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Fussy By Cheryl Hughes

Did you see this week’s story about the British teen who suffered vision and hearing loss due to his steady diet of junk food?  His symptoms had been showing up for years, but no one thought about checking his diet.  When he was fourteen years old, and complaining of tiredness, a doctor gave him B12 injections.  By age fifteen, he began to lose his hearing and developed trouble with his vision.  His vision continued to get worse, up to the point of being declared legally blind.

Tests done by doctors didn’t point to an obvious reason for the problems.  The boy also denied using alcohol, tobacco or drugs.  He finally confessed that since elementary school, he had been a fussy eater, eating only fries, Pringles, white bread, processed ham slices and sausages.  The doctors recommended the teen to mental health services, stating, “Fussy eating that is restricted to junk food and causes multiple nutritional deficiencies is an eating disorder.”  (nbcnews.com)

I have one question.  Where were the parents?  An interview with the mother (theguardian.com) quotes her saying, “The first we knew about it was when he began coming home from primary school (primary school in the UK goes through age 11 years) with his packed lunch untouched.  I would make him nice sandwiches and put an apple or other fruit in and he wouldn’t eat any of it.”  Unless the child had a hidden trust fund, somebody had to be buying him fries, Pringles and sausages.  In the same interview, the parents said they first realized there was a problem when their son began to lose his hearing at age 14 years old.  Really?  That’s when they first realized there was a problem.

Garey has always said I’m way too hard on parents, especially mothers, and he’s right.  I am.  I think this story hit a nerve with me, because of my experience with my younger stepsister and Garey’s experience with his younger sister.  According to Garey’s mom, his younger sister was allowed to eat only fried potatoes and ketchup for years, because that’s all she “would” eat.  Garey was forced to eat everything put on his plate, even things he didn’t like.  (To Aggie’s credit, she made sure Charlotte took a vitamin supplement, and she doesn’t have any health problems connected to those years.)

My stepsister, Lorrie, ate only meat, potatoes and can biscuits—she didn’t like homemade.  The rest of us ate what was put on our plates.  We were too afraid of out stepmother to do otherwise.  When Lorrie was in junior high, Mom began giving her some of the money from her biological father’s death benefit each month.  Each week at the grocery store, Lorrie would use that money to buy Plumrose ham, chips and other food to her liking.  The rest of us ate our beans and potatoes, like dutiful children.

For years, I was really resentful of that time in my life, but I began to consider what I gained by eating beans and potatoes.  I have continued to eat fresh vegetables, I am in relatively good health, I still have most of my permanent teeth, and—most importantly—I still have the stamina I need to keep up with my granddaughter.  I am thankful that I didn’t get to be fussy.

Lorrie, although she has been very successful in her career, has had continuing health problems.  She is blind in one eye and completely deaf in one ear.  Lorrie is good to me and to others in her circle of influence.  I don’t see her problems as her comeuppance.  I see them as a result of her being allowed to be fussy.   

I know how hard it is to fight with a stubborn child.  It’s awful, but there is a reward for standing firm.  You might not live to see it, but your children’s children will.  Going toe to toe with your child is feeling your way in the dark, not being sure of the outcome, but trusting in the results of good choices.  It is Captain Picard in Star Trek stating, “The line must be drawn here!  This far, no further!”   It is love in action.  It is what God has always taken time to do for us.

 

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