Why Having a Place at the Table for My Daughter Who Doesn't Eat Matters


Meals are a big deal in my family. Anyone who has experienced a Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, birthdays or weekend meals with us knows we aren’t fooling around. Anyone who has joined us also knows we always find a place at the table for you. We have been known to adopt individuals, couples and entire families into our gatherings. To be fair, a typical family meal starts out with a head count of 14, so adding a few more people really isn’t a big stretch. The point is, everyone is welcome to sit with us. To talk with us. To nourish their bodies and their souls with us. Because, let’s be honest, having a place at the table is about more than eating food.

So what happens when someone, like my daughter, doesn’t eat? Do they get a place at the table? Should they have a place at the table? The answer to this is an emphatic, loud, bold:

Yes!

Having my daughter, Lyra, join us at the table has been a key part of her feeding therapy. After all, we are pretty sure she doesn’t ever really feel hungry. But there is more to eating a meal than simply filling your stomach. There is a social aspect. Meals are a time when you bond with the people around you. For my family (and many others), meals play a key role in our social dynamic. Not having a place at the table for Lyra would be like saying there isn’t a place for her in the family. That is absolutely not true. So, she sits with us and holds court while we all eat. We have done this with her since she was able to sit safely in a high chair. And, we think it’s helping her learn about food and eating orally. Even if Lyra doesn’t feel hunger, she clearly enjoys some foods and will take a few bites with us at dinner. While she is still only willing to eat once a day, and only small amounts, it’s a start. More importantly, she clearly feels like she belongs with the rest of us. She is part of the (mostly) controlled chaos that is our family.

Recently there was a little hiccup in having her at the table. Lyra’s chair was getting too small for her. No big deal, right? Just put her in a booster. That’s what you would do with a typical child. But, Lyra isn’t a typical child. She can’t safely sit in a booster seat. So, what did we do? Did she lose her place at the table?

No!

We were fortunate enough to have a special chair donated to us, and my extended family could not be happier than to have Lyra join us for meals. While it’s great to have a safe place to sit her, this chair really is more than just a chair. These chairs provide a chance for children like Lyra to engage with those around them during one of most important bonding experiences people engage in. These chairs reenforce the idea that our children belong. They are loved, wanted, and accepted.

So, to my family and to the person who donated this chair to us, thank you. Thank you for giving my child a place at the table.

Image Credits: Jaime Garnick

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