The Texture Of Things

Advances in Texture Tolerance

January 4th, 2007

Today, the tot took up the three apple slices from a lunchtime bowl and played with them. At first, she seemed unsure of what to do with these cool, damp things in her mitts. She began pushing them slowly around like race cars and then she started making voices for them that eventually led her to play “Daddy, Mommy, Baby.”

She does that a lot – play Daddy, Mommy, Baby, I mean. Touching food, not so much. Usually I engage with her in the play by acknowledging the toys, like her consecutively-sized rubber ducks, by the family names and actively seeking out conversations with them in their roles. For instance, “Baby Duck, do you like to swim?” Not today, though. Our Food Friend often personifies whatever thing we’re playing with at the moment (today, bendy straws), but it felt weird to me to talk to apples that way. So, when the tot would hold up a slice and use a falsetto voice to ask me “Uh, Mommy? Who am I?” I tended to reply with, “You are a teeny tiny [or other descriptor] apple slice.” What I noticed is that it didn’t stop her from role playing with the slices. She still drove them around on the table and lent them voices.

What is remarkable is her sustained, voluntary physical contact with the wet food. When we started solids, she was interested in the bowls and spoons, but she was distressed if there was a lot of pureed food in the bowl. If it spilled, she would freeze up and look to me for a solution, and I fed this reaction by quickly wiping it away rather than soothing her emotions while letting her body experience the sensation of spilled food. When it came to solids, I was so terrified of choking hazards that I’m sure my demeanor conveyed distress and worry rather than the sentiment I should have communicated: food is fun, food is yummy, food is an adventure, eating together is a learning place, eating together is a joyful thing.

Still, it was not all me. I look back to pictures I took of the tot a couple of weeks after her first birthday, when I was putting together thank you cards, and I am reminded of her early reaction to peeled apple. I gave her one to play with while I used her foot to stamp footprints on the thank you cards. (I chose footprints because I knew there was no way she’d let me do handprints, if for no other reason than she was 1.)

tot_apple2.BMP

She did not like to hold the apple, she did not want to pick it up, she wanted it somewhere else. I do recall that she was so wrapped up in what I was doing that she was not stressed out about the apple on her tray, but if she had to move it out of the way, she would use her fingernails and the back of her fingers. The foot thing, well, it worked and she only squirmed for the first dozen or so cards.

footprint.JPG

Lately, I feel as though the majority of her actions are her attempt to call my bluff, to get a kind of attention that ultimately only perpetuates anxiety behaviors. The apple family this morning was born because I didn’t react one way or the other about her picking up the apples and running them along the table – not even a positive reaction. Just a matter of fact, “Oh, you found the apples.” When that’s all she got, she explored further. She played the way she needed to a long, long time ago.

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