Thursday, August 10, 2017

Gotta Steal to Eat; Gotta Eat to LIVE

Did you ever watch Aladdin and wonder what it's like to be forced to steal food so you could live?

Most people would say, "I can't even imagine." 




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Thanks to early trauma and neglect in her pre-adoption life, my 4 year old daughter knows what that's like.  Her brain has been hardwired to think she's going to die if she doesn't eat the second she is hungry.

Maybe that sounds like an exaggeration.

It's not.

She's now safe in a loving home and has been legally considered "safe" for almost 2 full years, but still her every day experience is ruled by her early trauma regarding FOOD.  If her tummy even THINKS it might need to grumble in the near future, she can't break out of the first step on "Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs" to save her life.  DEEP INSIDE HER MIND, finding food is what will save her life, and it's always been that way for her. 

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I have some cousins who adopted 7 children.  One of their kids has always LOVED food.  He loved it so much that for his birthday one year that was ALL HE WANTED.  Food is what they bought him - his own food - his favorite foods.  I remember liking their Facebook post with a picture of the special food bundle they got for him and I remember thinking it was cute.  I may have even ignorantly said, "That's hilarious!"

Now I have children from a similar background as my cousins' kiddo.  Let me tell you.  This kind of thing is NOT CUTE.  And it's NOT EVEN CLOSE TO FUNNY.

I will CLARIFY what Aladdin was alluding to since I currently have the time:

Early Trauma & Neglect can cause children to...

*Eat until their stomach is distended
*Say they're hungry (and seriously mean it) after eating everything off of a large plate
*Perform the Mother of all Meltdowns if they don't get a snack the second they want it
*Hoard food in their rooms, in their backpacks, in their closets, under their beds, etc.
*Spend any gift money they receive on food items instead of on clothes or toys
*Yell at the top of their lungs about anything and everything if dinner isn't ready by the usual time
*Continually play with food in the pantry
*Have most of their imaginary play centered around eating
*Avoid social activities with peers because they want to stay perpetually by the snacks
*Want food every time they are nervous or are in a new situation
*Dramatically increase your grocery shopping bill 
*Lose control or awareness of the internal sensor that let's them know they've eaten enough.

Those are just a FEW of the things that MIGHT happen. 

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Recently I attended "Meet the Teacher Night" with all of my children.  Big Sister got a pack of Goldfish crackers from her teacher.  Each child had a different teacher, though, so not all the children got goldfish.  Almost everyone else in the family was content to allow Big Sister to have the goldfish to herself.  She was actually willing to share them, but it wasn't the right time to eat them yet.  Little Sister couldn't handle the idea of delayed gratification even though she knew we would eat in 10 minutes when we got home.  She knew the goldfish belonged to Big Sister.  I put the cracker package in my pocket to save for Big Sister while we were going thru the classrooms for the kids. 

As for Little Sister - she could not get her mind off the crackers even though there were many other distractions and attention getters.  As for boundaries?  There's no such thing when she's hungry (AKA HANGRY).  It doesn't matter what Mom says; it doesn't matter who the food belongs to.   Her mind was screaming to her that she needed to eat in order to live, and so when she thought I wouldn't notice, she stole the Goldfish right out of my pocket.  When I stopped her hand with the package in it, she lied that she didn't do it.

At 4 years old.

As awful as stealing and lying to cover up is, the crazy part is that she wasn't trying to be bad.

She LITERALLY felt and believed that she needed to steal to eat, and that she needed to eat to live.  Her impulses were all about survival of the fittest. 

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One last memory - about a year and a half ago when Mitch & I were contemplating foster/adoption, I had a friend who was very close to a kind Christian family who had adopted 5 kids.  His girlfriend was a nanny for them, and he said, "They spend $500 a week on groceries." 

You know what I thought?  I thought $500 a week was absurd for that size of a family.  I had 4 kids at the time (so just one less) and our family was only spending $200 a week on groceries.  I figured they weren't shopping very wisely...they weren't getting deals.

Well, it just turns out that I knew nothing.

My 2 new children eat MORE food than the other children combined, and THAT is what Aladdin was talking about.