I delighted in Natasha’s very developmentally appropriate behavior during the tour. Natasha is now 10 years old and came home from the orphanage 6.5 years ago.
Her longest lasting post-institutional behaviors centered around food. Natasha first had to learn to chew at 3.5 years of age. And then she needed to feel secure that food was always available. So I gave Natasha control over her food and water intake. She could eat on demand.
“On demand eating” meant that Natasha ate 8 or 9 very small meals a day. And many nights she went to sleep with a package of crackers in her hand and a glass of water nearby.
I learned that Natasha needed food in her hand before she entered the grocery store. Or we would pick up a cookie from the bakery very quickly. She couldn’t handle being surrounded by food and unable to eat it. She would have a major meltdown.
She would eat from my plate even if she had plenty of food on her plate. This was almost a compulsion.
Many of her food issues faded away after the first year home. She stopped begging people for food. She finally understood what a full stomach and mouth felt like.
But some behaviors remained. Any stories about hungry children made her sad and scared. She couldn’t be surrounded by food without eating or holding it. So she needed food going into the grocery store. And she needed food while sitting in the car surrounded by the food.
And I discovered an interesting reaction. Natasha completely relaxed when surrounded by fresh fruit.
Natasha used food to cement friendship. She had to fed her friends before she felt like they had a solid relationship. So taking treats to share with her classmates at school was critical.
During our tour of the food bank we heard many stories about hungry families and children. Natasha didn’t get worried. She just enjoyed the tour.
So I started thinking back… Sometime during the last year, she finally was able to feel completely secure about the availability of food.