August 10, 2010

Pica: Do you ever feel like you're raising a Billy Goat instead of a child?

To my fellow Pica Parents,

I had a surprising response to my recent post. There were a number of touching and greatly appreciated comments from fellow moms {some of them teachers} who value the type of mother I am. It is always nice to feel validated! Even though I am quick to say I don't give a flying fig what anyone else thinks of me, my style {parenting or otherwise} my views or my ideals. The support is truly overwhelming and just plain feels good!

But the response that surprised me was from people who know a Pica child, are related to a Pica child {and of course those who have taught a Pica child} who wanted to hear more about the culinary misadventures of my darling Lula.

So I started to think - I have taken video of Lu eating sand hand over fist on the playground, snapped photos of her face covered in paint from eating it, all to illustrate my point when I tell people –Lula eats everything! My inner-circle of friends, if they haven't been there to witness the new inedible, yet somehow irresistible treat Lula finds to horrify me with - well then you can bet your life I am divulging all the insane details as soon as I can. I share this never-ending game of "Don't touch that! Don't eat that! Get that out of your mouth! Spit that out! Stop! Stop! Stop! No! No! No!”, with my friends not so that we can laugh, but so that I can laugh. So, I might relax for a minute and throw my hands in the air, shake my head and remind myself "If I don't laugh, I'll cry!"

Then it hit me… When I first decided to tell the pediatrician “Lu eats paper. I mean doesn’t just put it in her mouth and chew it for a while, she eats quantities of paper.” There was a part of me that went back and forth about bringing this up to her doctor. What if it meant something was “wrong” with my child. Would I really want to know? What if it’s nothing? What if it’s “normal”? Would I look like a fool for saying something? What if it’s completely odd and Dr. M., in all his years of practice has never heard of this before and my child is just a freak? I almost didn’t say anything. After all Lu was less than a year old. In the end however, I did and he said, with a shrug, as if it were nothing; “You have a little one with Pica...”, Then moved on without any further discussion or reaction from him. At that point, I kind of let it go.

At her 12 month appointment I had to add sand, crayons, rocks, and pebbles to the list of things Lula was eating. Again, Dr. M, said that word “Pica” and moved on as if it were no big deal. This really did not feel “normal” to me, but I adore our pediatrician. He has been a doctor for a long time and I believe in him with every fiber of my being… But this still felt like a bigger deal than “Just tell her ‘No.’ - Remove the object from her mouth and be consistent.” Before her 18 month appointment I was concerned that this was still a problem and what the heck was ‘Pica’ anyway? So I looked it up……… HORRIFIED!

I went through a tornado of emotions.

Devastated; that there might really be something wrong with my child. {There isn’t!}

Furious; that I knew that Pica could not be her diagnosis. My child does not have a mental disorder. She is not Autistic, anemic, or neglected.

Sad; what would I do if she was still eating random stuff in school? Was I really going to have “that child”; The paste eater??

Defensive; No one was going to judge me because my kid is on the playground eating sand. I am a good and attentive mother. This is NOT a reflection on my parenting… And they dare not judge my child. Trust me, no one wants to say word one about my child, or they will find themselves face to face with Mama Bear – and it won’t be pretty!

Needless to say, I went through a myriad of emotions, shame was most certainly on that list. The definition of Pica, as you search for it on the internet is far too broad stroke. It puts children like Lula that simply eat the inedible for no other reason than ‘they do’ in a category with children whose needs reach far beyond eating crayons or dirt.

So for all of you moms and dads out there who haven’t breathed a word to anyone about your little one, putting a family of beavers to shame with the way he eats through your books-- Or your daughter’s inability to color or even be near crayons without ingesting half the box- You are not alone!

For all of the moms and dads who have heard the word Pica from their pediatrician only to be horrified by the definition and insistent that is not your child. Your child is a happy, healthy, well-adjusted little man who just happens to eat sand – You are not alone! 

And for all of the moms and dads who have ever felt judged because your little one eats the sidewalk chalk and would rather swallow rocks than skip them - You are not alone!

Instead of sitting at home crying – why not laugh? I am sure if we are all brave enough to share, we would be surprised at how many of us there really are raising little Pica people.

Time for a little ‘Sisterhood in Motherhood’!

Send me your story – The craziest thing your little one has ever eaten. I promise to share mine too! Or send me your moment when you realized this “eating thing” went a little beyond “normal toddler behavior” – Or share anything you want about your life trying to stay one step ahead of your eating machine! Send your stories to my email and I will compile a post all about the …Joys of Pica…The Emotions of Pica… The Frustrations of Pica… whatever it is. The posts will NOT include your name or anything personal unless you would like to be named.

Trust me, I find it cathartic when I share Lu’s culinary misadventures – You just might too! I KNOW your story will help someone feel better. I look forward to hearing what you are going through with your little one or went through when he or she was younger. Personally, I would love to hear from someone whose tot grew up, went off to school and can now control the urge to eat pencil erasers {a favorite of Lula’s by the way!}

Thank you in advance for sharing your story!



1 comment:

flipflopmama4 said...

Beautiful piece of writing, Shelbi! I hope other parents struggling with Pica will find it reassuring and the others who knew nothing of the condition before can be educated by your post.
That being said, I think I have Pica... lol. As soon as I read "the paste-eater??" I was transported right back to kindergarten - I could smell the paste, hear the gloppy noise it made and I knew instatnly that it tasted kind of minty...

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