Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Feingold Diet: One Year Later, part 1

Two years ago, Lissie started preschool at age four. A month later, I gave birth to my third child, Maxine. Four months after that, we moved to our new house. It was a joyful time, but also an incredibly stressful time.

It was no surprise when Lissie started acting out. That was a lot for any four year old to handle, let alone one as excitable as Lissie. Lissie has always been a spirited child. When she was born, she came out screaming. Not the sweet mewling cry of a newborn, but screaming. She was incredibly sensitive to everything. She barely slept, even the first few days in the hospital. For the first year of her life she took 20 minute naps. I can't say exactly when she first started sleeping through the night regularly, but it was around the time she turned four. Now, at six, she still wakes up more nights than not.

As an infant, she'd wet her diaper, and immediately cry. She was easily overstimulated and would scream in stores and other unfamiliar places. I got a sling when she was a few months old, and that helped. A little bit. Sometimes. I held her constantly, we co-slept, I nursed on demand. I was exhausted.

As she got older, things got a little better, but she was still very excitable. We used to compare her to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, except that we never knew what would set her off. She was incredibly sweet and funny. She'd charm everybody at family functions, but by the time we were at the car she'd be wild and disobedient, we'd be picking her up screaming and fighting off the ground and forcing her into her car seat.

It wasn't a discipline issue. She has always listened very well sometimes, and other times, not at all. It was very confusing. It was also stressful and isolating, because nobody understood. We tried everything we could think of, everything people suggested, but nothing helped. It was heartbreaking.

Two years ago, I dropped her off for her first day of preschool. Sweet, excited, happy. Normal. I have a video of it. Three hours later, I picked her up and she was different. I braced myself, because I knew what was coming. You could always tell. I was actually hoping to make it home before before it hit, but I opened the banana I'd brought for snack before handing it to her. She screamed that she had wanted to open it herself, and then she continued screaming the entire rest of the 30 minute drive home. We chalked it up to overstimulation, first day of school jitters, and not sleeping well the night before.

The meltdowns started coming more frequently, and the spring after we moved to our new house, they were really bad--almost constant. I knew this was not normal stressed out kid behavior, but I wasn't sure what it was. Then one day, while scanning a homeschooling blog, I serendipitously stumbled across a post titled "Our Year Without Artificial Colors." Can you believe that I almost skipped it? I almost didn't read it, because we generally eat pretty well. I knew all about those kids whose parents let them eat junk food all day, and soda for lunch, and we're not like that.

But I did read it. And it was eye-opening. Life changing, even. The way the woman described her daughter's behavior, going from sweet to animalistic in minutes sounded exactly like Lissie. The anger, the biting, the hitting, the violence, but not all the time, everything she wrote could have been written by me. I wish I could remember the name of the blog, but I have looked for it since and have not been able to find it again.

To be continued...

(cupcake photo - Kat Johnston)

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