Food aversions….another thing to juggle,and small steps are big achievements

I’ve talked a lot about the challenges involved with a child multiple allergies.  We are still very grateful that so far almost all are gut reactions, and there is only one that is looking like an IGE reaction. But we are still at a place where our little boy only has 25 foods that we know are safe. But in the last 4-6 months we’ve encountered a whole new game….. food aversion! 

Food aversion is different to being a picky eater.  It’s refusing to eat whole food groups or refusing to eat any food apart from very specific foods.  In our case it started as a refusal to eat anything that required chewing after a period of being ill.  It then also embraced refusing most vegetables and only wanting Ham and cucumber! Tough enough for a child with a varied diet, but trickier with such a limited diet.  

I must admit I am very grateful for our very supportive and understanding dietician.She talked through some good basic ground rules, and gave us some helpful literature. Learning not to make food a battle from early on has been really important. We’ve learnt to give him some closed choices on what he can eat. We’ve made eating about family time sitting together, and we’ve made it fun. But it is hard when you have a child refusing to eat. Even more so when you know every 6 months a health professional is checking his height and weight to make sure it’s all on target (whatever target means??? ) 

We became more reliant on the prescription formula,which still accounts for up to half of his daily calories. We’ve delayed taking a bottle away,as we know he needs to take the formula,even though we know for dental development we need to be moving away from a bottle. We’re having to choose our battles. 
In the last couple of months,and more so the last couple of weeks, we’re seeing big steps forward. New textures aren’t being rejected! We’ve successfully managed to introduce some new snacks that he will not only try, but devour! Things that just mean we can buy a few more things rather than have to make them from scratch! These for us are huge leaps forward! I never knew a little boy’s willingness to eat a pom bear would make me so happy!! 

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A summer of firsts and lasts

The last 3 months has certainly been a busy season in our lives. It’s been a time of lots of firsts and lots of lasts!

As a parent it was my first time of feeling totally helpless during the long wait from exams to results day. There was nothing I could do to impact or change the results. I just had to wait.

I witnessed my son complete his last day at secondary school. It was a day of pride, when he was recognised for what he had done outside of lessons to help others through sport; a day of closing a door on a huge chapter of parenting my eldest as he moved on to his next journey. It was also the start of a process of letting go as a parent.

We then moved into a period of the toddler really changing in his development…. walking finally arrived, as did running, tripping, and a huge determination to do it for himself. New words are spilling out daily, which come with frustrations for us all. We hit one of those “leaps” which resulted in a lack of sleep. Oh and then we all had to deal with a heatwave!

Holidaying with a toddler and a teen was a new challenge. The teen missed lie ins, because the toddler didn’t do them, and noise travels freely in a tent. But they also spent special tunes together as brother’s – especially on the water slide in the pool and the rides as the local theme park! I loved watching them bond and enjoy the time together. It’s amazing to watch.

We then did the first of results day. I discovered that I was more emotional about the results than my son! But that actually we were both in a state of tension. We also did some good talking that day and week and I felt things shift to the next level, where he takes even more responsibility.

Whatever age your child, it’s hard to let go as they take the next steps. Letting go of my toddlers hands physically so that he can walk on his own, or metaphorically letting go on my teenagers hands as he walked into college on his own to enrol. The worrying doesn’t go. It just changes. With one I worry he’s going to fall or step off something not realising there is a drop, with the other I worry about bigger life choices.

It’s been a summer of change, but good change and essential change. This is a period of change for us all as a family, but the one thing I know is that none of us are doing any of it alone.

Small steps

Life is made up of small pleasures. Happiness is made up of those tiny successes. The big ones come too infrequently. And if you don’t collect all these tiny successes, the big ones don’t really mean anything.

This is so true in where I am at in my parenting journey at the moment. With both of my boys.
With my eldest we are celebrating the small successes being made as we approach GCSEs, and ticking off little milestones as we work towards the big milestone. I say we, because this really is a family effort. He might do the studying and the writing of the exams, but we are doing this together. Our plans are structured to support him and encourage him through each stage.
At the end of this stage we will be moving on to the next big stage. Some big steps have happened…..college interview, course place offer….and acceptance, mock exams done, big coursework assessments done. All steps that need to be completed, and all that need to be embraced and celebrated in different ways.
With my youngest we’ve been celebrating some of the small successes that are helping him to achieve the normal milestones, that all parents celebrate. After finally getting a physio assessment, we’ve got shoes. Earlier than normally recommended, and against everything I’d been told, but essential in the first steps to help sort his feet and legs. Currently his feet – mainly one but the other is also a problem – turn inwards and under. This has affected his ability to walk. His mind was very definitely willing, but his body didn’t follow.
In the 5 days since having his new boots, his confidence in balance, standing, and walking with a walker or furniture or our fingers has leaped ahead. The look of determination on his face as he takes each step is amazing to see. The smiles and laughs as he reaches his destination quicker each time are fabulous to capture. I want to shout and scream with excitement and let everyone know about each small step, as it is such an achievement. I know some of this is normal for any parent, and so I hold back too.
What I am remembering is that at any age achievements need to be celebrated for each child. Each child is unique and they will achieve at the age and pace that is right for them. Yes there are times that help is needed because something isn’t working properly etc, but that is also ok and good. I am a proud mum, and I’m not sorry for that. I am my boys biggest champion in the world, and I always will be.
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Enjoying memories

I’ve been spending some time recently liking back over photos of when my eldest was a lot younger. The photos of the day he was born, his first nativity, starting school, learning to ride a bike. The list goes on.

