Being thick skinned takes work, whether it comes to parenting or Air Frying pork belly.
When I cook, one of my self care routines, I find parallels with parenting a child with FASD.
My cousin gifted us an Air Fryer for Christmas and it’s been amazing to make recipes on my bucket list, most recently roasted pork belly.
I got a 1.5 pound cut of pork belly, with good distribution of skin, fat and meat.
I boiled the meat for 15 minutes to remove the impurities then rinsed it under cold water.
I then poked holes on the skin using a fork – you can use a toothpick or skewer – which allows for bubbly crispy skin.
Don’t poke into the meat or the meat juice will spoil the skin crisping.
For the skin to crisp up, it’s important to dry up the skin.
I brushed it with vinegar then salted generously to draw out the moisture.
I put it in the fridge uncovered for 48 hours, taking it out after a day to pat the skin dry and to score the meat in one inch squares; then seasoned the meat with five spice powder.
When I was ready to air fry, I wrapped the sides of the meat in foil then sprinkled more salt on top.
I roasted it for 40 minutes in 390 degrees Celsius.
And voila! It exceeded my expectations – the skin was so crispy and the meat was juicy.
Being a parent of a child with FASD can feel like a pig being slaughtered and roasted.
Many parents of kids with FASD often share challenges with verbal aggression – and the hubby and I are certainly not immune to it.
“Shut up” is T’s go-to phrase when he doesn’t get his way or when he’s refusing to comply. When he’s very disregulated, he will hurl threats or hurtful comments, such as “I hate you” or “you’re the worst.”
I’ve learned to be better at not taking it personally – and to reframe his behaviour as symptoms of his disability: impulsivity (says the first thing on his mind) combined with difficulty regulating his emotions (says the thing to inflict the most hurt).
But I’m only human. No matter how thick skinned I am, things get to me if I am consistently poked at – like pork belly – and it gets to me, because I parent with my heart wide open to T.
I feel horrible when I don’t react with calm and grace in moments I feel like I’m submerged in boiling water.
I’ve learned to be less bothered when the comments are directed at me. Because I know that in one moment, T could be screaming I’m the worst parent because I’m ending his bath then moments later, we’re snuggling with a book in bed and he tells me he loves me.
What bothers me are the reaction – said out loud and unsaid through body language – by people who see T at his worst.
I remember one family member remarking on T after he was so awesome throughout my sister’s funeral service. Instead of attributing it to maybe, just maybe, he’s a good kid, the comment was, “Did he take his medication?”
People are quick to judge and to label kids into black and white buckets based on disregulated moments and these overshadow the moments when T is good, kind, caring, funny, regulated, compliant and empathetic.
But unlike roasted pork belly, our skin and spirit do toughen up – and I choose to focus on the positive and the things I can control: advocating for T, raising awareness about FASD and increasing understanding, one heart and mind at a time.
Unlike roasted pork, I don’t want life as a special needs parent to make my exterior hard, coarse, crisped – and jaded and cynical.
So it means to not dwell on the small stuff and to brush myself not with vinegar and salt but with the good stuff that fill up my heart and spirit.
And that includes indulging in my cooking adventures.