|Some of you may be wondering why I seem to have disappeared from my blog lately. It isn’t because I’ve grown bored with it or because I have nothing to say. It’s simply that I’ve been traveling through the nine circles of Hell with my gluten-infused children for the past several weeks. (I can’t even tell you how long it’s been anymore. I’ve lost all perception of time.)
I wouldn’t and certainly couldn’t blame anyone who may be growing increasingly tired of hearing of my kids’ accidental ingestion woes and the atrocious behavioral problems that ensue, but the truth of the matter is, I have an entire arsenal of stories in my pocket, just ready to be whipped out and shown, in all of its ugliness, to the world. I feel it’s not just a way for me to express what I’ve been going through (which I most certainly need to do or I may indeed explode into a gazillion pieces), but I also somehow feel it’s my duty to report such extreme behavior resulting from the ingestion of gluten to those who may be wondering what the hell is wrong with their own children. This stuff isn’t made up. It’s all too entirely real. And surreal.
Several weeks ago now, I had the brilliant idea of all of us taking a family day trip to San Francisco. Our son had been pining to visit the Academy of Sciences for a while, it was coming up on the very end of summer, my husband was just switching jobs, and so it seemed like the perfect time for one last hurrah before everyone got back down to business. I figured, if we were going up there to the Academy, we may as well take the rare opportunity to go out to dinner in a city that offers a much greater selection of restaurants that are gluten-free (or that offer gluten-free items). I even checked with a friend of mine who lives up that way (and who has celiac), for a gluten-free restaurant recommendation. It sounded wonderful. I made a reservation, printed directions and we were all set. (Except that our oldest daughter, who was far too engrossed in her all-day use, all summer long, Kindle, steadfastly refused to get off her duff and get in the car.) In hindsight, we should have listened to her.
After literally forcing our daughter into the car, we were on our way. Our trip was going well, but as soon as we walked through the doors of the Academy, our seven-year-old son completely tuned us out. The first thing he did was run ahead and disappear into a crowd. It seemed that no amount of yelling at him or calmly explaining to him that if he continued to do that, he was going to get lost, seemed to have any effect on him. He was like a distracted, hyper dog. What was that? What was that? “Squirrel!”(Lovingly quoted from “Up.”) Oh, look, there’s something. And he’d take off. Most of our trip to the Academy involved chasing our son wherever he went. Our oldest daughter found the entire day to be a chore, and our littlest one was happy with everything. (Thank God we have her.)
The Academy was fine. When we left the Academy, however, everything began to turn sour.
Our son evidently wanted to scare me when he came out of the building. Not just scare me; he wanted me to burst into hysterical screams and jump a foot into the air upon his saying, “Boo!” Being the bad mom that I am, I unknowingly ruined his plans. (I had no idea he was trying to scare me.) Our son proceeded into what one would call a hissy-fit, stomped off, sat in the bushes with his back to us and refused to look our way. When we decided it was definitely time to go, he refused to cooperate. After much attempted convincing and threatening, he still refused. The others were on their way to the car. I had no choice but to hoist him over my shoulder while he screamed and hit me (causing everyone outside the Academy to wonder what the I was doing to this poor little boy).
It was still too early for us to head to the restaurant, so we opted to take a little side-trip down to Ocean Beach while we waited.
Ocean Beach, if you’ve never been there, is huge, clean and wonderful. The sand appears to stretch for miles. It’s wide and the waves crashing onto the shore are spectacular, albeit a little cold. It’s always been perfectly crisp and clear anytime we’ve been there. This late afternoon was no exception. Mother Nature intended for us to have a perfect day. Fate did not.
We hadn’t planned on going to the beach that day. Hence, I didn’t pack any changes of clothes for anyone except for the littlest one. The only rule I had once we stepped onto the beach was, do not get your clothes wet. Our son sprinted across the wide stretch of sand straight to the water. He jumped, he danced, he twirled and he splashed. I could easily hear the music playing in his head while he jumped, danced, twirled and splashed repeatedly, ignoring our screams at him to NOT GET WET! He got wet. Okay, I simply had to resign myself to the fact that we were going out to dinner wet. If the restaurant could live with that, I could live with that.
