As a parent of two autistic children I know ‘fussy’ but I also know children who just refuse to eat something because they are plain fussy.
The difference between autistic eaters and fussy eaters are: on the asd spectrum: textures, taste and if their foods are touching (yes I have one of those) and fussy is: I refuse to eat what you’ve cooked for me purely because it comes from the ground and here is the thing and the reason I’m writing this post…some kids of today seem to have little or no concept of where food comes from, they also seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable to eat a sausage knowing it’s been raised and slaughtered for our own benefit but won’t eat a carrot because it’s been grown in the ground. Yep I have ‘one of those’ too.
I have never, even with my two boys been a parent that has prepared several different meals for my family, I’ll make changes when I need to on the dish I am cooking (like my youngest, loves sausages and Yorkshire pudding but make a toad in the hole and he won’t eat it, so when making fresh I’d leave a couple of sausages aside and make sure the Yorkshire that we cook with the rest of the sausages have a nice big gap for him to have, I also know he hates gravy as this means all his food would be touching, so we forgo gravy), so meeting my youngest step child has been a huge challenge for me as he, when I met him would only eat beige food (pasta or noodles mostly), he hates anything with flavour, wouldn’t go near a vegetable and certainly wouldn’t go near anything like a curry for example, his diet was for want of a better word, dull and boring and some may sit there and judge me and say it’s not my job or worry about his diet but ever since I’ve became and adult I’ve cooked meals for my family, sure I’ve cooked processed food quite a bit but I also like cooking from scratch and it was something he was going to have to get used to because like I say, I’m old school and I refuse to just cook chicken nuggets or pasta day in day out while we eat something with lots of flavour and taken me quite a long time to cook, I like to cook vegetables and my kids all eat vegetables (mushrooms and onion are a bit iffy though).
So I’ve stood there and prepared meals when I first started cooking for him and he has plainly refused to eat it, he refused to eat a sandwich once because I put (accidentally) a thin layer of mayonnaise on his bread, he wouldn’t eat the crusts of a sandwich either because his chocolate spread wouldn’t go right to the edges and he will not go near food that is hard (like the crust of a pizza for example).
Over the past two years he has gone from only eating pasta to eating more healthier foods, I always try and make sure there is at least two vegetables on his plate and while some could say we are a little hard on him about his dinners, if he had his way he would literally just eat the sausages, eat round the chips that are hard and forget the veg but we aren’t like that, we do make sure he eats most of it, his portions aren’t huge as he is only 9, so the little he does get he should try and eat most of it. When I first met him for the first year he would go off to the toilet during the meal to return and not eat the rest, the same as his sister while she is a very good eater the excuse was ‘to make room’ but I began to notice she rarely came back and finished her meal when she did this, now they go to the loo and wash their hands before dinner.
I have had him eating a sweet and sour chicken dish (minus the pineapple chunks of course), rice! He wouldn’t go near rice when I met him but he sat there about a year ago and actually asked for thirds! He eats mash potatoes, most veg and will eat most of the concoctions I make now but I’m also mindful there are some dishes he just won’t eat, especially now we are eating all these dishes that have lots of spice in (I once cooked a pasta sauce from tomato ketchup once, it was nearly payday and I mixed dried herbs into it and made it like he was used to because it’s essentially the same thing and he loves a shop brought one, I put three tiny chilli flakes in it, he was sitting there quite happily eating it and was almost finished when his sister mentioned she saw me put the few chilli flakes in, he downed tools and refused to eat the rest despite him saying he was really enjoying it not even thirty seconds prior!) so I am fully aware of his needs, thing is like the above pasta dish there are some dishes I’ve done and he has no idea what I’ve put into it until afterwards and his face was always shocked but happy he ate it but put it in front of him again and he would never eat it again.
