Adoption = You Ate My Cheesecake

Around here, we look for creative solutions.

It’s not so much that we’re trying to be on the innovative, leading-edge of child rearing.

Mostly, we’ve just run out of options.

Hoarding food is very typical in adoptive situations; kids who want to feel safe or control the situation may either make sure they have plenty of food available (hoarding, hiding, binge-eating, sneaking food at night) or refuse to eat.

We dealt with the food-refusal for about a year with our daughter; the situation got a little scary and our counselor referred us to a feeding disorder clinic. (It’s not considered an eating disorder until the late teens, apparently.)

On and off, we’ve caught our guy sneaking food. Actually, we usually catch him after the fact…he leaves wrappers in the trash or throws them behind things in the pantry (because I’m blind and will never notice?), or I discover that half of my cheesecake is missing. For instance.

We have tried every possible natural and logical consequence for the food thievery (commonplace or not, he didn’t buy the food, so it’s still wrong), even having him pay us back. Nothing worked. Finally, we put a lock on the pantry door. We considered putting one on the fridge, but he really only goes for desserts and snacks in the pantry. I hate it. Locking food away from them goes against everything I believe. On the other hand, if we don’t, he’ll eat himself to diabetes and back.

Just over a month ago, we noticed he’d put on several pounds. He’d also started picking up (and keeping) non-food odds and ends that don’t belong to him, so we felt it needed to be more strongly addressed.

Hubby and I sat him down, had a chat, explained that we feed him plenty of food to be sure he’s healthy. Gaining extra weight is not healthy, especially since he had heart surgery about 18 months ago. Asking for a snack is fine. Stealing food is not okay. We all agreed that he could eat something healthy if he woke up hungry (make a sandwich, have some fruit, etc).

Fast forward about three weeks.

The night of our anniversary, Hubby and I couldn’t go out, so I’d planned a dinner-and-movie date at home with finger foods and cheesecake. That afternoon, when I pulled the dessert box out of the freezer, it seemed lighter than before. A moment later, I knew.

I walked over to our son, teeth grinding. This wasn’t a snack—he’d eaten quite a bit. He saw the coming storm and paled. “Why am I mad right now?” I asked. He widened his eyes. “Because of the cheesecake.”

I crossed my arms. “That dessert was special. For Daddy. He’s put up with me for 14 years and he deserves something nice. Now what?”

He tapped his bottom lip, thinking. “You could get more?”

“No.” I fought the urge to growl. “I CAN’T get more because I have to take you to occupational therapy and then come straight home to get you guys through homework. That’s why I bought it YES-ter-day.” I was inches from losing my cool, so I walked away. Somewhere deep in my brain, I knew this would probably become a funny family story one day, but for the moment, I was steamed.

This weekend, during my read-your-blog-athon, (feel free to add to it; I’m up for more reading) the babysitter forgot to lock the pantry. I came home, took one look and knew at least one box of Hostess cupcakes was missing (mostly because we only had one, and, well, it was gone).

I asked him about it. “Yeah…I ate a bunch of cupcakes, and I found some Twinkies, and also some chocolate.” (Wait, we had TWINKIES?? Doggone it…) “Sorry, Mama.”

“So, we’ve talked with you about this before. You realize that you didn’t pay for the food, so you’re taking something that isn’t yours. You’re not just taking food from us—some of that food is for class parties or to take to people who need it. What’s going through your head when you’re doing this?”

He shrugged. “That it tastes good.”

“You don’t think about the fact that you shouldn’t be doing it, or that you might be ruining a surprise, like the cheesecake?”

He thought for a moment. “No, not until later.”

I sighed. I needed a way to communicate with him, to help him understand why he should stop.

*Ding*  (That’s the sound my brain makes when it’s done.)

I sent him out to play, then rooted around in the pantry for the kids’ candy bags. His teacher gave him a full-size chocolate bar for reading; he’s been very proud of it and we’ve been waiting for a great day at school (behaviorally) to break it out. He also had a little box of chocolates we got him for Valentine’s Day.

I ate the bar and a couple of the chocolates, and threw the rest away. Chocoholic though I am, the idea was turning my stomach. I didn’t want to see his hurt little face, but clearly nothing else we’ve done is getting through. I stuffed the candy bar wrapper in the box, then re-wrapped the cellophane.

He actually had a great day at school today, so the chocolate would have been a perfect reward. I called him inside. “Hey. Since you had a great day at school, you can have some chocolate.” His grin almost broke my resolve. Luckily for me, the box was already empty. He unwrapped the box and opened it, then stared at the vacant plastic insert and candy bar wrapper.

“Looks like someone ate that chocolate already,” I said. He shook his head. “Not me. I promise, I didn’t eat this candy.”

“I know you didn’t,” I said. “I ate it.”

He was confused. “You? Why?”

“So, tell me how you’re feeling right now. You were going to eat chocolate and you were excited, but someone else ate it. Now what?”

He stared at me. “Why did you eat my chocolate?”

I stared right back. “How does it feel when someone eats something you were really looking forward to having?”

