Dear Teacher L and Teacher N,
Tomorrow is Max’s first day of preschool summer camp. Of course, it’s not his first first day. It was thanks to you that Max
survived thrived during his first first day, last summer, exactly one year ago. The baby boy who was only a few days into two years old has grown into a jumping, running, high-fiving three year old. He walked into Open House the other day with a skip in his step, holding hands with his buddy E. He strolled right through the gate like he owned the place. Confident, brave, happy. Of course he was, he’s been here for the last year, and you gave him the very best start.
I adore you two teachers. You took him from a puking, screaming, shaking, terrified little guy and soothed his fears with love and a rice table. You held him gently, you reassured him softly yet firmly, and you rang that little bell on the very first day and said “OK Mommies and Daddies, it’s time to leave now.” And so it began, our first adventure apart.
So it’s with great love and respect that I write you this note, to remind you that tomorrow, Max’s second first day, will also be the very first time that he has lunch at school. The very first time that I have packed my little boy a protein, a fruit, and
some lots of dairy, added a note and a sticker, and sent him off into the big world for someone else to feed him. He’s three now, and with the new class schedule, he will be eating lunch with his friends, at the long low table in your classroom.
This is a big deal. It’s a big deal for a little guy who couldn’t eat solid foods for a few months. It’s a big deal for a Mommy whose heart burned with pain while she watched her newborn, and then her toddler, and then her big preschool boy vomit up most everything she fed him. It’s a big deal for a family who has celebrated every fucking bite of chicken, every first taste of hamburger, every lick of a green bell pepper, every sip of “special milk”. I am simply overwhelmed with emotion, thinking about how far he’s come. I can be a little sentimental at times, so I won’t lie….I cried tonight while I packed this….
So on this second first day, please know that this is a huge first first day for our family. I honestly have no idea what Max will actually choose to eat from this lunchbox. I’m guessing it’s the strawberries, but you can never be too sure. I figured it would be easier to get all of this out here, in writing, so that I don’t overwhelm you tomorrow morning. Because what I really want to say to you wonderful teachers, is that Max doesn’t like to sit down while he eats he has this thing called Delayed Gastric Emptying and it means that food doesn’t move through his tummy so well and that combined with the reflux (yes he still has it) means that his tummy often hurts and it feels a little better when he’s moving around of course he has a thing about textures too and some days the turkey is too slimy and sometimes he likes to roll his blueberries across the table and he’ll eat his strawberries if you say that they look like mountains and oh yeah he’s definitely going to open up his bagel and lick all of the cream cheese off and please don’t be offended if he wipes his mouth on his sleeve because as much as I intended to teach him good manners I got a little sidetracked by the fact that he was actually eating like a healthy child and so I let everything else go to hell which also means that you should know that sometimes he stops mid-bite and spits everything out to take a drink of water and I know that seems really gross but it is actually a huge milestone for him because he used to just choke on the bite and puke everywhere and now he can actually maneuver the food in his mouth if he needs to and he spits it out instead of puking everywhere, so see? It’s actually a good thing. And he’s learned to spit it on his plate instead of in my hand, thank goodness for very small favors. Oh, and while he’s sitting there, he’s not just having a simple lunch, he’s proving to the world that he is so far past the little tiny baby who I cried over while he struggled so hard to get even half an ounce of breastmilk. He’s no longer the bouncy one year old who sat through countless GI appointments, dozens of needles and pokes in the allergist’s office, and two endoscopies under general anesthesia. He’s not even the little boy who survived on hummus and avocado for weeks at a time because he wouldn’t eat anything else, and he’s definitely not the same little guy who wanted goldfish crackers when we could only give him prescription formula as we tried to heal his belly and figure out why he was so sick. And yet, you will see the same foods appear in his lunchbox each day. Even the grapes and the string cheese are an enormous win for us, so please don’t judge my mothering skills by the fact that I rarely pack a veggie in his lunchbox. We’re a work in progress, and I promise it’s better for all of us if we try out the new foods at home. And while we’re at it, you should probably know that while I am enormously excited for the social aspect of Max having lunch with his peers, he is also not a child who is easily influenced by others. Except for that one time, at the Japanese restaurant with Madi, when he followed her lead and decided to eat Miso soup, veggie tempura, and teriyaki chicken. Yes, the child who can have Cars Mac N Cheese for dinner every single night, suddenly morphed into an
adventurous normal eater for a sliver of an hour. I’m still shocked grateful for that lunch date. And don’t worry, he is rarely influenced by things like juice or fruit snacks or granola bars. It’s not that I’m the Mother of the Year and only feed him natural/organic/whole-grain grown-up food. It’s that we never introduced some typical “kid food” when he was tiny, because we needed every ounce that we could cajole/force/trick/beg/bribe/convince him to eat to actually be something nutritious. When your child pukes up 50% of their daily intake, every bite counts. And as you well know, this kid can devour a cupcake like no one’s business.
All that being said, I am beyond elated that Max will get to experience mealtime with other children. Shared meals are the holy grail of feeding therapy. The social, cultural, educational atmosphere that is created when children model eating for each other is instrumental in a child’s journey with food. And of course you already know that I think you two teachers are god’s gift to preschool. I’m not kidding. I am so excited that Max will have this chance, that he will be able to share lunch with his friends, in the safety of your classroom. And I am beyond proud that finally, finally finally finally he CAN DO IT.
He can do it. He can EAT. Maybe he won’t sit in his chair, and maybe he won’t eat a lot, but he WILL eat. He will eat like all of the other boys and girls. He will snub certain foods, like all of the other boys and girls. He will choose strawberries first, like all of the other boys and girls. And he will make a royal mess of himself, like all of the other boys and girls.
He has come so far. So far that it makes me cry tears of Mommy pride just typing those words. Because I am so proud of him, and so thankful for the help that we received in learning how to feed him, how to nourish him, how to help him grow. So thank you for understanding him, and thank you Teacher L and Teacher N, for feeding him with love……just like we have done. He is not the little boy he used to be. But he still needs you to cheer him on.
Here’s to a great first day.