Tonight was an example of how his brain works, I cooked a very rich tomato and spicy dish and I knew he wouldn’t eat it and I wouldn’t expect him to so I put some sausages into the oven for him and sister (she tries anything though), I wasn’t messing about making sweet potato fries and doing normal chips so I made enough for us all and I cooked peas and carrots for them, his dinner was placed in front of him and he sat and started to eat the sausages only, I said to him if he eats the veg first it will still be warm but again he went back to the meat, he sat there and subsequently started crying because he didn’t want the carrots, I went and did him some gravy as like I say he won’t go near a sauce if it’s openly on his plate and I took a few of the bigger ones off (I do this with green beans when we get frozen veg too, I stand there and pick them out before cooking for him as I know he hates them but he has eaten carrots before) and he sat and ate the lot but wouldn’t go near the fries ‘they taste too sweet’ says the boy who would eat sweets for every meal of the day, we gave up in the end. We sat him down and Adam explained that I felt a little hurt that he didn’t want to eat my food despite me doing that extra bit for him as I knew he wouldn’t like our dinner, adam asked him how he would feel if we didn’t drink his coffee he made for us the day before (he was supervised) and he said he would be sad and he would ask what was wrong with it, so we asked what was wrong with tonight’s dinner, his reply shocked me, he doesn’t like carrots (apparently) because he knows where they come from and we said do you eat potatoes? He said yes and listed the food he likes, one of which was crisps and he didn’t realise that crisps came from potatoes and didn’t realise they were grown in the ground, we explained what happens once they are picked to the plate and he said he would try eating them from now on, he said he didn’t like the potatoes because they were bland (I had said this word earlier) and I said that’s why I season my food when cooking and I said about putting salt on them, he said ‘salt didn’t taste of anything’ but this is the same boy who won’t eat some of his food without salt and he couldn’t give me a reason why he always asked for salt. We said if you can tell us why you don’t like these things or at least try the foods before deciding you don’t like them (Monday evening I made macaroni for him and put sweet corn on top, which he likes but he had never had it together before, he was going to refuse to eat it but once he tasted it even he said he liked it but confirmed to me tonight he won’t do it again).
Sometimes I feel like we turned a corner with him and then other times we feel like we’ve taken a few small steps back, I do try my absolute hardest with him, I buy him sandwich thins as he doesn’t like our bread, I make sure all his corners are covered in chocolate and I don’t even ask if he would like any kind of cooked breakfast ever since the first time I looked after him and took them to breakfast and he sat and refused to eat sausage and bacon, I had to order porridge for him or else he wouldn’t have eaten, I try and make sure that if we are eating a dish I know he would hate that I have an alternative for him but I think this is some of the problem, while my kids are on the spectrum and do have their odd quirks about some foods, in general if I put a dish in front of them they would eat most if not all of it, while this sounds incredibly ‘evil step mum’ like, my boys are grateful for their food and they are thankful for the cooking that goes into it and the time, he has never really be brought up like that and I guess that is the problem, my kids have always seen me and my ex husband cook, they’ve been involved, they ask to taste while cooking, they are able to tell us what they don’t like but above all, we’ve never given into their every whim when it comes to food, we told them from a very young age there is one thing you do when eating your dinner and that you never leave meat, with my step son he would be happy just to starve then eat the food I cook for him, I sound like an awful stepmother but with cracking so many other issues he has had, this one we just can’t crack and that is to eat normal, healthy food. Just this afternoon he refused to eat his sandwich because Adam put cucumber in his daughters sandwich and he said the bread smelt of cucumber, he refused lunch based on a smell, he did eat it eventually after he got so hungry. Cheese is another one, has it on a pasta bake and pizza but try and put some cheese on his plate he refuses to go near the plate, it is like he fears it in some way and I don’t know if it’s an underlying problem, while not eating carrots won’t harm him and it’s only 4 dinners a month he has with us, it would be nice if those 4 dinners wasn’t spent with his nose screwed up and fake crying because he doesn’t want to eat a bit of gammon and roast potatoes.
I have since said to Adam that I refuse to cook for him for the rest of the week, I’ll happily cook for myself and him but I can’t take another 2 dinners of him with his arms folded refusing to eat a potato just because it’s orange. He did hurt my feelings and one thing I’ve always been is honest with my own kids if they had said something hurtful or done something that upset me, as this is the only way they learn, I am hoping by my stepson knowing I was hurt and when he comes next time and I cook for him he remembers how I felt.
It’s hard being a step parent sometimes, it really is, I could just cook pasta both days but that’s not who I am and how I work, I do variety, I do different things and make dinners exciting, I make it a family affair, one where we talk and get involved, cooking together and making it event, I just wish he would get onboard with it too.