Cake at a Birthday party is a right of passage. You don't think much about it. When Christian turned one, my biggest decision was "Do I really want to give him a full-of-sugar piece of cake, or should I go with something healthier while I still can?" We opted for a homemade carrot cake cupcake as a first, and boy did he love it!
On the other hand, when Elijah turned one, I chose with a semi-heavy heart, not to try for a "First Cake" experience. Elijah just wasn't self feeding at that point and it seemed as though it would be an exercise in disappointment to try to make a big deal out of something he just wasn't ready for. Since then, we have realized that Elijah's self-feeding issues are mostly a result of Tactile Defensiveness issues. Basically, he doesn't like to touch certain things. He especially doesn't like to touch wet or sticky or slimy textures. Turns out, that if you've never had to consider it before, most food falls into a wet, sticky or slimy category. So, Elijah has been resistant to most foods that he has to touch. Luckily, he is a champion eater as long as he's being fed and doesn't have to touch anything himself. For about the last 6 months, Elijah has been able to self feed with very dry items: at first, just baby puffs, but more recently the list of dry ingredients has expanded to include crackers, veggie chips, rice cakes and more.
This week we had a major breakthrough. Probably due to my own hunger, I sat down for dinner with my boys and put a few pieces of a burger and fries on Elijah's tray. I was too hungry to wait and thought that he could sit in front of it for awhile, try it, or else he'd get something fed to him as soon as I was done. I fed him a little piece of the burger and could tell immediately that he loved it. I continued to eat my own meal. I watched Elijah out of the corner of my eye as he studied his food. His hands began opening and closing, fingers wiggling, and eyes wide, as if to say, I really want it....but I don't wanna touch it...but I do want it.. A minute or so passed, when all of a sudden Elijah picked up a piece of the burger, looked at it closely and then popped it into his mouth. It took every ounce of self-discipline I have not to jump up like a wild woman doing the Hallelujah dance. I played it cool. He picked up more food. Ate it. Looked up at me and when I gave him the choice of "All Done?" or "More?", he signed, "More".
He. ate. the. entire. meal. ALL. BY. HIMSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Tonight, I thought a lot about what else I could try giving him. I thought that beans might be a good try, since they can be soft, but aren't too wet and slimy if you dry them off. I decided to make chili. (I know...I know...how is chili not slimy??) I spooned a serving of chili onto a plate to cool off and then patted the ingredients with a napkin so that they weren't too wet...however, it was CHILI, so I wasn't able to get all of the "wet" off. I put some things down on Elijah's tray and then fed him a piece to prove to him that it was yummy. He looked at for a few seconds, then reached down, grabbed a piece, and started eating. As I replenished his tray, I got less and less careful about the pieces being dry and soon enough, Elijah was picking up and eating messy pieces of chili ingredients that had just come out of a wet and slimy pot. That's when I broke out the camera....
Just about a month ago, I was realizing that Elijah's second birthday isn't too far away (End of April), and I asked his Occupational Therapist, "Elijah is going to be able to eat cake by his second birthday, won't he?? He needs to be able to eat cake by his second birthday!" (Probably said with something of a whimper.) I think we've turned a corner...and I think cake is in it!!
Looks like we'll have some cake testing around here...good thing I'm going to the Los Angeles Cupcake Challenge next week. I'll be able to bring back a few goodies...you know...just for "Practice".