I can see you, standing at the kitchen counter, packing up another lunch you’re sure you’ll see again, nearly intact, in seven hours. I see you cutting that tortilla in half a little too angrily, putting cookies in a bag in a ritually delicate way, hoping that if you don’t break them, she’ll eat a whole cookie instead of the half that breaks. I see you counting raspberries, asking yourself how many she can eat during her snack time so that, by lunch, she’ll only have more calorie-dense food left to fill her up.
I see you struggling not to ask her if she ate her lunch when you greet her after school. I see you handing her a banana right there on the playground, too distracted by waiting for her to peel it to really hear how her day was. I hear your teeth clenching. I can feel your toes curling in your shoes as you chant, in your head, take a bite take a bite oh my lord take a fucking bite, NOW.
You weren’t as quiet as you thought you were, not quite as gentle as you were trying to be. Though you wanted her relationship with food and her body to be positive and healthy, the universe had other plans for the both of you. Desperately trying not to repeat the lessons of your past — less is better, always walk away hungry, nothing tastes better than being thin feels — you swung wide and angry in another direction as you tried to heal and grow the tiny, fragile, post-surgical version of your daughter.
You were supposed to let her listen to her body, but you weren’t the right person to teach that lesson.
I’m writing to you from the other side of feeding therapy. I saw you sit miserably on those ugly upholstered chairs in that basement waiting room while your daughter ate lunch with someone better than you. I saw you smile and nod and hug your girl as she came out, giggling, with an assignment sheet for you:
- “Don’t say ‘finish‘ all the time during lunch.”
- “Let me have a bedtime snack even if I didn’t finish dinner.”
- “Give me a smoothie to take with me.”
Here on the other side, I am telling you: thank you. Your ego was crushed and smashed and battered in that waiting room, more than in any waiting room in any hospital or clinic in all the years you’d been searching for the answer to the picked-at plates of food that haunted every meal you shared with her. You felt helpless and empty-handed, and you packed those lunches all summer to send with her into the therapist’s office, knowing that, once again, you’d had to give up on your own power.
But you did it anyway.
Here I am, two years later. Here she is, two years later. Meals are uncomplicated, joyful adventures. The words “finish, please, come ON,” never leave my lips. She rounded a corner, she and her mind and her body, and she reached her hand back for mine and pulled me with her. As lonely and defeated as you felt back there in that waiting room, you were not alone. You went back and went back and went back, and by doing that, you told her, “this is worth our asking for help.”
She eats just fine now. She eats normally now. She is healthy now. I thought you might like to know.
You, Two Years Later