The seven hurtful things people say about my child with an eating disorder

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My beautiful blue eyed daughter has recently been diagnosed with an eating disorder at the tender age of seven. While some people have been very supportive others have said some things that really hurt. Here are the most hurtful things I have been told so far:

1. She will eat when she is hungry!
No she will not. If she did she would not have been diagnosed with an eating disorder. She doesn’t ask for food or drink and is not aware when she is hungry. She would go all day without drinking or eating and not even realise.

2. That is what happens when you give in to fussy children!
So is giving my daughter the food she will actually eat and keeping her alive giving in to her? So the fact she would starve herself to the point of requiring medical attention should be ignored just so that I don’t ‘give in’ to her? In that case when you next go to a restaurant or take away don’t bother looking through the menu at what you would like just take whatever they give you and eat it! There is a clear distinction between a child with fussy eating, a child with major sensory issues and a child with a complex eating disorder.

3. Maybe if you let her make it she would eat it.
My daughter enjoys making cakes and dinners and puddings. She enjoys shopping for ingredients and following recipes. But she still refuses to eat it. There is a big difference between cooking and eating. While some children’s issues include handling, mixing and cooking food, my daughter will happily participate in these activities until you ask anything to pass her mouth. I wish I could explain why that is, but I can’t.

4. Can’t you just force feed her?
That seems like abuse to me. Yes there have been times where I have had to almost force vital medications into her and spoon feed her yoghurt or pureed fruit just to get something inside her. But force feeding her would not only have a huge phycological impact on her metal wellbeing but it would also send her the message that she has no control or choice. When I tried feeding her before she would simply vomit it back up. She needs to be able to control what goes inside her mouth and learn that food is good. I need to teach her that eating is positive and not a forced issue that creates distrust and upset.

5. You should try taking cookery classes. Maybe she just doesn’t like your cooking?
This is implying that I am the cause of my child’s mental disorder. Thank you for that! Are you aware I have another child who not only loves my cooking but often wants more and eats vegetables, fruit, salad and a good range of meats and carbohydrates? Have you seen the meals I make for my children? I don’t need guilt heaped on me on top of the stress I already have. That only makes things worse.

6. They never had such rubbish in my days. You just ate what was put in front of you when I was young.
I am so glad you were able to eat the food you were given. I am very confident there would have been children and adults around in ‘your day’ who also had eating disorders you just may not have been aware of them. As awareness grows and more people are willing to talk about these things the more it may ‘appear’ to increase, though I believe it has always been there.

7. Let me have her for a week and I will cure her.
Thank you once again for making me feel inferior and inadequate. What you may not realise is that I would never put my daughter through the stress and anxiety of living with anyone else for a week. Her issues run deep and she requires patience, understanding and love. I would love one day for her to be ‘cured’ but until then we work daily with psychologists, her school, paediatricians and a dietician to monitor her mental well being and physical health. Would you manage to juggle all of that?

Eating disorders and mental health in young children are so often misunderstood. Every single day is hard to watch my beautiful baby struggle with something as basic as eating. It is heartbreaking to watch her lose weight. It is scary thinking of the future. She needs support and understanding, not judgement or pressure.

So what could you say to me instead?

How about ‘do you fancy a coffee and a chat?’ Or simply celebrate the good days with me when she perhaps manages her first ever packet of crisps or half of a banana?
We are not going anywhere. And sadly neither is her eating disorder.
Whatever the future holds I will be right there holding my daughters hand. We will get through this together.

Dear parent, please forgive me

Dear parent, please forgive me

I am trying to think what I need to buy for dinner tonight. I don’t need to hear your child screaming in my ear and shouting at you. Is the supermarket really the place to bring your child when they are like that?
Dear parent of THAT child…I am sorry I judged you. I am you now and it is tough. I had no right to look down on you or think wrong of you or your child. Please forgive me.

Oh really? I nearly knocked your child down in the middle of the road! Could you not keep a closer eye on them? Or even better teach them road sense!
Dear parent of THAT child…I now understand completely! One second was all it took! And you told them so often and yet they still did it. It just isn’t alway possible to hold them every single minute of every day. I went off at you that day. I am sorry. Please forgive me. And please look out for my child when you are driving too.

