Last week Friday, Nate and I had a visit with Dr. Syd, Nate’s awesome pediatrician. Nate loves going to Dr. Syd’s office. The toys never change, which is comforting to Nate, and he always seeks out the same toys (in practically the same order) each time we visit. We have gone to Syd’s office on numerous occasions – for checkups, for well visits, for cookies and a chat. Because some visits are fun and some visits, well, aren’t fun, Nate is always willing to visit Dr. Syd to see what he’s going to get.
This visit was not fun. It was Nate’s Kindergarten physical, complete with a blood draw (by finger prick – the worst!) and two shots. It was also an occasion to catch up with Syd. We’ve been seeing a few specialists for Nate and I wanted to get his opinion on their advice and also his thoughts on other things going on in Nate’s life.
One thing that’s been bothering Chad and I lately is Nate’s appetite. He’s normally a voracious eater and will dine on healthy foods of a variety of colors and textures, something that many kids on the autism spectrum struggle with. Ever since Nate’s illness before our trip to Boston, his appetite has fallen apart. He’s not eating as much as he used to and, when he does eat, it’s very specific things — carbs or sweets. He’ll eat a sleeve of water crackers, a bag of Goldfish. He’ll eat a cup of Italian ice or a popsicle and beg for ice cream all day long. But when it comes to his standby favorites — cheese, broccoli, grilled chicken, hummus, or anything remotely a protien — he’ll barely touch them at all.
So, I shared my tale of carb and sugar woe with Dr. Syd. In his usual calm and genuine demeanor, he asked what Nate eats. I told him. Does he eat fruit? Yes, apples. As fast as we can buy them. Then Dr. Syd proclaimed that Nate Is Fine and shared that, only once in his life, has he ever experienced an individual becoming malnourished by their nutritional choices–and his encounter with malnourishment was not when Syd was a doctor. Dr. Syd laid a mama’s heart at ease with this gem of a tale. which I now share with you.
Once upon a time, Dr. Syd was a teenager and he had a friend who also happened to be a neighbor. One day, teenage Dr. Syd was invited over to his friend’s house where he met his friend’s mom. Without asking anything that would prompt such an answer, his friend’s mother blurted out, “I don’t do housework.” Teenage Dr. Syd didn’t know why anyone would ever say that at first meeting but it all made sense when he went into their family’s kitchen to have a snack. The cabinets were filled with gallon sized jugs of peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, and Tip Top bread. The refrigerator was filled with gallons of milk and orange juice. That was it. That’s what the family ate morning, noon, and night: fluffernutter sandwiches with a side of milk or OJ.
It turned out that Teenage Dr. Syd’s neighbor’s brother was a particularly picky eater. He didn’t like peanut butter. He didn’t like bread. He didn’t like milk and he didn’t like orange juice. So he lived off of marshmallow fluff and, presumably, water. He managed to subsist on marshmallow fluff for three months before becoming clinically malnourished. Three months of marshmallow fluff.
At the conclusion of this story, Dr. Syd, Nate, and I threw a celebratory party of Nate’s suddenly diverse and varied diet. Water crackers! Goldfish! Mozzarella sticks! Pirate Booty! Italian Ice! Popsicles! Ice Cream! And, naturally, Nate felt that he should have all those things now.
All this to say: toddler diets are weird. And three months of marshmallow fluff is bad.