On Saturday the Boy had an incident. On Thursday morning we also had an incident, there was a brief one on Monday as well. Monday and Thursday’s incidents were occasioned by the fact the Boy hadn’t yet gotten himself breakfast even though it was 9am already and he rises between 7 and 7:30am. On Saturday it was because his great grandparents arrived with lunch and nasty packaged cookies and donuts. I let him have one of each after lunch because it was still Shabbat and so treats are technically allowed. Allow me to describe the scene that followed.
Half an hour after eating Boy comes in crying, not just regular crying, deep chest shaking sobs are erupting out of him, hiccups and belches and incoherent sentences accompany this crying. We find out what’s going on that’s upsetting him. (The bigger kids want him to stop jumping on the trampoline for a minute so that they can mark lines with duct tape for a game they have planned.) We send him back out with a solution to try. He returns a minute later sobbing as though the entire weight of the world is upon his tiny little shoulders. He proceeds to sob and hiccup and wail for a good half an hour. People, this is not fake crying, which he often likes to do, this is not his regular response to not getting his way or being thwarted, this is apocalyptic crying that just doesn’t stop. He will go on like this for hours.
We are experienced at dealing with this sort of thing now, so we let him cry, though still expecting him to comply with our directions, and without lecture or judgment we cut up some cheese and offer it to him. (Cheese has protein and fat and no sugar so it’s a good thing to throw at a brain that’s in severe chemical flux because of blood sugar, it helps to release one of the relaxing chemicals in the brain seretonin I think but don’t quote me, which is why a heavy meal of starch and cheese and meat will put you to sleep. Yogurt will be better, but it’s harder to coax a 5 year old to eat yogurt when he’s bawling his eyes out and you don’t want it spilled.)
Eventually he manages to gain control over himself to start munching on the cheese hiccupping and choking back sobs as he chews. Ten minutes or so go by. He is now quiet though still tormented looking. After another 15 minutes of sitting on the couch we ask him how he’s doing. He gives us a sunny smile and tells us he feels fine and with a quick, “Thanks mom” and a hug he runs off to play. The day is without further incidents as we make sure that dinner is early.
This ladies and gentlemen is why I keep my child’s sugar intake as low as I can. I have at least one sugar sensitive child and he has a fast metabolism so the results are easy to observe. My mother in law thinks I’m a little obsessive about it, though she respects my wishes in it. That is until Saturday, the meltdown happened at her house and she got to watch it and it’s resolution, and I think she gets it now.
I am sharing this because it may help some other parents out there who have children prone to inexplicable meltdowns and long bouts of sadness. In my child these go on indefinitely, unless I can get him to eat something that will help.
So if you have a child who is prone to this type of behaviour, who seems like Jekyll and Hyde, it may help to track their eating for a while, and notice the timing of such episodes as they are related to diet. Look for episodes that follow on the heels of recent sugar intakes, especially without meals or with meals that are low in protein and fiber, and long stretches of time without food. I’ve met a lot of children who have obvious, to me but I know where to look, sugar sensitivities. Their parents are often baffled, perplexed, confused and helpless in the face of these meltdowns. It won’t kill your child to give them less sugar and experiment with diet to see if that is one of the factors, in fact it’s good for them even if that isn’t the ultimate solution.
I hope this helps.