My son is currently in the 4th grade. At his school, when you are in 4th grade, you are invited to go on a weekend field trip to an outdoor based "nature" camp for school. My son came home really excited one day and handed me the information sheets. He said "Mom, I want to go!" My initial reaction was fear. Fear in that "how would my son eat for the weekend?" I attended the parent meeting and the teachers brought up many times how WONDERFUL the food is there. And how ALL of the kids will be required to help with kitchen duties. My anxiety increased as the presentation went on. How will my son eat? How will he handle cleaning dishes with food, other people's food, on them? How will he handle sleeping - because his ARFID still has him waking up once a night? Will he panick, walk around crying and looking for me? This is too much.
I listened further to the presentation and found out that they are looking for parent chaperones. But they only allow so many to go, and there will be a lottery. I signed up for the lottery and wrote a note on the form: "My son has a food intake disorder. I will need to attend to assist with his meals." In all honesty, I was not thrilled about the idea of chaperoning an outdoor weekend field trip in February in Minnesota. Three days of being outside in the freezing cold does not necessarily appeal to me. But, here we go!
I was selected as a chaperone. I am not the only parent attending because their child has special needs. In fact, this is the reason many parents are attending. We are not alone. And teachers these days are so used to kids having special needs and are happy to have help and assistance on the field trip. Although I am going on the trip, the anxiety around the food is still there. I am anxious about having access to a refridgerator when needed. Small planning items that I'm sure will all be fine. I fear witnessing the feelings of isolation that my son may feel amongst his friends. My son also is introducing nuts to his diet through our therapy. This is his only protein other than milk and is VERY important. Will he be able to eat nuts in this setting? He won't let me send any to school in his lunch box. It's hard to have a child that is learning to eat a food that is not allowed in many public eating situations, a food that is so very important for healing his body from malnutrition. My younger son has a tree nut allergy, so we are used to balancing the two at home.
I think about packing for this trip and showing up to the buses with a large box packed with enough food for my son for the weekend. I wonder what they will think of that?! Where will I keep the food once we are there? My son "grazes" too. He has to. The all-carb foods that are safe for him are not very filling and he requires constant eating to keep himself full and at the appropriate calorie intake. Will he be able to eat at the frequent intervals that he needs? I also panick about the fact that he doesn't sleep through the night. He will be in a room with 7 other boys. He is so used to waking up in the night and finding me to help soothe him back to sleep. ARFID individuals never really rest. The adrenals are always "ON". It's hard for them to peacefully sleep and be at ease and comfort. I look forward to the day he can really sleep soundly. But that day is not now.
Really, all of this stress of packing, feeding, intervals, sleeping, etc....look what we do to ourselves as parents! We forget to just let go and see what happens. My son will not starve in one weekend. He will be able to eat frequently enough to be happy and enjoy his trip. If he can't eat nuts, then he will be fine until he gets home. If he wakes up in the night, he will learn to soothe himself or find a friend or adult to help him. When we are parents of a child with special needs, we forget to "not" control everything and just let life happen. It's so hard, I know. But I bet my son has no idea all of the worry and stress I have about this trip. Maybe I should just pack the food and then just enjoy myself along with my son! Like the saying goes "Don't worry until there is something to worry about."
I am an ARFID Mom. I am the mother of a 12 year old boy with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). I have become the "expert" on my son's feeding issues. I am here to share what I've learned.