So, this was the Fall of 2009. The kids came here from Ethiopia - two in March and one in July. They ate everything we let them. Three servings if we let them. Big servings. And since all the books said "let them eat," that is what we did. Together, the three of them weighed only a little more than I did, and between the three of them, they ate about nine times what I ate at every meal. Growing is not the word for it, but I don't think there is a word for it. Making up for lost time, maybe.
Turned out they loved bananas. We easily went through four or five bunches of bananas a week. They would wolf a big banana down in about four bites.
After a few months, we noticed they were asking for food at every transition, and whenever they were bored. Duh. Food for comfort, food to deal with stress, food for power, food for filling up this great big hole in my soul! So, we did some talking about listening to our bodies... and we set some limits. Limits on food, oh my gosh.
We also noticed that they complained like wild. Every time we put food in front of them, whining and complaining. Not liking things they had scarfed down the day before. As if all the complaints they had not been allowed to express for the previous five years of their lives had been unleashed in this new world where complaining was not being punished.
So, we did some talking about gratitude.
One evening at dinner, the story came out that at the children's home, they only got one banana a week. It was on Sunday. And the Sunday banana had strings attached. If you were good, you got a banana. If you were not, you did not. Ouch. And sometimes, other kids would take your banana.
So, it dawned on me (oh my little brain) that whenever I said no to a request for a banana, it was probably automatically felt as a punishment. As a declaration that my child is bad.
Now, I am the parent who read every book on self-esteem ever written when I was pregnant with my first child. And put into practice the very careful practice of distinguishing between the child and the action, of never saying or implying that "you are bad" when correcting my children. So, this whole thing of connecting food and behavior... well, it does not fly here in Barbaraland.
But, it was indoctrinated. And so, the task is to unindoctrinate.
One of the kids asked, "Can I have another banana?"
I said, "Yes, but we are really going to have to limit bananas. Five a day. You are each only allowed five bananas a day."
Great big eyes, very excited "oooohhhhhh!" And a rush to the banana bowl.
(No, they weren't actually able to eat five in one sitting, but they had fun trying.)