When I was newly pregnant with my first child, I read this article about the five reasons modern day parenting was in crisis. I devoured the piece, soaking in every word, swearing to myself that I would not commit these wrongs. The point that resonated most with me was what she called “the Sippy Cup test.” She surmised that if a parent filled a blue cup of milk, handed it to the toddler, and then quickly switched the cup after that child threw a fit over the color of said cup, it proved that the parent feared his/her child and was letting them rule the house. I swore, that scenario would never occur in my house. I would control the color of the cup my child drank out of at every meal.
Then, I had my daughter. Getting her to eat or drink ANYTHING was far more important than the color cup it was in. She had bigger issues to work through. If drinking out of only one certain purple cup calmed her to the point where she would drink her milk (which contained crucial medicines), then we would make sure to only offer her that cup. I struggled with this. Was I the horrible parent the author talked about, the one who was causing a modern day parenting crisis? Was I ruining my child?
Believe me when I say, I dedicated a lot of time and unnecessary worry on this issue. What I should have been doing is looking beyond the cup and asking the questions, why did my daughter need this cup? What did this tell me about her? Is the cup even the real issue?
Had I taken the time to look beyond the color of the cup being the issue, I would have discovered that the milk was the problem. My daughter was lactose intolerant and drinking milk was extremely painful for her. She took the cup because pink and purple were her favorite colors but she fought drinking the liquid every day because her little body was screaming at her “don’t do it, it’s bad for you!” She fought eating, not because she was trying to be picky, but because her body was so uncomfortable there was no room for food. In an attempt to make her gain weight, we were actually hurting her more. The cup was the only thing she could control. It was her attempt to let us know that something was horribly wrong.
I am writing this article so that other parents, who have read similar articles, trust their instincts instead of their eyes. While, I am not discounting that the author had a point in her piece, there needed to be an asterisk at the end of the article that said “this does not apply to all scenarios”. It took us a long time to get to the bottom of our food/lack of weight gain/extreme emotional responses to everything problem. Finally, after years of questioning doctors and pursuing every avenue, we landed with a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder. It all began to make sense. We had to keep her environment constant so that she could orient herself in this scary world. Eventually, the color of the cup, the size of the spoon, the shape of the plate, began to matter less and what was in it mattered more.
About six months ago the dishwasher was dirty when we got up and my son’s normal cup was not clean. My husband gave my son one of my daughter’s cups to drink out of and I thought “Oh God, this is going to be ugly.” It was at first. But, before my daughter could reach a full blown meltdown, Brian explained why he had to use her cup and she understood. The drama ended there. My husband and I breathed a sigh of relief and we moved on with our day.
It was just a small example of how far we have come. It was also a great reminder to us both that if you do have to bend on a cup for a little while, it doesn’t mean you always will have to, or that you are a horrible parent. Sometimes, there are just bigger fish to fry. Oh and in case you are wondering if my son threw a fit over getting a different cup, the answer is no. He will drink from any cup you give him because he just got up, and that kid is thirsty.