We’re all on the mend from a hostage situation of another kind. The common cold. That bit of booger nastiness moved in and set up shop a few weeks ago, running through the house and the daycare with the efficiency of a brush fire. Usually, a common cold virus shows itself as runny noses and sneezing, and for almost everyone here, that’s all it was. For one little boy, however, it was something else.
TJ stopped eating. Completely. Within the span of 10 days, the sum of all he ingested barely amounted to the equivalent of a small snack. He dropped three and a half pounds. When he tops the scale fully clothed at 43.6lbs, three and a half pounds is a lot of boy that wasn’t there anymore. He was lethargic, exhausted, and easily agitated. He snuggled his rail thin, bony body next to mine, desperately seeking warmth and comfort.
It was really #*&$% frightening.
With the weight loss came behavior that I describe as fragile. Little upsets and things unexpected cause quick and unpredictable responses. Overwhelmed and helpless, TJ will lash out non-verbally with wails and screams. He will isolate himself from others, curl up into a ball and hide his head in his knees, clearly distraught. This is how TJ shows hunger during those times when he is most anxious about, well… anything really. He needs lots of reassurance, gentle guidance, and constant increases in blood sugar.
This morning, he took longer than necessary to get dressed. When he did finally make his way downstairs, breakfast is waiting for him, but he doesn’t want it. He doesn’t want to sit at the table with the other children, one in particular. He doesn’t want to be in the same room with anybody else.
It’s also raining, unseasonably warm, and windy. The perfect recipe to aggravate his environmental allergies. Introducing hungry child, now congested. Sure, I considered the ramifications of sending him to school in this state, but I can’t keep him home everyday it rains. I certainly don’t want to introduce a scenario where delaying breakfast rewards him with a day off school.
So we walked in the rain to the school bus stop. On the ride home yesterday afternoon, the resident bus bully had punched the kid who was sharing a seat with TJ in the face. The bully was climbing the steps to board the bus this morning when TJ spotted him just three children ahead in line, initiating a full on protest against getting on the bus. Thankfully, the driver understood and made a seat for him near the front, and away from the bully.
I waved at my sad, hungry, congested and now very frightened child as the bus turned the corner and headed toward the school. I called the school to alert them to expect an out of sorts child and that offering him an opportunity to eat something would very likely be helpful.
Half an hour later, the vice principal calls.
“TJ is sitting in the hallway, crying. He is refusing to go into the classroom.”
Cripes, can you blame him? He’s probably thinking, ‘What else is going to happen to me today?’ I explain that he hasn’t eaten… Allergies… Bully… I suggest reassuring him that he is safe and again suggest offering him something from his snack bag. Maybe some orange juice.
“I understand he has some issues with eating,” explains the vice principal. Great, someone was listening, “We obviously couldn’t force feed him….”
Force feed him? I asked if someone could hand him some orange juice. So much for the listening. Ten minutes later, the vice principal and TJ are in my driveway. The VP informs me that before TJ can return to school, we need to have a meeting.
On how to offer him orange juice?
I’d like to believe that this will lead to a better understanding, better communication and better support for TJ at school. This is what I hoped would happen when I explained what to expect from my son on rainy days and around food at the beginning of the school year. That has obviously been forgotten. The vice principal or the school social worker promised to call before the end of today so TJ could return to school tomorrow. That didn’t happen either.
Tomorrow is another day, possibly one that greets us with an eaten breakfast, sunshine and better behaviour. I know better days are ahead. We just need bigger servings of patience and understanding to get there.
What we need is a plan.
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My son stops eating as well when he is sick. As your son, mine does not have any reserve either. So it is even more heartbreaking to see them sick and not eating at all, thinking how long it will take him to bounce back. I dread it when he gets even the tiniest sniffle. And now to start all over with a even smaller tummy. It is even hard to push fluids. Sorry to hear the school is not very helpful.
Thank you for your kind comment. Up until this year, the school has been fairly forgiving. Perhaps the ongoing dispute between the teachers and the government has much to do with our current relationship with the school. Regardless, it’s a frustrating situation, one I hope will improve very soon.
I just recently found your blog and wanted to leave a message.
I also have a child with a feeding/eating disorder and, just like TJ, when he gets sick he often refuses to eat or drink completely which already landed us in hospital several times because of dehydration. So I know what you are going through. It is so tough to witness your child not eating or drinking and the worries get more and more.
I hope he will be better soon and start eating again!
Welcome, Joy! What a beautiful name. 🙂 As you well know, (unfortunately) it’s very scary to watch, but I am pleased to see TJ is eating again. While he’s out of the woods physically, it’s difficult to find the understanding he needs to recuperate mentally (in a behavioural sense). These things just take longer than than they do with a child that eats normally.
Thank you for your comment. I hope your little one is healthy and doing well. It’s comforting to know we aren’t struggling alone. xo
I am glad to hear that TJ is eating again! And I wish for him to recover mentally soon, too! xo
I’m sorry that you’ve had such a rough patch. It will get better! Im new to this blog, but how old is TJ?
Welcome! Hiccups are rarely pleasant, but thankfully, temporary. He’s 4 weeks shy of 7.
Scary stuff and wish I had an answer. Thinking of you all.
Kind thoughts are always appreciated. Thank you.