When I was young, Christmas was marked by some of the most amazing holiday meals that you can imagine! Our Christmas Eve tradition involved pots of chocolate and cheese fondue surrounded by breads, fruits, cakes, and meats that we used as tasty spoons. Christmas morning was laden with rolls of lefse, a Norwegian flatbread that mom made from scratch year after year. And of course, there was Christmas dinner: turkey, ham, prime rib, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, salads, fruits, and rolls all topped off with a helping (or two) of homemade pie with whipped cream.
To say that we left every holiday stuffed to the max would be a gigantic understatement! But as delicious as the food was, to my mom, food was love. And holiday meal traditions gave a yearly reminder that, no matter how far we traveled in life, we could always come home to family foods served at the family’s table.
Of course, these traditions were close to mind as I began to raise a family of my own, but as my youngest daughter struggled so desperately with her eating, those meals turned a bit sour. The traditions I wanted to share with her, those familiarly delicious meals that I hoped would light her eyes as often as they had lit mine – those hopes were fading quickly as holiday meals dwindled into nothing more than a frustrating attempt to just get her to take one bite.
Gradually, the bitterness of that loss faded as I learned how to let go of my anxiety-ridden control tactics, and my daughter found her appetite and learned to eat happily and independently. But that took time, patience, and a lot of help. And looking back, there is one thing that I would tell that tired, frustrated mom who skipped Thanksgiving dessert to cry in the bathroom.
I would tell her that the holidays aren’t the days for focusing on weaning or feeding numbers. They aren’t giant, family-filled, feeding therapy sessions. Instead, holidays give us the chance to take a vacation from all of that. They are the chance to laugh, to love, and to find joy in the little things – not the food or the beautiful table, but the family and friends who sit around it. I would tell her not to miss the happy squeals because she’s worried about what’s still sitting on the plate. I’d tell her to breathe. To hold onto hope. To remember that holidays are about so much more than food.
So for all of the families raising children who may only eat the roll, who may only drink formula, or who may get their holiday meal through a tube, I am wishing you a day filled with peace and wonder. However your holiday meal might look, enjoy it! Laugh! Spill! Savor! Enjoy one another! Because that little one sitting there will only be that little for this one more day, and the time you have together is magical.
Happy Eating! However that looks for you and yours. Happy weaning (on another day)! And take a big deep breathe and to let it all go (at least for today)!
Elisabeth Kraus, MiT, Parent and Family Coordinator