He narrowed his eyes at me. “Makes me mad.”

“So how do you think it felt when I went to get the cheesecake? Or the other times you’ve taken the desserts?”

He got it, jaw clenching. “You didn’t feel good. Probably mad and sad.”

I put an arm around his shoulders. “Yep, sad and mad, like you’re feeling right now. Look, I don’t like this, but you need to know how it feels. I hope that if you know how it feels to have someone else take your food—or anything else, for that matter—it will help you think before you do it again. You always have healthy food available for you, but stealing is not okay.”

He walked into his bedroom and shut the door. A few minutes later, I knocked, then went to sit on the edge of his bed. He’d been crying. “So, now you know how it feels.” I tried to hug him. He shrugged away from me. “You’re kinda mad, right?”

He shook his head. “No. Not mad. I’m ANGRY.”

Hiding a smile, I raised a hand. “High five for using specific emotion words.” He poked my hand with one finger.

“Look, buddy, I didn’t like this consequence at all. In fact, it made me want to cry, because I knew it was going to hurt your feelings and disappoint you. But nothing else is working, and I think you need to know how it makes other people feel when you take things that belong to them, so maybe you won’t do it anymore.”

He nodded. “I’m still angry.” He poked my hand again, still not willing to acquiesce a full high five.

I hugged him again; this time, he didn’t move away. After a minute, he hugged me back.


An hour later, he came trotting up to me and tugged on my arm until I bent down. He planted a wet, smooshy kiss on my cheek and said, with his cute little melt-your-heart grin, “I love you.”


I don’t know if my tactics will solve the problem, but here’s hoping. Anyone else dealing with the same? I’ll take any suggestions.

And next time, I’m going to find those Twinkies FIRST.


About Casey

Adoption = my life. I'm determined to give my kids the chance they deserve. Adoption isn't always easy. I promise, you're not alone in this. Join me at - we're in this together.

Posted on March 10, 2015, in Adoption, parenting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. Soon it will be warm weather, more choices.for things to do.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. One thing about 8 and 10 year olds is that they don’t have much sense of adult humor, and things they think are hysterically funny do not amuse adults. This is a testing age, too. Actually this age range is my favorite of kids…they are or can be interested in such a wide variety of things, and not too cool to show it. Bugs for instance, or rocks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re not kidding. One time I accidentally said “doo doo” (it was actually in a sentence, like, “You don’t know what to do, do you?”) and that sent them into hysterics.

      Our son is definitely starting to have cool obsessions, like robotics. Our daughter…not as much, but she had more trauma so she’s more delayed. I’d say she functions on about a 6 year old level most of the time as far as interests and logic. She’s smart; we just have to help her get up to speed. They’ve both come light years in the four years we’ve had them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tough challenges. Seems like a thoughtful approach.

    Not to trivialize this issue, but I’ve had to use this kind of lesson with my husband who’s been known to eat more than his share if I don’t hide my portions of the treats in the house.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I did hesitate to make my previous comments, but I just sent it before I chickened out. Believe me, I know about difficult kids… I have only one now that is still under 50…and a bunch of grandkids, and great grands. When my husband and I got married my daughter was 14, and she was a real hell-raiser…for a couple of years there it seemed never-ending. Had one that had anorexia/bulimia, and was hospitalized as a teenager for most of seven years. Youngest son is mentally challenged, fortunately he is very high-functioning…he lives with me now (he’s 52) and always will. Dealing with him is like having a forever-14-year-old. It’s hard to remember that I am the “adult” sometimes.

    I always say “I should have been a nun.” The god’s truth is that if I were asked if I would have had kids if I had been able to see into the future and see all of the heartache and hassle…I honestly don’t know. Now I hasten to add…ALL of my kids and their kids, etc….have far exceeded any problem times with joys and pride, and much love. They return my love and they are there for me now that I am old. (OK, I said it…) As the saying goes I wouldn’t take a billion dollars for any one of my family…or give a nickel for a dozen more.

    So here’s the thing–kids are a big pain in the ass regardless. The only alternate is not to have any. I have relatives who did that, remained childless, for whatever reason…I suspect it was by choice in some of them…and when they got older (I’m talking 95+) they had no one left except a few like me, and to tell the truth I’m a lousy relative. But having said that, I will add that one of my granddaughters, who is a rock musician of some note, told me once that I was the coolest person she knows. Wow…I’ll take that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much! I appreciate the follow-up. 🙂 I agree with all of the above, and this afternoon I did try to focus on the positive and ignore the negative. Although it unfortunately didn’t do much good with my daughter, my 8 year old son and I actually had a really fun conversation (he’s brilliant and super to talk with when he’s not being insane). Thanks for the reminder. As for your granddaughter’s comment–I said pretty much the same thing to my Grandma. 🙂 She was awesome.


