The other day I was craving a frosty, healthier (although not healthy by any means, just healthier) treat than what I normally have here at the house. I decided to stop by a certain favorite frozen fruit juice place of mine, whose name I won't mention but rhymes with Mamba Moose, to pick up a delicious frozen fruit beverage. I have been to this place several times in the past and observed how they make their tasty icy concoctions. I have noticed that once they pour your smoothie, there is still quite a bit left over in the blender that will not fit into your cup. I have seen them just put the blender pitcher in the sink, thus wasting whatever amount was left that could have gone into another's cup. I have thought about how wasteful that is. How many who are without means to have a meal could benefit from this small amount leftover, but that is another post.
This particular day, I carried Marissa into the store on my hip, too lazy to put her shoes on so she could walk the 50 feet from the car to the store and back (she won't keep her shoes on in the car). She was being her usual cute self, flirting with the employees as we sat and waited for my drink to be made. Jeremy and I have done this kind of thing a hundred times in the last two and a half years, bringing Marissa in to an establishment that serves food and drink, knowing that we would not be ordering anything for her because she does not "eat" anything. Before she turned one, and even about six months after, it never seemed to be an issue with the employees of whatever restaurant we patronized. They just assumed she was still on a liquid diet and would not need a menu. But, for the last year, every time we go out to eat, we get the question "can we bring you a kid's menu?" or "what can we get her to drink?". Therein lies the problem.
We normally politely decline and leave it at that. I try not to let it sting but it always does, a little. My kid doesn't eat. My kid gags on any particle of food bigger than a snowflake. My kid does not have the oral motor coordination to take food into her mouth, chew it and swallow it. Heck, we don't even think it is safe for my kid to eat by mouth because she may aspirate it. My kid gets her nutrition and sustenance through a tube surgically placed in her stomach.
Most of the time, I just let these thoughts slide because I don't have time to be bothered by them. I am trying to live life as normally as possible, trying to give Marissa as normal a life as possible, whatever normal means. I want her to experience as much as possible while feeling normal, just like everyone else. This is one of the reasons we give her tastes of things we eat, give her a chip to lick, or a taste of the sauce that is on our pasta, so she feels like she is eating like everyone else around her. So she doesn't feel different.
Back to the story of the frozen juice place... as the young lady was finishing my drink, she looked up at me and asked me if I wanted the rest of what was left in the blender in a kid's cup. I thought about it for a moment. Why would I? My kid won't eat it. I shouldn't. But it will just go to waste, right? This young lady didn't know any different and she didn't need to know. So, after a moment's hesitation, I said "sure".
As I drove home, I felt pangs of guilt come to the surface. Here was a kid's cup of a frosty delicious fruity drink meant for Marissa and I was going to be the one consuming it. Even though she wouldn't know the difference, I still felt like I was taking from her, like I was taking what was rightfully hers. Don't get me wrong, I didn't let it go to waste, but I didn't feel good drinking it either.
In that moment, that kid's cup of frozen juice represented everything that my daughter can't do or doesn't know how to do. It represented that she can't eat. It represented that does not know what a chicken nugget is or a slice of pizza, or a cheeseburger or french fries. It represented that she can't protest eating her veggies because she doesn't know what veggies are. It represented that she is not normal, no matter how normal we try to make her life feel.
I wish I knew how to make Marissa magically whole again. I feel bad for the things she does not know that kids her age do. But then I look at her, content in her surroundings, content in her home, content in herself. And I smile. It will all work out.
Not my time. Not Jeremy's time. Not Marissa's time.