The school was angling at a diagnosis. Everything they were saying was pointing towards it.
“Are you saying he has ADHD?” I asked
“Oh we’re not qualified to say that.” Was the response.
I knew my child, I knew he was a mover, a fidgeter (probably gets it from me), but he could also sit for hours on end playing quietly, lego, books, drawing….digging up bugs. He was a hands on kid, always had been, but he didn’t have a problem being “attentive” when he was interested in something.
They wouldn’t let it go, though, so (not wanting to go down the medical route) I went to a naturopath. The lady was lovely, really positive that Clay could be “helped” to be more focused (…on the boring stuff…) via natural means. We spoke about the effect of foods on behaviour, and began the “elimination diet”. No gluten, wheat, dairy, certain fruits, colours, additives or preservatives.
And not just hard to implement, but hard to watch, hard to see his face fall when all the kids around him could have things that he wasn’t allowed. All because he wouldn’t sit still and do worksheets. No party food, no take-away, no cold meats, no bread, limited fruits/dried fruits, and absolutely no numbers! Numbers were everywhere! He became withdrawn in social situations when food was around, sad, he didn’t like the attention when asked if he wanted something.
It didn’t work, either, he actually became more disruptive, if he wasn’t hiding behind me avoiding the attention, then he’d try and distract kids from food by engaging in “look at me!” behaviour….climbing up polls and such.
I hated this time, I felt so mean, he didn’t understand any of it (he was 5!), and how was he really feeling? Isolated? Left out? Different? Knowing that his Mum wouldn’t let him have things because she wanted him to sit still and do his work at school? Surely that was having a more adverse effect on him than the foods were?
I stuck it out for three months, before saying enough. His spark was fading, I wanted that spark back.
I recall being not able to have a lot of lollies and chocolate when I was younger as I had eczema. And now? I’m a full blown sugar addict, lollies, chocolate, cake, nom nom nom. I’m learning to self-regulate, but it’s been hard.
How was he going to learn to make good choices with food if all I did was restrict everything? One of the ideas behind “radical” Unschooling is to allow children to eat whatever they want, whenever they want, with the idea that they will naturally gravitate towards a healthy diet. I don’t doubt that this works, I’ve seen it and I’ve read about it. But letting go completely didn’t work for us. I freaked out too much (can you tell I tend to freak out a bit??). I don’t think I even lasted a day before I pulled the reins in again.
I remembered that quote by Sandra Dodd, “Read a little, try a little, wait a while watch”. I could apply that here also. It worked with technology?
So instead of removing all restrictions, I just began to say “Yes” more often…
“Yes” to brightly coloured frozen drinks while on holiday…
“Yes” to people buying my kids faaaaaar too much chocolate at Easter…
Even “yes” to eating that chocolate before breakfast…
“Yes” to cake before dinner, “yes” to another piece of chocolate, “yes” to ice creams when Mr Whippy comes by…whatever time of day it is.
And you know what? The world hasn’t imploded. Sure, sometimes too much sugar late at night, at a celebration or festive time, can mean an even later one. But it’s not every day, and when it does happen, I remind myself to accept that it will, and try to lend myself to the laughter that ensues as we wrangle Jessie into her PJs.
So, I will continue to talk to my kids about good nutrition, to help try and guide them in their choices, but I’ll also continue to say “yes” more often…because life’s too short to say “no” to sprinkles.