  5. Casey: That was a great way to teach a point you were trying to make. Sometimes people can’t understand how something we do makes them feel. You tried to talk it out but he had to experience the FEELING of it. I bet he will remember this lesson. They say “consequence is the best teacher” and to let our kids have as many natural consequences of their actions to help them REALLY learn. (As long as there is no danger in letting them suffer the consequences). Loved the outcome!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for reading and for contributing to the conversation! We do like to let them experience natural consequences as often as possible. Speaking of, I’ve thought of leaving a pan of college-prank-special* brownies on the stove overnight…ha ha ha (*laxative-laced). Maybe if this conversation doesn’t work, I’ll consider it again. (I’ll have to check with the pediatrician and the counselor first…this idea seems like it might be on the borderline of “okay” and “not okay.”)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I kind of assumed the blog was a great opportunity for you to let off steam in what can clearly be VERY trying circumstances, but it’s just that- a way for you to vent without taking it out on the kids or going TOTALLY MENTAL..
    Loved your solution to a very tricky problem. It’s so hard when other people (and not just kids) just don’t get what you’re trying to say and why. Must’ve been very upsetting for you too.
    I empathise with the praise issue- we’ve given our son a lot of praise/ encouragement when he works hard or achieves something, but he still has very little self-belief. I just hope he gains more confidence with life experience 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Lynn! Definitely keeps me from going mental (ha, I know that’s just normal slang for the cool kids, but it’s the first time I said it….so now I’m one of the cool kids! Or at least maybe I can stand near the cool kids?) 🙂 Thanks so much for your encouragement and for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. When I was growing up I never did anything right, always criticized by my mother. I was too fat, too dumb, had weird fingernails, black hair instead of blonde like my sisters, thighs like “hams…..” My point? I’d like to see some posts on the good things these kids do…their talents, what are they good at, what do you love about them, what do they enjoy or not like about school? Do you have fun with them? Chat about “stuff” often, watch shows on TV, hang out? Crafts? Growing things? I would like to hear about their positive points, and the times of joy and fun you have with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the note. I will see what I can do. 🙂

      The reality is, it’s been a very hard four years and sometimes it’s tough to find things to celebrate. We literally celebrate “NICE JOB, you brushed your hair without being told!” and “Awesome, you got dressed in under 30 minutes this morning; nice job!” and, “THANK YOU for not slamming the door that time. I really appreciate it.” We constantly try to praise them for anything they do right–especially if they didn’t have to be nagged. It’s difficult, though, when they can quote exactly what they need to do, but they won’t do it. I know I sound like Negative Nancy, but it’s very wearing. We’ve tried charts, rewards (both tangible and intangible), logical consequences, etc…we have two counselors, a psychiatrist, an occupational therapist and a speech therapist involved.

      It’s very hard to get the kids to respond, and it’s tough to find things to celebrate because they just refuse. For instance, our daughter, ten, drew a great self-portrait. It was truly super. We praised her and hung it in the kitchen. Since then, she’s drawn nothing but stick figures and scribbles. She brought me something yesterday–I couldn’t tell what it was other than a couple ovals–and said, “Here’s a picture of a submarine and a jellyfish. Isn’t it beautiful?” And of course, I said, “Thank you for the picture. It’s really special because YOU drew it!”

      I understand that it’s probably because the only attention they rec’d for a long time was negative attention, but it’s been a long four years trying to convince them that positive attention is valuable. If we praise them, they do the opposite.

      You’re right, though, that I need to take some time and really find things to be happy about.

      For the record, though, we work very hard to NEVER give them negative image of themselves. Sometimes I feel like I’m ranting on my blog, but that’s where it stays. I’ve also started talking with a counselor of my own to find ways to make sure my frustration is not communicated to them. My dad used to tell me to stop walking like a football player, or make comments about my acne…in his mind, I’m sure he was trying to be “helpful,” but of course, that’s not how it felt. I work very hard to make sure my kids don’t have any of those stories to tell.

      Hopefully that made sense.


    • p.s. Thanks again for your heartfelt comment. The more I think about it, the more right you become. I need to look harder for the positive. 🙂


  8. I think this is perfectly written. I too have teenagers that steal food. They will steal top ramen and eat it DRY!!! DRY!!! I mean seriously…is that even worth getting in trouble over? There is a rule in my house that you don’t HAVE to eat what I make for dinner but you get NOTHING else until breakfast…which is usually when the thievery happens. I quit buying junk food snacks because honestly I was tired of them putting the empty boxes back in the pantry and I don’t eat that stuff so I rarely checked…plus my littles don’t need to eat it either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • HA! That’s funny. I actually really like dry ramen (weird, I know). I introduced my friend’s 12-year-old to the “delicacy” and she (my friend) was less than thrilled. 🙂 Guess it’s an acquired taste. Yep, we have similar rules. Also, if anyone says “yuck” or any other rude comment about the food, they get double. They’ve each done it only once. 😉 You’re right about not needing the junk food…it’s such a part of the culture but so unnecessary (and bad for us). But it’s sooooooooooo good….twiiiiiiiiinnnnnnkiiiiiiiieeeeeeees…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on DOMESTICATED MOMSTER and commented:
    A good read about kids taking food without asking.

    Liked by 1 person

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