Fostering children who haven’t gotten a fair start in life is a heartfelt and gratifying experience. But it’s fraught with challenges. Navigating an under-funded system is frustrating to say the least. Precious time is spent getting them services and providing opportunities to help them thrive.
My current charge has neurological differences, some of which can be explained by his neglectful and abusive early childhood events and a lot of which responded to good nutrition and reliable love.
When we first welcomed Ramine into our home, he had a long list of issues, such as poor sleep patterns, no attention span, poor concentration at school and during homework time. Ramine was often in trouble at school and labeled hyperactive. He was constipated. When he ate, he was shoveling food, hiding anything he could in his jacket pocket, bookbag, and pockets while always asking what we would eat for the next few meals. He came home from school ravenous and unable to concentrate.
Thanks to Suppers and the stories others have shared, I knew most, if not all, of these symptoms could be addressed with food and the loving family interactions that take place around the acquiring and preparing of meals.
Luckily for me, despite his rough start, he had had a jewel in his paternal grandmother who fostered a love of vegetables and smoothies. Ramine was very helpful in the kitchen so we cooked together and he suggested smoothie ingredients.
I got my tip on how to deal with his constipation from another Suppers member’s story. Danny’s grandson’s story about sweet potatoes helped immediately — 1/4 to 1/2 sweet potato in his smoothie has him on a regular bowel movement schedule with no strain or pain.
We talk about mindfulness and the fact that there will always be enough food here. I direct him to eat slowly, “Taste what’s in front of you now,” I say. “Can you taste the cinnamon you suggested we add? It’s good, right? How do you think ginger would taste?”
We make overnight oats together with chia seeds and different add-ins to keep it interesting and also get him a good dose of healthy fats to help his brain and mood.
I send a healthy snack (nut and date balls, nut butter sandwich, fruit, etc.) to school with him to eat when he’s hungry so he can focus during the second part of the school day and not be starving before homework.
We make chili together, but he couldn’t have guessed he’d have it for breakfast! He resisted at first (in his mind, breakfast = sweet), but now he’s eager to do the breakfast experiment with me to see what satisfies him longer.
Three months later and the “troublemaker” with poor attention is now a student of the month who’s been invited to the chess club because of his consistent behavior. He sleeps soundly and wakes up easily and refreshed. He’s able to focus during homework time so he makes fewer mistakes and is able to accept corrections without throwing tantrums.
I can’t control much of what happens to him when he’s not with me (food, family relationships, etc.) so I’m doing my best to infuse him with love, support, and nourishment while I have him.