Burger King Must Read My Blog! : Adventures in Healing Food


“Herding Chickens…How’d they know?!

Pizza is disappearing into his face at an alarming rate. He is crouched in his chair, hunkered down over his plate, using both fists to shove pepperoni slices and crust into his mouth. It’s savage and a little scary to watch. He is coughing and gagging, but refuses to stop shoving food into his mouth. Any and all attempts to enter into his space to offer comfort or words of caution, is met with direct hostility.

This is not quite as alarming as the fact that he has left the table twice now, to go into the bathroom. The second time I follow him down the hall to listen through the door. Just as I suspected. He is throwing up the food he is eating. I reach up to knock on the door and am almost run over by the boy sprinting out of the bathroom and back to his food. I find him back at the table, sniffling, and shoveling food into his mouth.

I attempt to slow him down and offer to save food for him. He begins wailing and crying heavily. Between sobs he is begging me to give him cake. We do not have cake. I’m not sure what made him think of that. He is begging me not to take his food. I offer to save his food in the refrigerator. He clutches his head at the thought and I realize that he also has a migraine coming on.

He is my 10-year-old son, Carl. He is not at all sick, at least not the viral kind of sick. This isn’t out of character for him, but we have not seen these behaviors in about a year.Carl has issues around food.  I am quite taken by surprise to see this today because I’m not sure what triggered it. Carl is sobbing in loud, heaving hiccups and claiming that I am “mad” at him. There is a huge blob of ketchup running down his shirt. He finally allows me to gather him onto my lap and soothe him. I start his shower and promise to wait outside the door. I stay with him to pick out some cozy pajamas. My husband gives him children’s Tylenol for the headache. I rub his back as he vomits a few more times. I clean him up and give him water.

As I am going through the motions, I am reflecting. We have seen this before with Carl. It’s a trauma-response he has due to spending his early years without enough food. Carl and Mary would often eat butter or croutons that they got for their lunches when they were 4 and 5 (and maybe younger) because there wasn’t anyone to make them lunch. They didn’t always have enough food in the house. They learned to survive by eating as much as they could, before their siblings could get it.

When Carl first came home to us, his trauma response was triggered all over again. He had been living in a foster home separate from his siblings. Living with them again reminded him of all the times they were his competitors for basic survival needs, like food. He would scream and yell at me during each meal. He would throw his plate at me, food, silverware and all. I learned to catch the knife like a ninja! Then we started opting for plastic ware. After throwing his food he would scream that we were starving him and tantrum. Fifteen minutes after he ate a meal, he would forget that it even happened. He was convinced that we were lying to him about having eaten already. He was sure we were tricking him out of meals. It took this little guy a long time to finally feel safe.

His food issues have included hoarding food in his room, his backpack, and burying it outside in the snow. Snow melts, but Carl didn’t think of that at the time. He used to bring multiple snacks to school and then tell his teacher he had nothing to eat, and beg for more. He was just always worried that the food would run out. We gave him non perishable foods to hang onto so that he would know he had his own food. I made a written schedule onetime so that he knew when the next meal was coming. We let him know he could eat fruits, veggies, and granola any time of the day he wanted to. We showed him where to find these items, and always kept a full supply, where he could easily reach it. Slowly, he came around and stopped the food-shortage panic. It took a loooong time.

I thought we were past that phase. The thing about trauma, especially early childhood trauma, is that it sticks around. Carl’s brain was forming at a time when resources were scarce and adult support was even scarcer. He is almost hard-wired at this point to take care of himself by whatever means necessary. In times of stress, he reverts back to these survival skills.

This last week has been almost legendary in terms of the food drama. We could even hear him rummaging around in the middle of the night, collecting as much food as he could. He is in the beginning of his “trauma narrative” in therapy. This can bring up a lot for our kids. It puts them right back into that survival mode while they face their past traumas. The good news is that after they face the trauma, they begin to heal, and their mal-adaptive survival behaviors start to fade. The bad news is that while they are facing their trauma, we parents are facing it too!

Today we had church. We made it through communion although part of me was worried that he might jump across the alter and gobble down all of the wafers. He didn’t, and I was proud of him. After church, I decided to take the chickens out for lunch. Lately, eating a meal at home never ends, because Carl will beg for more and more foods to be brought out. Since he knows there is more food nearby he will cry and beg for other options and generally panic and yell at us that we aren’t feeding him despite the 3 different lunch options sitting in front of him. Carl isn’t trying to be difficult. He’s just afraid he won’t be fed.

