I have so enjoyed this process of setting up a blog and have been really buoyed by the comments I’ve received. A lot of people have commented on how positive the blog feels, and when I look at our situation it does feel positive, and full of triumphs, but today, like many days, I feel like we are floundering. This is the frustrating side to living with food-related issues, which people including our friends and family don’t often see, and I want to be honest about it from the start, otherwise a lot of what I write will feel pretty hollow.
Our day started bright and early as usual. When our eldest padded down the stairs I noticed she had a pinprick rash around her mouth (it’s been there a few days) and dark circles under her eyes. I decided to attribute the dark circles to tiredness even though they look like allergy shiners and lets assume the rash is just ‘one of those things’. But as I prepared her ‘cosy oat milk’ and morning medicine I found myself distracted as I mentally ran through what she ate yesterday. I remembered that I’d let her eat 4 pistachios while we were baking. Maybe it was that?
The first meltdown of the morning came within 5 minutes with the realization that there were no banana chips left in the house. We use these as a small reward for sleeping all night and staying in bed until 6:30, which they had both achieved. It’s partly my fault for letting them run out but they can only eat the Tesco own brand ones and the three Tescos I’ve tried over the last few days are out of stock. Our girls of course do not understand and I’m pretty frustrated about it too. Stocking issues of our staples is a bit of a sore point at the moment.
It’s daddy’s birthday today so by 7 am we’d opened presents and had a birthday breakfast. We gave him a nice happy send off to work but by 7:30 our eldest had complained of a sore tummy and had a ‘time out’ for kicking her sister. Now I know that sibling quarrels are a normal part of family life but this was totally out of character. It frustrates me when people say “well, she’s just acting like any other preschooler” because actually, it only ever happens when she’s over-tired or reacting. It is not in her nature to be physically aggressive, even with her sister. I tried very hard to attribute it to simple over-tiredness, even though she slept for 12 hours and we had a quiet day yesterday. And then my mind went back to thinking about what she has eaten the last few days and questioning the new ‘safe’ foods we have recently added to the list. She had a lot of soya yesterday. Maybe putting a splash of soya sauce on her dinner was a step too far? Maybe she’s not doing as well with it as I hoped? Or maybe she is just over-tired?
By 9 o’clock I’d completed all the menial morning tasks that come with family life and dealt with a frustrating incident involving a 2-year old, the craft drawer and a large pot of runny glue. I’d also bowed out of a morning park trip due to our eldest seeming so tired and fragile and had spoken to her 3 times for shouting at her sister. Not uncommon, but again, certainly not the norm in our house. Maybe it was all due to the cow’s milk powder in the oatcakes? We’d moved onto a cow’s milk challenge and again I thought it was going “OK-ish” but wasn’t convinced.
By 10 o’clock it was time for the second dose of Sodium Chromoglicate and the probiotics and multivitamins that I’d forgotten to give at breakfast. By now our eldest had a swollen tummy, was crying about every little thing (literally) and had been through another ‘time out’, this time for snatching toys. The intensity in behaviour, the constant crying and whining, the repeated disciplining and the exuberant completely unaffected 2-year old, plus the ongoing debate in my head over whether she was ‘just tired’ or reacting to something, all became too much and I snapped at the pair of them. More tears and this time an apology from mummy.
At this point I decided we needed to get the increasingly hyper 2-year old out the house so we ‘popped’ to the nearby retail park to try and find nursery school joggers for my eldest. They like going there, I knew it would involve very little walking and we would have time to include a snack at Costa if they both made good choices. We had a pleasant time and they did manage to make good choices so I got a coffee at Costa while they ate their snack which I’d brought from home. By now however, my eldest had started needing to wee about every 15 minutes. This happens when she has a reaction (mental note to ask about allergic bladder next time we’re at the hospital) and it meant that we visited the toilets in M&S, Next and Costa within the space of 45 minutes. Needless to say there wasn’t much time to look for joggers.
Next it was home for a quick lunch which was accompanied by more tears as I chose to not give them the soya yogurt they’ve been enjoying lately in case it’s a break from soya that’s needed. We abandoned lunch in the end and headed off to nursery. My eldest perked up at seeing her friends and she went in happily. Now I’m back home and the 2-year old is napping. I should be getting on with umpteen jobs while she’s asleep but I’m worn out by the morning we’ve had and can’t quite face it.
Now, I know that quite a few mums at the gate today would probably have had similar mornings and I know that some of my daughter’s behaviours were due to her being 4. But I also know that she has been really miserable all morning. Add to that the complaints of a sore tummy, the rash, the panda eyes, the tiredness, the swollen tummy and the frequent toilet trips and she could be reacting to something. It’s these mild reactions that I find the hardest. When she has a full blown reaction it is very easy to spot but the grumbling low level reactions are so hard to distinguish from normal childhood issues.
A friend once told me that we are to be ‘for’ our children and not ‘against’ them. This means that we need to try and help them be the best they can be rather than try to catch them out. If your child plays up because they are tired you would put them to bed early to help them make good choices the next day. You wouldn’t leave them in a tired state and just expect them to behave. And so it is my responsibility to help my eldest in the same way, which means that I need to work out whether this morning was due to a reaction or not. The only way I can do this is by cutting out the suspect foods and then reintroducing them again one at a time to see if our ‘pleasant’ morning is repeated. This means a trip to Tesco to buy ‘safe’ oatcakes, more tears over the withdrawal of soya yogurt and no more pistachio nuts! Working out which, if any, of these foods are an issue will take around a month as we need a reaction-free week between food trials and then each trial takes about 4 days as her reactions are delayed and cumulative.
And so it goes on….life as a series of food challenges, treating food and my daughter’s diets as science experiments, dreading and dealing with reactions, keeping up with medicines, and all the while trying to keep some perspective. In a few weeks there will be a positive to draw from this. We will have returned to a happy baseline, honed in on a culprit food and I plan to restart the food diary that I’ve gotten lax with over the last few weeks. But don’t be fooled, the positives that I write about are what follows the challenges and frustrations that go on in the background. Hopefully this blog will help someone else avoid some of the frustrations that we’ve had along the way and if you have any positives to share then please add them below – I could do with someone else’s words of wisdom today!