Friday, January 15, 2010

Exploding kids

I never would have labeled Bumblebee as explosive.  Could she have tantrums?  Yes.  They were doozys.  But, I could generally ward them off.

She was shy.  Is shy.  Tearful.  Sweet.  Explosive?  Not exactly.

However, when I was (tearfully) venting about her episodes and my frustration to a friend, she mentioned the book "The Explosive Child", and at my wits end I picked it up.  What a book!  While I still didn't think "Explosive" was the best label for Bumblebee, I could certainly identify with what the book had to say.  The best thing was that it helped validate many of my parenting choices.  Most obviously, the fact that she gets away with a whole lot more than I'd allow her sister to get away with simply because she seems to need it.

Fast forward a year or so.  I was looking up books on food additives, and the title "What your Explosive Child is Trying to Tell You" leapt off the shelf at me.  (Sidenote--why are books on emotionally difficult children and books on food additives and allergies and such so close together in the library?  They couldn't possibly be related, could they?)  I threw it in the bag.

Reading it, my mouth fell open.  It's not that explosive is the right term for Bumblebee.  It's not.  She's not a ticking time bomb.  She's never been as volatile as some of the cases referenced in these books.  However, I've had this description of her tearful tantrums.  That she doesn't seem to be fighting to be difficult.

In fact, there have been times when I get a good look in her eyes, and it felt as if she were caged animal fighting for her life.  We're talking a tantrum where she wanted the car parked in the driveway, and for some reason it had to be left on the street.  Or her sister sat on the right instead of the left.  Or I picked up Snowflake instead of Marigold when she asked for a stuffed animal.  Last straws that happen when she's already upset and we're on edge from her grumping.

I've told dh that it feels like she plans out her life, and when the slightest thing goes wrong, she seems to melt down.  "Take me home,"  "Fix it," "Squares!" (when the waffle has been inadvertently cut into triangles) etc.  Certain toys have a mysterious "magic" quality.  The quilt that brought great comfort is tainted from being spread on the wrong bed.

"Road map" tantrums, triggered by a child's internal "world road map" changing (and therefore "ending") describe this same observation.

They also reinforce that horrid habit I have, the one that draws the dirty looks and shaking heads at a grocery store.  The one that manages to procure one or two if not several "not my kid..."s under people's breath.  I don't immediately up and leave.  For her, this is rewarding the behavior.  It's good to read that I'm doing the right thing.  It's also good to read that it's okay to expose her to frequent routine changes, and that it's perfectly acceptable to quickly avoid an incident turning into a full blown tantrum.  She doesn't want to meltdown.  I don't want her to meltdown.  No one wants to be exposed to that.

The book did catch me by surprise with it's chapter on none-other than food related triggers.  They identify food colorings, preservatives, and CORN as top triggers.  Corn!  Corn allergy!  In a book!  Published recently!  I was nearly giddy.

I'm not sure the book provided any new tips, other than to reassure me that my instincts are right, and that we're on the right path (even if it feels bumpy, slow and indirect at times)  But I'm happy to see corn in a mainstream publication, and food triggered reactions getting more attention.  This book was not aimed at the homeopathic, granola crunching, yoga-class going moms.  Which means we're breaking into the mainstream.

Bumblebee's input?  She caught me reading the book.  Looked at the title, broke out in a huge grin and crushed it between us as she gave me a huge bear hug.  "Mommy!  You're going to understand me!" 

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