There is NO way I would let a child that age have a dummy in their mouth! That is appalling! It is so bad for their speech, their teeth and it looks terrible!
Did I seriously think that? Gosh I was so ignorant! Dear parent, I am sorry I judged you without thinking. I am now THAT parent with a seven year old clinging to dear life for his ‘dum dum’. I get it now! Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do and ignore others. I have no idea what battles your child was facing or what was causing them to need comfort that day. Who was I to judge? I am now back in that baby aisle with a child three quarters of my height and thinking of you.

Why would you put a child as old as that in a buggy when they should be walking! Honestly some parents are just so lazy and do anything for an easy life!
Someone should have slapped me! I am now THAT parent of a much older child who has only in the last year moved from a disability buggy to a wheelchair. I am still pushing him and I am sure many people think of me now as a lazy parent! If only they knew. If only I had known all those years ago!

I wasn’t nasty before I had children. But looking back I was judgemental. I knew about parenting. I was aware of disabilities.

But I was not living it.

I never knew that pain when you feel the world is staring at you in a supermarket because your child decides to have a hissy fit because you said no. I never knew that shock and adrenalin rush when you suddenly see a car approach your child who has wandered into the middle of the road and your heart misses a beat. I had idealistic views of children and the stages they should go through.

Dear parents, please forgive me.

I am now you. And this is harder than I ever thought it would be. I salute you. And I hope you forgive me.

From a parent who once looked down on you.

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The reason I write

imageToday marks three years since I started blogging.

In that time I have gained experience, followers and a lot of views. But what made me start blogging and why do I continue when I have been accused of exploiting my children, damaging them and even attention seeking?
Well the answer can be found in the name of my blog: Faithmummy.

The week after I had my 36th birthday it dawned on me that I was suddenly nearer forty than I was thirty and it was time to do something with my life. So I prayed. Prayer is my default setting because I have a strong faith.
I thought I had ONE story to share. So I looked online at how to do this. It was too long for social media standard posts and I could not find a suitable online forum so looked into blogging. I set up a blog and prayed. And then began to write.
And as I wrote I felt there would be more to come but that was all I knew.I clicked publish and put it on my own Facebook. It seemed popular. I was taken aback!
A few days later I contacted my brother who I knew had an already established professional blog in his field of expertise. I asked him one question..
So what do I do now?
He said that I would have to update it and that many people do this weekly!
Weekly? But I only had one story!
So I prayed. And the next week I felt I had something else to write.
So I updated my blog and people read it.
As the next week approached I prayed. And then I wrote.
167 posts later, I pray, and then I write.
And if I don’t feel I have something to share I wait.

So the number one reason I write is because I feel God wants me to write. Wether people read it or not, I write for me.

Before I press ‘publish’ I pray, sometimes ‘sleep on it’, send it to a friend or speak to my closest earthly friend of all, my husband. Sometimes we all need wise council to keep us right.
Maybe some weeks I get it wrong. I am sure I do. But God is gracious and I believe he knows my heart. And I believe He is supernaturally protecting my children in it all.
No-one really knows the difficulties and opposition I have faced in my blogging journey and neither do many people know my statistics. It is a personal journey in many ways despite the fact I write publicly.

I can not tell you all the places my blog has appeared. I can not tell you the names of the people it has helped. But what I can say with confidence is that the person who has been the most touched, transformed and become closer to God in it all is me. The bigger my audience the more I need Him. And the more I pray.

I am just a mummy.

A mummy who can not face what I face without my faith.

I share from my heart, and I hope in some way I share from God’s heart too.

By the grace of God Faithmummy was birthed and by the grace of God it continues.

You might think it is about my children. But in actual fact it is about me: me as a mum, and my faith.

So even though I now write for several different places this blog will remain as Faithmummy and until I feel the time is right to stop, I will write.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for sharing. But mostly thank you for being part of my journey.

YOU make Faithmummy what it is!

Happy birthday Faithmummy!

A moment of beauty at build-a-bear

Kids are so full of surprises! Just weeks after Christmas and the usual delude of new toys and games and what was my daughter wanting to play with? A teddy bear she has had for years! Now reincarnated with a new name and involved in all sorts of fresh imaginary play; I knew what was coming next…

Mum, I can’t find Ellie’s clothes?

