It was chicken nuggets.
I don't really remember why I wouldn't eat it, but I stood my ground. My mother got exasperated and passive aggressive. My father bellowed in my face and threatened me. My brother watched from afar, not getting in the way lest he also be in trouble, but kind of watching the spectacle too.
At some point, someone said that the only way I'd be able to leave the table without eating the chicken nuggets would be if I were vomiting.
Shortly thereafter, I did just that. All over my plate, all over the table, all over myself.
I didn't use a spoon or a finger or start coughing uncontrollably or choke on something on purpose. By sheer will of my own thoughts, I slowly convinced my stomach to churn, my esophagus to relax, my bile to rise, and my mouth to unleash it. We all knew that I wasn't sick in the least, but damn that old follow-through philosophy.
I still remember the looks of anger and shock and disdain on both of my parents' faces.
And I, despite being in dire trouble, was proud of myself.
I'm sitting in my new office writing this post later than I'd planned because I just spent the last two hours forcing my children to eat a single bite of their dinner before leaving the table straight for bed. Kyle had asked me to spend time with him tonight, as I've been holed up catching up on everything that's fallen by the wayside lately. We're weeks behind on Walking Dead, to the point I'm not sure I really want to bother catching up.
And that was tonight's plan, to hang out with Kyle and do some very minor crafting.
Except my children won't eat.
Every night has become this battle, no matter what we serve. Both of them balk and scream and throw their plates and demand food only to then shove it away and wail at us. We make special meals for them and they demand what we're eating. We make a meal for all four of us to share together and they scream for whatever suits them at that moment.
And the crying. The wails of protest that have no root in actual sorrow or loss or pain but that occur at the drop of a hat (and turn off just as quickly if they so deem it). The incessant screaming over the most fucking petulant things is breaking me apart at the seams and it makes me a mother I hate being, the shadows of my own upbringing moving past spectorship and into something close to possession.
I hate it. I hate me.
And my kids aren't any closer to eating.
I don't know what else to do. We withhold snacks and drinks and treats, making them wait for the next meal. We sit and wait for them to eat one bite, already bargaining to set ourselves up for failure further down the road. We time out; we send them to bed without eating. We try to ask them what they want and cater before we sit down to eat; we tell them you get what you get and you don't throw a fit. We try new food and new methods and new rewards; we buckle down to the basic standards and eat the same things for days on end.
And we can't keep this up, financially, wasting all of this food that they refuse to eat, always somehow making the wrong decision for the meal at hand and rationing the leftovers for lunches for the two of us grown-ups because at least that way it'll get eaten, because all they want is whatever it is we don't currently have and can't afford to run to the store for the third time today to get it because then I won't have enough gas to get Tova to and from school the next day.
And I can't keep it up, mentally, because it triggers all of my anxiety and guilt at being a bad mother who watched her infant waste away for six months and then my self-loathing as I lose my temper, again, adding my own awful voice to the cacophony of screams that accompany our dining room table, causing the animals to flee to the recesses for reprieve.
I watch them stare at me through scrunched faces, betrayal and mistrust etching itself behind the brightness of their eyes and I feel like such a failure because I am doing everything wrong, everything I never wanted to be in a parent and I feel sabotaged, by life and the chemicals in my brain and the unfairness of everything, that leaves me with these children who, for whatever reason, are so behind the verbal milestones of their peers that it renders it nearly impossible for us to understand one another.
Every once in a while, there is a glimmer of hope. They come to the table, sit down, and eat happily with us.
But those nights are so few and far between they almost feel like gaslighting, just to keep me off my game and make me think I'm losing my mind, one meal at a time.