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Tandy! I Like Tandy!

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.)


5 Responses to “Tandy! I Like Tandy!”

  1. Snick :) says:

    I had to change the rules up when dd2 came home. She would say (eventually, when she learned to talk) “all done” when I knew she really wanted the “good sweet stuff” she knew was coming!

    I changed the rules (and they are very very different from dd1’s rules, which continue normally).

    For dd2, the sweet stuff stays off the table until “enough” of the main course is eaten. She doesn’t have to “clean her plate” but she does have to eat most of it. Then she has her milk. Then a fruit is offered. Then a sweet (a cookie or something). If she says “I’m done” and pushes dinner away (she always gets food she adores) then I say “you must be full” and offer her no more food.

    She’s getting it as more and more often, she eats most, if not all of her dinner/lunch. And then moves onto the other stuff.

    Good luck, self-regulation with food is very hard to teach our kiddos. Well worth the effort though.
    Best,
    Snick, single mama
    dd1 Sunshine, Viet Nam 8
    dd2 Brilliance, Fuling China 3

  2. Nancy says:

    My Chinese daughter liked candy, but not really any other sweets like cookies or cake. She didn’t like anything cold, so milk and ice cream and even popsicles were out. (This has definitely changed!) But she did love spicy stuff and she really loved soup. She also liked what I call ‘junky meat’ like hot dogs, bologna, sausage.

    I think you do have to adjust meals to fit her, and leaving the cookies till the end is not going to kill your other kids. Rory’s adjusted to so much, and this is an adjustment the rest of you can make painlessly. My older daughter was a preemie and very picky about what she ate (basically maccaroni), and it wasn’t fair to expect a child from China, who’d had a very spicy diet, to have to eat like DD#1 (I was actually happy to have someone to share salsa and spice with). My first daughter needed the calories, so I couldn’t just demand we all eat the same things; she wouldn’t eat anything ‘yucky’ and that was just about everything. We adjusted. Many meals were a little of this, a little of that for a long time, so that everyone got something she would eat. Ten years later, they each like things they didn’t when they were 3.

    How about an advent calendar, the kind with little drawers, for her candy and she can eat one piece a day? If there is no piece in there, she doesn’t get one.

    Nancy

  3. we have lots of food regulation issues with our daughter. after 4 months home she does really good with our guidelines. she ALWAYS asks for more…no matter how much she has already eaten. we now kinda of use our other kids to judge how much is really enough…when we 1st came home 4 plates of lasagna seemed normal to her! lol

    so now we just say no more and she is fine with it. we also do not allow any junk until the meal is decently eaten. no one in the family is allowed the dessert until the last person finishes usually…BUT in the instance that we do allow it she shovels in the food with craziness.

    i don’t think her issues with food is really about control because she doesn’t seemed to attached to it and she is not tramatized when we say no more. i really think she doesn’t understand how to say enough is enough because in 3 years she never had that option. hopefully with time we won’t have to monitor it for her.

    and ps. our daughter eats EVERYthing….in China she would eat NOTHING but rice:)

  4. Lisen says:

    Yep. CANDY! Even after 4 years at home in a house with next to zero candy consumption (baked goods, yes! Ice-cream, you betcha’- I am from teh Dairy State after all), Larkin’s entire X-mas list last year was this: a family photo of Santa and a bag of candy. She also jumps at every chance to go to the dump with Jason b/c they give out lollipops at the dump.

    And Chloe too! She can say maybe 4 words total after a year at home, but one those words, and the clearest one I might add, is LOLLIPOP!

  5. Lisen says:

    Yep. CANDY! Even after 4 years at home in a house with next to zero candy consumption (baked goods, yes! Ice-cream, you betcha’- I am from the Dairy State after all), Larkin’s entire X-mas list last year was this: a family photo of Santa and a bag of candy. She also jumps at any & every chance to go to the dump with Jason b/c they give out lollipops at the dump.

    And Chloe too! She can say maybe 4 words total after a full year at home, but one those words, and the clearest one I might add, is LOLLIPOP!

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