At times it feels like I’m looking back on someone else’s life. My life as an individual and as a parent has changed so much since they were taken. The wonderful world of timehop also reminds me of moments. Recently it’s reminded me of the day my eldest son was seriously ill, and how the support of amazing family and friends got us through. Its reminded me of when he broke his top jaw at school and how we’re still fixing the mess now, 7 years later! But it’s also reminded me of other big milestones….. concerts he sung in, being enrolled as a Beaver Scout, scoring for his basketball team.

I’ve seen memories of friendships that still last today, and of others that might not be the same anymore but are great treasured memories. I’ve seen images that remind me of all the milestones. All have made me smile.

Importantly, this has all reminded me about the importance of continuing to make more memories. Not just with my teenage son or just with the toddler, but with them both. Together and separately, that time is important and can’t be got back. Its also important for us to value our family time and not lose it in busyness and technology. One day in the not too distant future my teenager will be an adult and will be making his own life away from us. So i will keep cherishing the moments with him as i know those are going to be more and more limited.

Children spell love… T-I-M-E.” – Dr. A. Witham

September starts

I’m not a parenting expert. In fact, I’m not sure that I even believe in the idea of ‘parenting experts.’ I’m an engaged, imperfect parent and a passionate researcher. I’m an experienced mapmaker and a stumbling traveler. Like many of you, parenting is by far my boldest and most daring adventure.
Brene Brown

Like many families September signaled the end of a very busy summer holidays, and back for the final year of school for my eldest son. That for me was a big moment emotionally. Being aware that we are entering a new final phase of this stage of his education and having to make decisions together about the next steps.

But this September also signaled a new routine for me and our younger son on several levels. We have started a couple of new activities in our weekly diary. We have moved to a new swimming class and we both love going for both the social time and the skills it is giving him. Just spending time with him enjoying the water and knowing that he is unlikely to have any reactions while we are there is a huge relief and so I relax. We have also started a Sing and Sign class, which looks at baby signing while doing lots of singing – which he loves. I am really wary about joining classes as it is so hard to find an environment where he is safe and away from his many allergens. But I was so encouraged to go to a space that was clear of allergens and in a place where they understand the potential implications of him coming in to contact with an allergen.

Finally I am now back working part-time. This was a big step for me to take, as I knew it would mean leaving the baby with someone else for part of the week. I know for most parents this is a big thing, and for us it was coupled with finding child care that could cope with our son’s health needs. He has multiple allergies. Currently he only has 17 foods he can eat safely after 4.5 months of introducing foods! I was lucky enough to know a lovely friend who also child minds, and she had space for 1 day a week. With support from my in-laws for another afternoon, most of my hours are covered, and the rest work round my life. The job is the perfect option for me, my husband and our sons. It gives me the flexibility needed for the many hospital appointments I have to go to with the baby, and it gives me the input and stimulation I need for me as a woman who has always loved her career in fundraising.

But leaving my baby for 18 hours in a week is a big thing for me, after 3 weeks it still is. I constantly wonder if what I am doing is the right thing. Is being at work the best thing for me? for my sons? for my relationship? I know it is the right thing. It has given me back a different perspective on life I was missing. It has given me space to breathe and be me. Just me. Not wife or mum. Just me. It has also helped me value my time at home even more. Some days are hard. I am terrified that my baby will reach a milestone while not at home with me. I am worried that my teenager will need my support with school difficulties while I am at the office. I worry, cos part of that is who I am. I know socially it is doing amazing things for my son, and both my in laws and friend who is a childminder totally have his best interests at heart and give him the best care possible, but I am still am mum and will worry. It’s ok to worry. It’s normal.

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Doing things for the last time for No 1

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Today I have loved seeing posts on social media from family and friends as the big September return to school starts. 4 years ago today I shared the post of my eldest as he started secondary school. But I’ve also found the start of this week emotional. Today I labelled up his school uniform for the last time. We went out and bought the stationery to cover a mass of subjects for the last time.

Tomorrow my son starts his last year of secondary school. He’s starting this year taller than me! He’s starting as a Senior Prefect. He’s only got just over 2 terms of school left. Next month we are going to look round his potential sixth form college. We’re talking about choices that will have an even bigger impact on his future.

I know he’s growing up, and enabling him to become the independent young man he has become I see as one of my greatest roles in life. He’s an amazing son, friend, big brother, leader, discipler. But he’s also in many ways still my baby. He’s the baby I held in my arms seconds after he was born. He’s the boy I’ve picked the pieces up of after accidents, the boy I’ve cuddled on the tough days and celebrated with on the good days.

I’m sending him out to school tomorrow confident that however hard the next few months are, he will certainly give it his all, and do it with us and God on his side. So yes I’m going through some “lasts” but we are also going towards the next season of “firsts” and I am excited for him and what his future holds.

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