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I'll admit it. Sometimes I just plain hate feeding therapy. I love our therapist. She's very good at what she does and we are very lucky and grateful to have her. Raya has made SO much progress since we started working with her and my feelings have nothing to do with our therapist, but I hate feeding therapy. I'm not even entirely sure why, but it could have something to do with the feelings of resentment and inadequacy I feel when I watch my 2 1/2 year old willingly open her mouth for her therapist and take a bite of something that she's never been willing to take from me. Or having to be taught how to feed my own child, who is my 4th child. Or the fact that it reminds me that my motherly love for her wasn't enough to make her be able to eat in the first place. Or the fact that we even NEED feeding therapy. Yeah, that might have something to do with it.

For the last 2 weeks Raya has been fighting this head cold and junky cough that thankfully she's finally over now. Since she first got sick, she's refused almost every food I've offered her. She's even refused sour cream. All she's wanted to eat is ice cubes, a little bit of sour cream here and there, and an occasional cracker. I've tried to give her other things but she wouldn't go beyond a small nibble of the few things she actually accepted from me. Since she was sick and that's how it always is when she gets sick, I didn't force the issue. Not worth it.

Tuesday, her feeding therapist came for the first time in about a month due to vacations & canceling because Raya was sick last week. I didn't expect much out of Raya. I told her therapist about how great she did with trying new things when we were in Idaho but that a lot of it didn't agree with her stomach. I told her how Raya ate 4 whole french fries when we went out for Donny's birthday a few weeks ago, which she had NEVER done before. Then I told her how Raya had been sick and stopped eating anything but ice.

(This is the part that made me want to say that I hate feeding therapy.)
After we had caught up on the last month, I got out some baby food puree and a slice of a baguette for Raya. To make a long aggravating story short, all her therapist had to do was give her mini M&Ms and the little stink ate about 1/4 cup of the baby food and half of the piece of bread. She made yuck faces at first but she really likes those little M&Ms so she ate it anyway. Swallowed it down like a champ. Chewed up the nice neat bites of bread and swallowed those too. Why was this aggravating for me? Because I had tried to get her to eat the exact same baby food the day before. It tasted good, I tried it. It was one of those fancy new pouch baby foods. (I had a coupon so it was free.:) She refused. She clamped her mouth shut, pushed my hand away, knocked it off the spoon, made a mess with the little pouch, etc.

I know I looked annoyed. I should have been excited to see how much she ate and how well she ate it, but I wasn't. It actually made me angry. It was just another straw on the camel's back in a very frustrating and difficult week for me. I was annoyed that Raya was eating so well just because she knew she'd get candy. Her therapist asked me if I'd tried rewarding her for taking bites while we're sitting down for dinner. Of COURSE I haven't been doing that. It goes against EVERY fiber of my being to bribe my child to eat by giving her candy in between bites of food so it had never even occurred to me to try it since our last FT visit. I'll reward a kid for going potty in the toilet, but to reward her with candy for eating a bite of something? That just feels wrong in every way.

I get her point though. This is a SIGNIFICANT developmental delay. Raya has no innate motivation to eat and hunger signals (if she has any) mean relatively nothing to her. Eating is hard work for her. She doesn't derive enough pleasure from the sensation of being full or the flavor or texture of food to make her feel like it's worth the effort. Because she lacks that innate instinctual drive to eat, she has to be given external motivators. Up until her therapist brought M&Ms last month, there really wasn't anything that motivated her. We had tried treats before and she was indifferent to them. For whatever reason though, she has decided that she will work for candy and I do understand that because it's working, we need to go with it. Which leads me to the title of this post: Farties.

When we were in Idaho, Raya discovered that she likes Smarties. She can't seem to make the "sm" sound though, and she replaces it with a big fat "F" sound. Farties. I giggle immaturely to myself every time she says, "I want Farties!" Or, "Can I have Farties?" Crass as it may be, finding amusement in things like that has been a great coping mechanism for me over the past 2 1/2 years. There are so many times when I've had to choose between laughing and crying and I'd rather laugh so I do, even if it's because my daughter uses the letter F instead of the letter S. I don't have any mini M&Ms but I have a bag of Farties in the cupboard, so I decided to try and duplicate what we did at feeding therapy with her this afternoon.

Raya wanted sour cream so I told her she could have a bite of sour cream if she took a bite of baby food. (I had another pouch of a baby food puree that I got for free. This one had a princess on the front but it was not very tasty.) She was not excited about my offer, so I told her she could have a Smartie if she ate a bite of it. She ate it and then said, "Have Fartie?" and held out her hand. Once she had eaten it, I told her that if she ate another bite, she could have a bite of sour cream. She reluctantly ate another bite while making a yuck face, and then I gave her a bite of sour cream.
(body language speaks louder than words, eh? :)
I continued to make her offers of bites of baby food in exchange for a Smartie or a bite of sour cream and she continued to accept. In between, she'd say, "I want 2 Farties." or "I want more Farties." or "Yay! Farties!" Go ahead and try to keep a straight face while you read that. Immature as it may be, it's downright funny when it's coming out of a 2 year old who is talking about candy and doesn't understand why that's funny.
I used to think that I didn't care what it took to get Raya to eat. I'm still very happy with the amazing progress she's made in the last year, and I'm so proud of her for what she's overcome. However, when I thought that I didn't care what it would take to get her to eat, I didn't realize it was going to mean bribing her with candy. I don't like it. It doesn't feel right. But, like I've said before, the rule book went out the window a long time ago with this girl. Just like we've been doing all along, we'll keep doing what we have to do to get her through to the next phase. I've had to re-adopt my little mantra that got me through the crazy hospital and testing phase: It won't be like this forever. (And she'd better listen to that because heck if I'm going to keep giving her candy to eat good food for very long!!)


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