Imagine my confusion! Who or what is Ellie? Followed by the panic of realising I not only have no idea where the once-buried-under-the-bed-in-a-box toy appeared from but how did she even remember it had clothes? And she seriously expects me to just pull out this last seen in 2013 teddies coat and boots? What? Goodness, this mamma can barely remember the day of the week let alone anything else! We dug in the we-have-no-idea-where-else-to-put-this-stuff box to no avail and alas I began to wonder if these ‘suddenly in demand’ items she can not live without now could have ‘accidentally’ jumped into my car boot in the pre-Christmas clear out. Oh what an awful parent I am! I shall pre-book my daughter to that counsellor she is sure to need when older!

And sometimes, for our own sanity, we make a promise we know our bank account will live to regret!

Ok, this weekend we shall take Elizabeth, Ellie, ..whoever, to the bear shop and buy her an outfit. Ok?

And breathe!

Well until today when that eager eyed baby woke and ran into my bed to announce today was the day her bear was getting new clothes! That’s it, NOTHING is ever getting thrown out again, you hear me!

So we excitedly (well reluctantly on my part!) got prepared to go. And this is when it gets complicated! As well as my way too attentive daughter I also have the honour of being mum to my son who has complex needs. How in the name of whoever am I going to get this boy of mine into build-a-bear? It’s not like you can buy a bear and get a free burger now? And the last time I checked they had no lift or hand dryer? So that’ll be a ‘no chance mum’ as per!

Flip! Could Elizabeth, Emily, sorry Ellie not become a naturist for a while until you find some other old toy? That look…well if you are a parent you know what I am referring to…it said it all!

So let’s just get this over with!

You are kidding me? Really?

My son, aged seven, who has never in his life touched a teddy, who has yet to speak, who has no idea about imaginative play…is standing over a basket of teddy ‘skins’ and has ‘chosen’ one he wants! STOP!

He is in the shop. He is not screaming. He has not wrecked the entire place.

Now THAT was worth coming!

Now how do I explain this ‘teddy’ needs stuffed by a loud, spinning machine full of white ‘stuff’? He doesn’t know what a teddy is? Or maybe he does?

Well he waited, and he ‘chose’ an outfit, unsurprisingly one that closely resembled his own beloved school uniform (he doesn’t care it was a skirt) and a red bag to match. Meanwhile I dreaded to imagine what his sister had seen! Have you seen the prices of these clothes? I pay less for my own clothes and I can assure you they are a whole lot bigger!

She settled on…the exact same uniform, a pair of pyjamas…and the added ‘accessory’ of…a wheelchair! She announced in front of the entire shop that her bear just wanted to be like her brother. And how do you argue with that?

Ok, mr build a bear, your prices are crazy, your appeal far too great, your choice better than the average high street shop for ‘real’ people, and I never want to visit for a good while until my bank account recovers…

But I have to admit, you gave me a moment of beauty today. I even hasten to say a miracle. The boy who has no teddies now has one. And he hasn’t let it go since! And you ‘normalised’ using a wheelchair for a child who sometimes struggles at how different her brother is.

So cheers! I owe you one!

P.s, a coffee shop to give me a moment to recover may not be a bad thing! I’ll leave that with you 🙂

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The day my five year old changed her class without saying a word

imageLike every mum I was terrified when my baby started full time school. Even as I dressed her in her shirt and tie I wondered yet again if mainstream was going to be the right place for her.

I had more reason than most to worry as she left that day still unable to dress herself and not yet potty trained, diagnosed with autism and selective mutism, and despite having had an extra year at nursery already, she was still one of the smallest children.

On top of all that she carries a heavy burden wherever she goes even at the tender age of five.

I often wonder if professionals realise the daily weight that siblings carry on their shoulders every day?

As well as her own diagnosis my beautiful blue eyed girl is the twin sister of a boy with even more complex needs. He has tumours, severe autism, challenging behaviour, global delay and is non verbal. She has to live with that at the fragile age of five.

How would she manage without him as his school placement was 14 miles away from hers? How would anyone know to meet her personal needs if she was unable to talk? Would her anxiety, vulnerability and tiny size make her an easy target for bullies? Would her home life stress cause issues with her learning?

I worried. And wondered.

But something changed that first week she started school. And one day her classroom assistant told me that my special, fragile, silent girl had actually changed that whole class of new starts without even saying a word.

It turns out there were two other children in her class who were also silent, but for a very different reason: they were unable to speak English. For ease of teaching my daughter was sat next to these children so the one assistant could help them all. But none of the teachers spoke Russian and everyone was still trying to work out the best way to help this group of children who due to inclusion had all been placed in the same mainstream class.