My husband decided that we’d take a walk up the beach (in the opposite direction from which we came). He and our oldest daughter walked along. I turned to yell to our son to come with us, at which point, he began running…diagonally across the sand…in the opposite direction…toward the street. I screamed to my son to stop. He ignored me. I yelled to my husband. He couldn’t hear me. I yelled again. I felt like my littlest one and I were standing in the middle of the beach inside of an invisible soundproof glass bubble. No one, it seemed, could hear my screams. In that moment, I was faced with the choice of leaving my son’s well-being in the hands of fate (and the street) or leaving my little one there in the middle of the sand, hoping my husband would realize she was alone. I made the choice. I ditched our three-year-old daughter and sprinted, as fast as I could, after my son. I took the straight-up-to-the-street route. I figured that I would never catch up with him if I followed his path. He was too far away from me and he was just too damned fast. My only bet was to get my ass up to the street and sprint like hell along the sidewalk to catch him. All I knew was that I was going to kill him when I caught up with him. (That’s only an expression, of course. Don’t go calling CPS on me or anything.)
I couldn’t breathe. My motherly instincts just told me that I had to catch him. No matter what, I HAD to catch him. It was like a nightmare where you’re running your heart out, but your destination doesn’t appear to be getting any closer. It seemed like I would never reach the street. If anyone had been near him and wanted to take him, they could have easily done so. He was too far away from me for me to do anything about it. When I finally reached the sidewalk, I took off. I can be fast when on pavement, but I was barefoot, so that may have slowed me down a little. I looked down onto the sand as I ran, trying to see my son. He was no where in sight.
As I came upon his probable destination, the long ramp leading from the street down to the sand, I expected to find him. He wasn’t there. Inner panic began to set in. I scanned the beach. I didn’t see him. I walked down the ramp about a quarter of the way and could just see my son, ducking down, hiding under the overhang between the ramp and the cliff. It was advantageous that I could see him, but he was looking for me up the beach, so he couldn’t see me. Without giving him a chance to react, I reached over, grabbed hold of him, and yanked him out in one quick motion. He was smiling. I was not.
Between gasps of air, I screamed at him, I lectured him, and I probably insulted him right there where we were standing. I dragged him up to the top of the ramp where I could then see my husband coming along with our girls. By the time they reached us, I didn’t even want to say anymore. I’d been deflated.
We headed across the street to a restaurant where a friend of mine had her wedding reception a few years ago. We needed to get cleaned up if we were going to dinner. I wanted a drink.
I took the littlest one into the bathroom to change her clothes. My son and daughter sat outside in the front with their dad. When my daughter and I came back out, my son wigged out again (because, once again, he was trying to scare me and I didn’t realize it). He pouted. I rolled my eyes.
Our littlest one was sitting on the steps to the building looking at something on her foot. A large family was just coming out of the restaurant behind her. In that moment, our son ran up to our daughter and screamed his loudest, highest, pitchiest, ear-splitting scream he could manage, directly into our daughter’s little ear. She jumped in terror. The people coming out of the restaurant jumped in terror. I grabbed my son who was trying to take flight toward the street and held onto him while he clawed for a foothold on the ground. The people in the restaurant, after their hearts began beating again, first gave us a pissed off look, then when they saw the two of us, embattled in an exhausting wrestling match, gave us a look of quiet understanding. Oh, he’s special. I said something to our son about him scaring the crap out of everyone. Embarrassed, he broke free of me and ran behind a garbage can where he remained. We either needed to go home or we needed a drink. We had just enough time before our dinner reservations for one. Our son refused to cooperate. My husband wanted to go home. My oldest daughter wanted to go home. My son wanted to sit behind a garbage can for the rest of his life. I wanted to eat at a restaurant, God dammit. That’s what we did.
That’s just the beginning of this story. It gets so much worse.
It turned out later that my son confessed to eating 5 pieces of licorice the day before (made with wheat) that my husband received in a gift basket. I thought it had been thrown away. It hadn’t. Blasted.