So, below a couple of pictures we have a lovely picture of the candy-smeared Rory. I haven’t figured out her relationship with food yet, or what I should be trying to do for her. She’s got some oddities–for example, she sucks down any sugary drink she’s given, from Sprite (thank you, China) to chocolate milk, before eating. Some foods she just mainlines–any snack, for example, or the little boxes of cereal they serve at a breakfast buffet. Either you take it, or she eats it until it’s gone. Some days she eats through fruit and veggies like crazy–for example, while I’m making dinner–but she doesn’t tend to eat them if they’re on her breakfast plate.
My plan with food has always been to just offer what we offer–for example, if there are cookies with lunch, you get your two cookies at the same time as the sandwich, and that’s it. I don’t want to put undue weight on certain foods as good or bad–we talk healthy and stuff like that, of course, I just don’t want dessert to be the reward for eating, and I’ve always felt “finish your macaroni so you can have your ice cream” to be silly–ice cream is probably more nutritious than macaroni and cheese. But I digress…
Anyway, I’m having a hard time holding to that with Rory, It’s worked well with all three others. They often eat the sandwich and leave the cookies, Rory will eat the cookies, then refuse the rest in the hope that somehow more cookies will materialize. In a world of endless cookies, this bothers me. She has to learn to regulate herself. But I don’t want to create dinner before dessert rules, or apply different rules to her than to the others. Nor do I want to stop serving cookies. But she consistently eats only the worst food on her plate, then waits for the next meal to do the same. I’m feeling thwarted. But school’s about to start, and food will be more limited to certain times and places. Guess I’ll focus on that.
I have noticed that lots of China adoptees are funny about candy–we were talking about it on an adoption Yahoo group–so here’s my theory:
You’re a Chinese nanny. You love the kids you take care of, but it’s very hard work. Candy is dirt cheap, and it calms them down quickly. You’re not thinking long-term–any problems that come with the candy in the long run won’t be your problems. You’re thinking about making your life easier.
So I suspect there are two possibilities with candy that dominate in most situations: one, it’s rare and a huge treat and thus to be hoarded or two, it’s delivered randomly, to quiet you down and sometimes–say, at a doctor’s office–in large quantities. The one thing I DON”T imagine there is, except in a real family foster home, is the kind of rule or candy philosophy that most of us have set up in our homes…I think that’s the reason why a lot of us see odd behavior surrounding candy and sometimes sweets.
Rory came to us with, literally, a backpack FULL of candy, which she clutched all day. She stuffed it into her cheeks like a squirrel. Occasionally she would put it down, but the minute she became anxious or stressed, it was back to the backpack of candy. We knew we were making progress when she offered to share…but the candy craziness continued for quite a while. She couldn’t leave candy alone, and we, too, would find her with other kids’ candy, or any candy she could get. If she wasn’t stuck to me like velcro, you could pretty much guarantee that she was huddled in a corner somewhere with either a) candy or b) my phone. We are pretty mellow about candy, with the result that the kids can take it or leave it–birthday party bags are usually sampled and them quickly forgotten, but not my her. I wondered if she would ever mellow out; I pictured her barfing everywhere at Halloween.
After 6 weeks, it’s definitely better. She might return candy half eaten, although she will never leave it unwrapped. I’m hopeful that by Halloween, we’ll have at least a semi-healthy relationship with the sweet stuff. But I do think this is about there having been very much a feast or famine approach in her large foster home–I bet some nannies gave lots, and some none!
(I know that in some areas, the poverty really would prevent candy, but that’s not what I saw in Fuzhou–it was more the kind of poverty that allows for minor treats but struggles otherwise, like you might see in the US, in many–but not all–cases.)