The teacher taught a lesson and the children sat on the floor. My baby girl sat and listened intently and returned to her seat. The class had been asked to draw a picture and write their names at the top of the sheet. As all the eager children started to pick up pencils and pens Naomi just sat there. She watched as the classroom assistant struggled to help the two others who had no understanding of what had been asked of them.

As another child momentarily distracted the assistant Naomi got up from her seat and walked over to the two children. She took the water holder from the middle of the desk and pulled it beside them. And silently she took each child by the hand and pointed to their own name and then pointed to the top of their paper. She then picked up a crayon and began to mark their paper every so slightly and pointed to what the others were doing.

She waited while they took in her attempts to communicate without language and slowly they began to copy down their name and begin drawing. She looked at them and smiled. And only then did she return to her own chair to try and write her own name.

The classroom assistant cried. The teacher watched.

The most unlikely child in the class had taught them all a lesson that day. The child diagnosed with a communication disorder actually showed them all how to communicate.

She still does not know one word of Russian. But living with a non verbal brother with complex needs taught her something that changed her entire class of children without her saying a word: it doesn’t need words to help people.

I still worry. But I know that in all she lives with she is somehow managing to turn ashes to beauty. And I could not be more proud of her.

This article was originally published on firefly and can be seen here: http://www.fireflyfriends.com/special-needs-blog/specific/raising-kids-with-special-needs-without-saying-a-word

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My heart rejoices but my eyes still cry

I can be happy for you. I know I can. I am a mum too. I understand pride in your child. I get why you want to share because I do too.
You see my heart rejoices with you when you post about your child’s achievements. I click ‘like’ or comment because all children are worthy of celebrating and because I want you to know I care.
Yet sometimes my eyes still cry.
When you post about your oldest starting university. I KNOW without a shadow of doubt what a big moment that is. I know because I made it to university and my parents were so proud of me too. My heart rejoices at how far your child has come and the immense pride this brings you. I also want your son or daughter to know that this is huge for them too. So I am right with you while you celebrate.
Yet sometimes my eyes still cry.
When you post those beautiful and funny videos of your young child singing and dancing I watch them over and over. I can’t get enough of them. The joy and excitement and beauty in your posts and pictures give me such a buzz too. Your little ones brighten my day with their smart clothes, cheeky grins, and silly faces. You make my Monday morning blues disappear with your funny stories and kids selfies.
Yet sometimes my eyes still cry.
I brood over your baby pics. I get so much joy from your wedding photos. And oh that pride and anxiety you feel at your child’s’ first day at school pics; I feel that too when I see your baby so smart and ready for a big adventure. Your holiday pics brighten the rainiest day and I admit I feel a little jealous at your beautiful body and tanned skin. You always remind me that life is for living so I look at your pics and like them. Not because I have to but because I am delighted for you. I really am.
Yet sometimes my eyes still cry.
I don’t want them to but it just happens. I am not really sad and you are not upsetting me but a part of me knows that my life is different.
But I won’t be bitter. Because that does not help me and it robs you of some of your joy and delight if you think you are making me sad.
So please don’t worry about it if you see a tear drop from my eye or I look away for a moment.
I am actually not sad.
I am dreaming.
Dreaming of the day my son may one day dance like your little one. Dreaming of the day I can post a video of him saying ‘mummy’ and making silly faces with me. Dreaming of how happy I would be to post pictures of him if he achieved like your beautiful babies do.
Right now I don’t have that. But one day in my dreams I will.
One day I will post holiday pics of us splashing in a pool together on a sunny day. One day I will post a video of him at Christmas singing jingle bells. He may be a grown up by then but I will celebrate just the same, because achievements are achievements at any age. My timescale and your timescale may be different but I rejoice with you none the less.
Keep sharing your joy. Keep sharing your pride. I need reminded that life is wonderful and joyous and not filled with hospital trips and therapies and struggles. I need to see your baby laughing because I don’t hear laughter as much as I should with my baby.
Thank you for sharing your life and your children and your stories. You bring me joy, and encouragement, and you help me dream on.
I can be happy for you. I know I can. I will not be bitter because I love you and rejoice with you. We journey in this together. Much of my journey is still a dream but that is ok.
Keep me dreaming. Keep me smiling.
Keep my heart rejoicing when my eyes still cry.

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