My son Giovanni loves his chicken nuggets.
They are one of a handful of foods he will deign to eat. He’s on the autism spectrum and is a so-called ‘narrow eater’. He’s 7-years-old and has always been big for his age.
Once a month, we eat out at Hog’s Breath Cafe. It is our favourite family restaurant. There aren’t many places we can eat out because my oldest son Philip, 11, is allergic to egg and nuts. Combine that with Giovanni’s narrow eating and the fact that we want to eat somewhere affordable, it’s safe to say it can make things difficult.
We always order the same thing.
My husband gets a barramundi burger. I order the chicken with feta and mushrooms. Philip and my daughter Caterina, 6, get the kid’s steak and fries. Giovanni has 10 chicken nuggets which he refused to take a bite out of until each is cut into four pieces. He’s also fussy about the kind of nuggets he eats. If they are too brown, he won’t touch them.
Children like my son who are on the autism spectrum often struggle to eat different foods and prefer their foods to be familiar. Another example of this is Giovanni's preference that his toasted cheese sandwiches are always cut in small triangles.
It's an very real issue.
I have concerns over his health and well being. He only eats toasted cheese sandwiches, bananas, Ritz, Jatz, meatballs and chocolate ice cream. If he eats spaghetti bolognaise, he has his plain pasta in one bowl, his sauce in the other and some grated cheese in a third. He is about to begin occupational therapy to address this and many other issues related to his autism.
But for Giovanni, chicken nuggets are a "sometimes food", as is junk food. I am not the kind of parent who forbids her children from eating certain kinds of foods because they aren't as healthy as others. I feel that children need to learn moderation when it comes to such things. I often give my kids a small packet of chips with a piece of fruit for recess and a sandwich with a fun size chocolate for lunch.
To me, that's not a big deal.
But when I sent The Motherish team a video of Giovanni eating his chicken nuggets to share on Facebook, I didn't expect to get attacked by the food police.
I probably should have added the disclaimer about Giovanni's narrow eating. But regardless, shaming another parent about what they choose to feed their child is never ever okay.
WATCH the offending video here. Post continues after video...
All my children occasionally eat chicken nuggets. I too *gasp* sometimes eat chicken nuggets dipped in tomato sauce.
BAD EXAMPLE TO YOUR CHILDREN.
When I watch the video I see my beautiful son. I see myself joking about his need to cut his nuggets twice in an attempt to make him feel normal, instead of strange an awkward. I see him looking at me and answering questions, a triumph for any autistic kids. That beautiful, gorgeous moment, ruined by people who should know better than to judge me and food-shame me.
So what if my son is autistic? So what if he eats chicken nuggets?
Here's what they chose to say in response to the video I posted. Here is all that they saw:
"Totally disagree with this."
"Don't blame him for not wanting to eat that yuck."
"Processed rubbish and nothing else on his plate."
"I wouldn't want to eat that mystery meat either."
"280 lbs I weigh and I don't eat the amount that is on his plate."
They didn't see how cute his was. They didn't delight in his laughter. They didn't giggle at his choice of dinner. They didn't share my joy at all. All they saw was the things they perceived to be wrong.
That being the deadly chicken nuggets, and I feel sorry for them. I feel sorry that they watched the video and could only see a bad food choice, while I was just happy he was eating anything. I feel sorry that I am so angry, that I am judging them for their judgement. They didn't realise that he is on the autism spectrum. They don't know what we go through to get him to sit in a chair in a restaurant in public and finding something, anything that he will eat.
I really wish that we were more understanding of each other's choices and perhaps took a moment to consider that there may be reasons behind the things they judge so harshly. I even would have been happy to be judged in silence, instead of having bad comments made about my child.
We may not agree with each other's choices and it is our right to express that disagreement. However, I think when it comes to kids, we should assume the best instead of the worst. We should consider the fact that so much is going on behind the scenes of funny little videos, more than those people viewing them will ever understand.
Have you ever been food-shamed for something you've served to your kids?