Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Lesson In Choices

Tomorrow is my twins' tenth birthday and partly as a cost-saving exercise, an energy-saving exercise (on my part - the days of the big party are gone for me) and a lesson in making financial choices, I gave them a budget to work with. They would get a sum of money to spend how they wished. They could spend it all on themselves, all on a party or something in between.

Wow, did it cause some problems for them as they weighed all the options up. They wanted the things they wanted but they wanted what their friends would give them, too. They didn't want to offend anyone but their budget wouldn't stretch to inviting them all without some major trade-offs taking place. It was a tricky decision.

Negotiations ensued between the two of them - could they put their budgets together for one big rave? Nope. What did they want to achieve? As many gifts and friends as possible. What would mum and dad provide for free? Hmmm, cake. You could see the gears whirring, eyes flicking from side to side as their brains processed all the information. Steam rose from their ears.

Eventually, having weighed everything up, they came to conclusions that they, and we, were happy with - one had a shopping spree and lunch at the mall with a friend while the other went for a sleepover and dinner with his friend. They planned a joint playdate and cake with a few more. Good choices within budget and lots of flexibility and choice. Everybody seems happy, including me especially as the lessons inherent have been extremely valuable. One of my better ideas. And boy, based on today's trip to the mall, next birthday, I'm going to give *myself* a bunch of money to spend just as I like. That was so cool.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Evils Of Salicylates

My son has been looking tired for a few days now, he bursts into tears when I pick him up from school, he has headaches, he can't get to sleep and yet he wakes up early, he falls out with his friends at school. These are all signs for him that he is suffering from chemical overload. This is something we have been working on for 4 years now when he started having massive behavioral problems at school at the age of 6. At the time, his favorite foods were tangerines and cherry tomatoes. In desperation, I, like most of us these days (how did we survive before?) went on the Internet and learned about salicylates, chemicals found naturally in plants, fruits and vegetables, the Feingold diet and eventually a more extensive version of a low chemical diet, the Failsafe program.

No-one goes on a major diet like this for no reason. You have to be desperate but it still saddens me how looking seriously at our diet is the last place we look for solutions. It needs to be the first, yet we put ourselves and our children through behavioral programs, on medication, while experiencing poor relationships and great anxiety before we will consider it. Working with diet does take effort, it does require a fascist-like extremism for a while but the benefits are enormous, and there is no other long-term, reasonable solution.

Educating ourselves about chemical intolerance has been life-transforming for our family. Our diets have changed, not always in ways my kids would like but until they make their own decisions about what they eat, it is the way it will be. I have learned to cook, lost weight and learned that eating part of a bag of grapes has the same effect on several members of my family as does drinking a bottle of vodka; and that's not a pretty sight - especially in an 8 year old. An aggressive drunk is not a happy person and yet who would have thought those strawberries on sale would have the same effect?

And then, of course, when you think all is stable, something comes out of nowhere. Like today, when my son woke up looking dreadful. Then the anxiety and confusion raise their heads again. It's only very minor compared to a few years ago when I lived in a state of alternating terror at the impending likelihood of a major rage and utter despair that it was ever going to get better, but it's still there to remind me of how tenuous stability can be in children who are sensitive to chemicals. The questions start. What have I given him to eat? Has he eaten someone else's lunch a couple of days in a row? Has he been anywhere for a playdate and ingested a significant amount of junk? And then I realized. I picked up a packet of plantar wart remover; I had given him several of these this week to treat some on his foot. There on the box, it said, in innocent, bold, blue: "Salicylic acid."

Mystery solved; guilty as charged; calm and stability restored.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Views From The Precipice Of Parenting

Precipice, huh? Yup, that's right. This way or that way? Right or wrong, left or right, backwards or forwards. Each way has it's pros and cons, but the net of none stand out. Isn't that the way of parenting? You have choices to be made in the moment; split second, often. Rarely are the choices easy or obvious options and yet if you make the wrong one, all things dire and consequential occur. Who else has to make these kinds of decisions - emergency room doctors, firefighters, car drivers on the point of impact? Yet we do it, day in day out, over and over.

A few of us have easy children; some of us have very difficult ones. And we all have a view on what should be done and when. Isn't that the most pointless hobby of all; having a view on other peoples' parenting? Why do we waste so much time on it? I know it makes me feel so good when I see other people having a tough time with their kids. My child doesn't seem so dastardly, I don't feel so useless, my life seems more normal. Seeing other people trying to deal in those situations can give me a glow for quite a couple of hours.

All those books we read. Looking for the answer. From experts who provide guesswork much of the time. Why guesswork? Because we have never lived a parenting life like this one. This is the first generation where couples are expected to be partners in parenting. This is the first generation to deal with the Internet and social media. This is the first generation to deal with the levels of chemical ingestion that we do today and all the resultant behavioral issues. Parenting advice is mostly guesswork supported by tiny amounts of research.

So what do we do? We can't look to others for advice and guidance. We can't refer back to our childhoods for role models. We have a problem, *right now* and we have to deal. And that's why we parent from the precipice; will we make it back up or fall to our deaths? As I like to say in our house, "we deal with death every day."