Usually, when Ella comes home from practice, she’s not hungry. The hard practice, the hot nights, the substantial lunches or snacks that are part of our hobbit regimen–these add up to a light dinner. Some nights, we talk until something shifts and she recognizes hunger, more often she’ll shower and return to the table when she’s ready. But one night there was no dinner. As in not one single thing made it on to her plate or into her mouth.
It was a very warm night. Her grandparents had taken her to lunch, a large lunch, for her birthday. She practiced, she showered, we talked. It got later and later, and still, she just wasn’t hungry. She checked her Instagram, she fiddled with the Rubik-cube. She was perfectly happy. She just wasn’t hungry. I looked her over, all clean and fresh and relaxed, and one very large part of me wanted to spoon some salad or fruit or a piece of bread on to her plate. Another, wiser part of me thought, what’s the harm? That smaller voice, the one murmuring, she’s strong, she’s healthy, she can choose, she should choose what to eat and when and how much–that part won. Her plate stayed clean, her fork unused. We sat at the counter and talked over the meal that wasn’t a meal.
It’s such a small thing, really, choosing to let your child not eat. I felt a weird emptiness staring at her empty plate. But to her, that empty plate was full. She was satisfied. With her self, her life, her appetites. Everything was sated. My job? To let go, to respect her many hungers and the ways she is choosing to feed them. Or not.