Eating Out with a Tubie

Waiter/Waitress: “Would you like a meal for him/her?”
Parent(s): “No thanks, he already ate before we left home. He’ll share with us if he wants something.”

This is an all too familiar experience for parents with children that either can’t or don’t want to eat. There are a lot of reasons why children might not be able to eat. A common one is aspiration, where things they eat or drink end up partially in their lungs. Aspiration is a silent thing. The child doesn’t appear sick, though some of them do get repeated bouts of pneumonia. This scenario isn’t ours, but the resulting experience is similar.

Our struggle is not wanting to eat. For some reason, and we don’t know for sure why because he can’t talk yet to tell us, our son is uncomfortable eating food to the point he doesn’t eat enough to survive. So, at three months we had a feeding tube, and we’ve had one ever since. Even though our son is allowed to eat by mouth as much as he wants, he frequently will choose not to do so. Everything you give him, 90% or more of it ends up scattered on the floor. It really doesn’t make any more sense to order him separate meals than it does if he couldn’t eat at all.

Unfortunately, the assumption is generally that you’re too cheap to buy your child their own food. Sometimes you get looks of pity. Sometimes you get free items brought to the table that you’re then obligated to let your child smear from one end of the table to the other. In places where you order up front and the food is brought to the table, the person delivering the food frequently asks if they’re missing something and looks at you with bewilderment when you say no.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that any of this bothers me. It really doesn’t. It does, however, bother a lot of special needs parents. I feel the need to share this because I want to end the pain of those who do care what other people think. Even if only one restaurant server reads this, it could allow a family with a tubie a chance to have a meal out where they’re not judged for giving their kid a few chips or french fries and a drink. It may not look like a meal, but the child’s main nutrition is formula. What they’re, “eating,” in front of you is just extra.


7 responses

  1. I’ve never had a particular problem with my son’s feeding issues. But then, he is simply very picky. The kind of picky that means 99% of restaurants don’t have anything he will eat. It has become a habit simply to bring his food separately in a lunch box. All I have to do is say, “He doesn’t eat ‘human’ food.” and they pretty much accept that. I find most restaurants are tolerant of such limitations and kind about odd requests: “We’d like a booth, facing the road, with no neighbor on one side. Thanks.” Asking doesn’t even seem strange any more. Strange is the new normal.

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. It’s funny (or not) that I wouldn’t even think of any of those things. I would just assume that the child already ate like you had said. Isn’t it strange how strangers judge others according to their own beliefs? I’m sorry this happens, but I am grateful that it doesn’t bother you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is strange. We all see the world through our own lens and that can be frustrating at times. I always try to be understanding as long as the person isn’t extremely pushy.


  4. In our family we have a short of double dose of this. My husband has stomach surgery and can’t eat a lot, my son has a tube and just picked at stuff.
    So we always have Dad and soon share.
    When the servers raise their eyebrows or actually question us, I decide to put a little shame on them.
    “Stomach surgery” I’ll say pointing at Dad, “so he can’t eat a lot” And then I point at the son “medical complications and a feeding tube.” I’ll smile sweetly. “So I do know what I’m doing, but thanks for questioning”.
    Usually they are chagrined and we get really good service after that. But I only do that to the belligerent ones. Once I actually lifted my son’s shirt up to show the tube when the server was really being a pain.
    The ones who don’t hassle get big tips and a comment from the manager on how awesome they were.

    Liked by 1 person

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