Eating at a fast food place is great. You get all of your food at once, in your own little bag. Carl can easily see what is his and how much is in front of him. There are no other options seemingly withheld from him, stashed in cabinets or a refrigerator within arms reach. Also, Burger King is doing a “chicken fries” promotion right now. There are pictures of chickens everywhere including a grumpy looking “buffalo chicken.” Carl says that one is him! Since I refer to my children as “chickens” it seemed only fair that I herd them to a location with the slogan, “We herd you were hungry!” Lunch went off without a hitch. I would even say we all had a good time.


Carl says he is the chicken on the left. Mary says she is the chicken on the right.

I took pictures to remind everyone about the great time we had at lunch. This way Carl can’t forget it happened. I have proof! Other than that, Luke and I just have to buckle up and wait out the trauma narrative. It’s hard to watch Carl struggle but it will be entirely worth it to watch him feel safe.  In the meantime? Pass the chicken fries! I promise to take a picture so that you won’t forget.


Good thing Burger Kind knows a princess when they see one!

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

**If you’ve ever considered fostering or adopting I encourage you to start your journey today.



12 thoughts on “Burger King Must Read My Blog! : Adventures in Healing Food

  1. This foster home has a lot to learn! Thank you for helping us see that there is a repeating cycle, as the child addresses the trauma narrative at different ages and stages. We feel like we learned none of these important things in the thirty hour class.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am seeing that every child in care has experienced some kind of trauma, at the least being placed with someone outside their immediate family. That there is no one able or willing to take the child in. And there is usually more.


    • Yes! All foster care starts with a trauma for the child. Kids in care should automatically get screening and therapy to access their needs. We are starting to do a bit of this in CT, but not enough. Thank you for caring about kids in care.


  3. deansandrazmm says:

    This post reminds me of our son. He was eating applesauce, vomiting and shoveling it in simultaneously. It was sickening to watch. These poor children suffer so much, if only love could make it all better

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your honesty toward your children. You see them each for who they are, as well as what they have been through. When we do this -we can relax even in trying moments such as this time -because we understand the “why.” Later, when it is over we can recalculate our responses in and honest effort to change what needs changed, and keep what worked.

    Always, with my daughter it is calculating ways to work with her thought patterns. Like your children, my daughter would not eat unless she got it herself. Eating dry macaroni was an option. Then one year she got “my little oven” Yeah! She could make oatmeal, and cake in the oven and her and her little brother could eat. Sounds like in your kids case there wasn’t much to eat. Mine didn’t have many options but she was able to improvise. So, one of the things that has worked for her -I let her take on as much cooking as she wishes to do. Then she is in control. This has really helped her to gain some control of eating. That being said, she is nearly 15 now and her cooking time has grown gradually, but we cooked with her in the beginning. It didn’t really begin to work until she was making whatever she wanted to make, when she wanted to make it. This has only been in the last couple of years we’ve really given her the reins on this.

    Another thing we’ve done with our daughters is to give them the responsibility of each other in different ways. For instance, one girl is much better socially. So she takes the reins in socializing her sister. The other is much better in school, so she takes the reins in helping her realize the importance of school work.

    This has really helped them to bond, and rely upon each other in a positive way. Seeing them help one another through the things they both face is wonderful. No one truly understands what they’ve each endured as well as them. Compassion and understanding has driven them closer, and they find ways because of their understanding to be strong for one another.

    I don’t know if this will help your children as they were born and raised together at least in the beginning. My girls didn’t even meet until they were 7. At first, they tolerated each other but fought constantly with rare moments of interaction., Your son was probably not the “care giver” in the family and felt left out by the bonding of the others. This keeps him from thinking about their need to eat. They’ve been there done that -kinda thing. The trick will be in finding how to help Carl see that they are not ‘sharing’ with him, without making them feel anxious. Food, is probably not the answer right now -possibly finding a strength each of them have that they can help one another on like I did my girls. This could be an answer that would build into Carl no longer feeling he will not get to eat his share.

    My prayers are with you. Tough journey but so worth even one child being saved. Always remember to do your best (which I have confidence in) and pray that the paths they choose will not lead to self-destruction. Unfortunately, we never know where our children will end up whether we adopt or give birth. By showing them our strength we can believe that love, that family power, will pull them through future choices.

    Liked by 1 person

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