What does your meal time look like? Do you sit down as a family? Do you have everyone sit at the table until everyone is done? That is how joe and I wanted meal time to look like but that is not how it goes.
I was actually hesitant about sharing our meal time because it’s not what a “normal” family meal time looks like. Would people judge what I consider a successful meal time for us? But that’s exactly it. What is normal for my family may not be normal for others and there should be nothing wrong with that. There is nothing about autism that is normal until you change your way of thinking. This is our normal. And our normal has to be a constant work in progress.
So dinner time…
A while back we were having great difficulty getting Courtney to sit at the table. We had more success at her sitting at the counter on a stool while watching an iPad. So we went with that. Meal times became the girls sitting at the counter eating what I knew they would eat, me standing at the counter and joe sitting at the table eating something I made for the two of us. Alyssa’s booster was even on the counter.
It slowly turned into us all eating separately. Girls eating and then joe and I taking turns eating. Now…dinner basically has turned into the responsibility of the caregivers and then joe and I just eat when we get home…never together. That became our normal. It worked for us.
Our amazing feeding therapist (yes, I said “our”, not “Courtney” because honestly these therapists help the entire family) mentioned to me the importance of Courtney seeing what we are eating and being exposed to different foods. If we were eating at the same time as her I would put a small bite of our food on her plate but as we did less and less eating together that happened less. As of recent, our feeding therapist approached me about her doing some therapy in our home. She encouraged a family goal of eating together AT THE TABLE. Yes, this made me very anxious because I knew the effort it would take to change our normal, but the idea of having a meal as a family was appealing.
A couple sessions at home including one during dinner time was had. Then came the family goal of at least 2 meals a week as a family at the table. So of course the perfect time to attack this goal was spring break.
So, meal #1…I wanted to give in after the second time Courtney requested “living room” with her talker and ran from the table. I wanted to give in when Alyssa wanted nothing to do with what I served. I wanted to give in when I saw the look on Joe’s face that questioned if this was all worth it (so glad he never actually verbalized it). I wanted to give in when both girls asked for iPads. It was at that point that I stopped and asked myself what did I want out of tonight’s meal. Tonight I decided I just wanted to say we ate at the dinner table as a family. I wanted to say we made progress towards our goal. So I grabbed the iPads, got the girls to sit and told them they had to sit at the table to get iPads. And…all 4 of us sat and ate dinner together. It even ended with a beautiful daddy/daughter moment of joe and Alyssa doing dishes together!
It is important to me to have a relationship with our therapists. I build that relationship by sharing our celebrations with them. I’m sharing pictures with our feeding therapist, I stated it wasn’t perfect but we did it. She reminded me of the definition of progress by sending me this text…Definition of progress- -forward or onward movement toward a destination. I think I sometimes discredit how much progress we are making sometimes when it comes to being a family with special needs. But we are constantly making onward movement to helping Courtney navigate this world and that is huge!