It's taken me a long time to write this post, even though it's something I've written in my head a hundred times and to be honest, I'm still not sure how I want to approach it. As I've said before, one of the reasons I keep up with this blog is that I want to have some type of record of the kids...but that's a catch 22. I want a record, and I want to be honest, but where's the line? Once something about them is "out there", it's out there. I try to be careful with what I share, knowing that it won't bother them now, but being respectful about the fact that eventually those little kids will be grown up and may not be happy that mommy overshared parts of their childhood.
On the flip side, I also said that some things I want to share just in case it could help someone else. Which brings me to my current topic: food dye and behavior. You may be wondering how the two are related (because I would have wondered the same thing just a few months ago), but it turns out there may be a huge correlation.
The short story here is that Jake has always had a strong personality. He's strong-willed, he's independent, and he is very vocal about his feelings. We often joke that he was that way coming straight out of the womb; it truly seemed like his personality had been set from the moment he entered the world. And while those characteristics are wonderful and they're what make him Jake, they can also be exhausting and frustrating. And the older he got, the more strong-willed he became, and the more intense his feelings and reactions about things became.
We hit a rough patch a few months ago; he had started kindergarten and we really kept thinking it was just that. That he would adjust. That he'd snap out of it. That he would stop the hour long tantrums, the throwing himself to the ground, the hitting, the yelling, the throwing....all of the things that would happen when a situation would escalate. It would start over something so small, so seemingly insignificant that the reaction would come out of nowhere. One minute everything would be fine, the next minute a hurricane would be tearing through the house, and we were powerless to stop it.
We were frustrated and upset, and felt helpless and guilty. We both felt guilty thinking that we had messed up somehow, that somewhere along the way we screwed up big time. And I felt guilty because I would watch him during these fits and while I was angry with him for acting like that, I also felt sympathy toward him. It was like he couldn't control what was happening, and no matter what we said or did, he couldn't pull himself back together.
His fits would go on for what felt like forever...30, 40, 60 minutes...and when it would stop, it was almost like he had no recollection of what just happened. Once the hurricane passed, there was a calm....sometimes that calm would last the remainder of the day and he'd return to being my sweet little boy, other times, a cloud would hover and we would brace ourselves for other potential tantrums.
Finally, sometime around Thanksgiving, we knew we had to do something. There wasn't a particular occurrence that sent us over the edge, it was more just the build up of months of frustration and the realization that 3 months later, maybe this wasn't just kindergarten adjustment.
To maintain a bit of privacy, I'll edit this part...but I will say that we spoke with our pediatrician and other doctors at this point. After a few meetings, someone asked if we had ever tried any type of elimination diet, specifically artificial food dye. I sat there and numbly shook my head while thinking "What? That's absurd. We don't even eat that much food dye, how could that possibly be the root of this?" But this person was persistent, and talked to me for awhile about the negative side effects of food dye, and how it's in so much more than we realize. She spoke of how it's been banned in other countries, and how some other countries still sell it, but have to place a warning label on the product that states, "this product may have an adverse effect on attention and behavior in small children".
I was still skeptical, but I promised to take it under consideration. Later that night, Brian and I spent a long time combing article after article online, astonished that we hadn't heard of this before, but also feeling a weird sense of relief as we read accounts from parents that sounded identical to what we had been going through. We weren't alone! And maybe we weren't failures, either.
Now that I've written part of a dissertation on this topic already, I'll stop this post here and will pick up soon with the rest of the story: the how and the results.