins/relatives is a feat meant for champions alone. And then they are faced with a gorgeous plate full of “delicious” food, including your precious cranberry sauce, and fear strikes his heart. And mine.
**Please don’t make a scene, please behave, please let us get through this meal without an upset**
All my pleading cannot account for the fact that this food is my child’s demon, his largest aversion, his highest obstacle, his “Everest.” Maybe he is not ready to face it today, even if (especially if) it is a holiday. Maybe he will gracefully leave your cranberry sauce on his plate and eat around it, maybe he will run and hide under the table in the other room.
My child has difficulty feeling the cranberry sauce in his mouth and is fearful to put it between those teeth for fear of choking or losing it in his back cheeks. Sometimes my child is unable to coordinate his tongue in order to move those berries around in his mouth to properly chew or swallow that goop. It could also be that the texture of wet, mushy berries surrounded in unidentifiable glop is far too intimidating to place in his mouth and swallow. It’s also very possible that the scent of the sweet dish is off-putting to an ultra-sensitive nose. Perhaps the way your cranberry sauce jiggles is overly exciting for the eyes, or too closely resembles another feared food item. It could even be that today is Thursday, and we only eat yellow foods on Thursdays.
Whatever the reason, please don’t take offense!
- Please don’t offer more, or comment on my child’s lack of enjoyment of your prized dish.
- I’m begging, please, please, please, don’t suggest my child eat these berries or ask him to “just try a bite”.
- I would also love it if you did not snort judgment as I heat up the chicken nuggets in the microwave.
- Let me help you understand what you are asking before you ask it. Be mindful of what this holiday and that cranberry sauce means to me and my child.
We love you, and one day we may also happily indulge in your cranberry sauce. Today may not be that day, but we are working towards that! First, we must master looking at new foods, smelling them, touching them, licking them, biting them, swallowing them, and smiling with joy at the taste. When that is accomplished, we hope that our dear child will eat every bite of your famous cranberry sauce, so we can all rejoice!
Until then, enjoy my child’s giggles, curiosity, love for all things bouncing/rolling, and for you (cranberry sauce not included)!
Mother of a child with a zest for life, a goofy smile, a whit faster than light, and feeding difficulties
Written by: Margaret Lord OTR/L
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