It occurred to me that five years ago I was sitting with kiddo at the University of Virginia's Kluge Feeding and Rehabilitation Clinic in Charlottesville, Virginia watching as the amazing therapists worked magic to try to get kiddo to eat and respond to their wonders. I thought that within that weeks time I would go home with a kid who would eat food, real food. We went home and he was still using the feeding tube, just ever so slightly less. He was still getting sick and repeating trips to the ER and would have to go back on the feeding tube 100% and then the oral aversions would take over. It was one step forward and two steps back. I spent my nights working and days getting him to pre-school then to Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy and sometimes I even slept a little. I would beg him to eat. His diet consisted of Tyson's chicken nuggets (only Tysons, they were the right texture), frozen corn kernels heated in the microwave, hotdogs cut into disks, pancakes, goldfish crackers, saltines and canned mandarin oranges. Other than that it was pretty limited.
Last week kiddo ate a chicken drumstick. I was elated. MacLeod sat down for dinner, we had already started and he saw kiddo disassembling the drumstick and MacLeod's face started to contort like he was about to scold kiddo for his actions. I darted a look at him that said "if-you-say-a-word-I-swear-I-will-stab-you-where-you-sit!" and his face melted. When kiddo sat down in his place at the table, he didn't make a disgusted face, he didn't tell me he thought that the food looked horrible he simply said "huh." He sat and dipped his finger into the sauce that I prepared and drizzled over the chicken and said "mom, I don't think I like the sauce." I said that that was ok, but he should try the chicken. So he continued without any argument. I am not sure if he was having a good day if he had just successfully built a Lego armada in his room or if all the stars in the planets had perfectly aligned to create this moment, but he began to eat the chicken ON THE DRUMSTICK, something he has never done before in his life. Ok, on the drumstick is a stretch, he did pull it off, wipe each piece on the napkin and pull the bits of chicken fat off and place them on the napkin as well, BUT, he ate it and that is the point.
I understand that this pattern of drumstick eating wouldn't hold up in a five-star restaurant, however I don't think they generally serve drumsticks in five-star restaurants and if they did, I certainly wouldn't order one for him. While MacLeod was a little horrified at the pulling apart of the chicken ala caveman-ish style, I did explain to him later the significance of it and he said he figured it out when I glared at him like I was going to murder him.
The drumstick isn't the only huge leap that kiddo has taken in the area of food, this past year has been full of amazing strides. Kiddo now loves sweet potatoes, though he hates sweet potato fries. He also decided that while watching me eat mixing up some of the foods like rice with beans makes the foods taste so much better, which is amazing because he would have never mixed textures a year ago. We still struggle with things and he definitely has his food preferences, but he has finally begun to maintain his own weight without the need of supplementation and is trying new things pretty regularly. I know that he will always have his preferences and very strong feelings about textures, tastes, smells and temperatures, but hey, don't we all?