January 6, 2010 11:13 am
I told you I’d eventually explain why I fell off the face of the bloggy earth. It’s kind of wordy so I broke it up into two posts. It’s not the usual light hearted comedy you’ll find here at HAGAY, more like a tale of woe and despair. Don’t worry, happiness prevailed in the end. So far.
Jamie and I often joke about writing a book to warn prospective parents. “Somebody needs to get the word out that kids will ruin your lives”. Of course we’re joking, but we’ve had several trying months around here that led us to doubt our abilities as parents. Admitting our parental shortfalls is not something I enjoy doing, especially since Jamie and I have gone to great lengths to be the best possible parents we can be. We have a strong relationship, we’re financially secure and I quit my job because I believed wholeheartedly that I could do great by my kids by staying home.
Several months back, our lives started to unravel. It all started with Graham, whose behavior started to worsen with each day. He became an angry mess; defiant, destructive and violent toward his sister. He couldn’t sit still, ever, and roamed the house all day looking for things to get into or destroy. He wasn’t able to stay focused on a task like doing an art project or playing with a toy, he would get frustrated and angry and immediately move onto something else.
There were days when just looking at Graham would cause him to throw himself on the floor in a tantrumy fit. Poor Elliot got the brunt of his anger, she couldn’t come within five feet of him without being hit or shoved to the ground. This wasn’t normal sibling rivalry and we had to keep constant watch of both kids because just taking our eyes off of Graham for a second meant that Elliot might get hurt. Graham wasn’t sleeping more than three or four hours a night and walked around with a permanent scowl and sunken, dead eyes. I wasn’t sure who this kid was but I missed my sweet, happy boy.
We had originally put Graham in school five mornings a week but feared that we overdid it and he was acting out because of it. So we moved him back to three days. We communicated back and forth with his teachers on discipline methods to make sure we were consistent at school and at home. Still, each day at pick up, his teachers would tell me how he was “completely unresponsive” and unable to discipline. He was the same way at home and time outs and loss of privileges didn’t work because he simply didn’t care.
By this point, Jamie and I were completely exhausted. We were walking around like zombies, having gotten no sleep at night and having to deal with Angry Graham during the day. Our patience was at an all time low and Jamie and I were even snapping at each other. Trips to the pediatrician and the ENT left me with no explanation for his sleep problems or his behavior.
Halloween weekend, the chaos peaked. The kids ate their fair share of formerly forbidden candy. Saturday afternoon rolled around and Graham became more distracted and belligerent. By Sunday, he was a tantrum a minute and couldn’t be controlled. We were all baffled and frustrated by his behavior.
Shortly after the Halloween Tantrumisode, I was scouring the internet for answers when I came across an article on artificial food dyes and their link to behavior problems in children. The site had testimonials from parents, describing the behavioral changes in their kids with food dye sensitivities. How their formerly sweet kids turned psychotic, kicking, screaming and spitting just from eating a single lolliopop or M&M. I literally teared up when I read through the stories because I felt like they were describing Graham. Up until this point, I felt like everyone thought I was exaggerating when I described our bad days with Graham an that people just chalked it up to normal toddler behavior. I finally found some validation that there was something going on with my kid and that I could do something to fix the situation.
We had previously noticed a change in Graham’s behavior every time he ate mac-n-cheese and banned it from our house. He would turn aggressive and defiant and stop sleeping for a few days after eating it. We thought it had something to do with the dairy but never once considered it was the coloring. Then at school, Graham’s teachers started giving the kids Skittles as potty training rewards. I knew about it and even provided the sweet treats from the class wish list. If someone was willing to potty train my kid for me, I wouldn’t care if they gave him an eight ball of coke as long as the poop made it in the toilet. I kid. Before school started this year, Graham had never eaten candy. The dye in the daily Skittles were shocking his little system and causing him to go apeshit.
Discovering the link between artificial food dye and Graham’s behavior was the key to getting things back on track. I’ll go into more detail on what we did to change things in tomorrow’s post, I’ve rambled on enough for one day.