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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How My Dog Taught Me to Be a Better Mom

* This post appeared last month in Circle of Moms' Blog. It has not yet appeared on my blog so with Circle of Moms permission, I post it for my readers:

 My daughter is twelve. She is my middle child and she's just starting middle school. The school change has caused some hick-ups. She's always been a child who resists new. She clung to her worn running shoes, her old bed mattress (begged us not to take it to the dump even though the dog peed on it one too many times). She was my only baby who rejected her first solid food. My other two babies were thrilled to taste the mushy rice cereal, as though it were Haagen-Dazs. Not my middle girl, she spit it out; only breast milk would do. 
 What I didn't count on is how her picky eating would eventually catch up to her in her tween years. She gets sick, often--cold viruses, stomach bugs, aches and pains. I've taken her to the doctor, had her blood tested. She is healthy enough, though she has become gluten intolerant--I blame this on her picky eating. Her favorite thing has been white bread products. I believe she over did it and has now become sensitive to wheat. While her body battled the gluten, her intestines became inflamed and she absorbed little nutrients. The outcome is that she has become, suddenly, anemic (very low in iron). I've been worried about my girl for months--she seems tired, weepy, less social, less focused. The girl who organizes everything with detailed lists and labels, suddenly began loosing jackets and hoodies at school. 
What started out as childhood pickiness is now effecting not only her health, but energy level and school attendance.

A picky, gluten intolerant eater soon becomes a too-thin, anemic tween. My daughter's eating habits were not going to change on their own. I had to change them. When doctors and self help books failed, I looked to my dog for the answer. Training my new puppy might give me ideas on how to train my daughter. My pup has behavioral issues, ones that could ultimately affect his life. At five months Pablo (my pup) demonstrated very aggressive behavior towards other dogs. I've spent the last six months training him with unflinching dedication in situations that are often terrifying and emotionally exhausting. I  must lead him. On his own, he is self-destructive. My daughter's eating habits have also become self destructive, I must lead her to a safer path. The training never ceases. It's not like we get it now, move on. No, the training is constant, vigilant. Each day is a new day with successes and set backs. But we're on the right path of strong leadership
She eats what I make her now. I keep everything gluten free and healthy. She must drink a super-antioxidant rich glass of juice each morning as well. She hates this, plugs her nose and gags as though its medicine. She is also on iron supplements. I insist she eat what I put on her plate. I am not cruel, I don't force her to eat things she absolutely has always detested, but I am unflinching, dedicated, tough. When my child is damaging her own health with picky eating, it is unflinching, parental  assertiveness that gives me hope that she will become well nourished and strong. How did I become this assertive parent?  Training my aggressive dog has made me stronger. I can lead, even the most obstinate child, to a safer path.

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Blogger Caroline said...

Excellent Melissa - takes courage!

October 29, 2012 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger Mix Hart said...

Thanks Caroline. Everyday is a struggle!

October 30, 2012 at 8:01 AM  

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