Marsha Delaney: Posted on Monday, March 21, 2011 10:52 PM
|Unlike his sister, our son didn’t appear to have any digestive issues, whatsoever. He ate well, put on weight well and never seemed to be followed around by a constant green gas cloud. He was entirely healthy. He was a crazy, hyper, pain-in-the-ass, stubborn little boy who frequently got into trouble at school, but he was completely healthy.
In February, I was called in for a parent-teacher conference at his preschool. Oh no, I thought. I cringed as his teacher opened the classroom door to meet with me. She sat me down and went over his report card. He was performing beautifully. I beamed with joy. She then turned to me and said, “We don’t know what happened, but over the last two months, he has completely blossomed.” I smiled from cheek to cheek. “Have you been doing anything different at home? What’s happened? We’ve never seen this sort of a change in a child over such a short amount of time.”
I thought. What had changed relating to my son? I couldn’t think of anything. My mind went blank. Was he getting more sleep? Nope. He was still a terrible sleeper. Had we become more strict? More consistent? Nope. We were still the same parents, fumbling through the best we knew how. Something must have happened. The last time they talked to me it was because he’d thrown a table at one student, a chair at another and he’d spent playtime hurling dinosaurs across the room, mostly narrowly-missing other kids’ heads. Now I was told he was a sweet, caring, empathetic, ready-to-learn sponge who was willing and eager to soak up every last word his teachers were speaking. What could be the cause of this remarkable transformation? I thought. “Gluten? Or rather, the lack thereof?”
“What?” his teacher asked.
I was almost afraid to say it aloud for fear of it sounding utterly ridiculous. “We’ve had his sister on a gluten-free diet, so he, in turn, has pretty-much been on a gluten-free diet. Could that be it?” I asked her, although, how could she possibly know the answer to that? I was the child’s mother.
Her eyes lit up. “Maybe. I’ll be that’s it. Diet can play a huge role in a child’s behavior,” she said.
“Well, that was two months ago,” I said, convincing myself with every additional word I spoke. That must have been it. Eureka! We may have figured out my son’s behavioral issue as well! God, he had been awfully good lately. How did I not notice that? Wait. I did notice that, but it took somebody else to point it out to me for me to really think about it. He had been unquestionably better, much better lately. He was a sponge. He was ready and eager to learn. It suddenly dawned on me that everything seemed to be clicking into place for him. Concepts that had eluded him began solidifying. He’d been spending hours at home sitting at the kitchen table, pen in hand, meticulously scrawling out every single dinosaur name he could get his hands on. He had five or six dinosaur books laid out in front of him. He’d been painstakingly working on his Christmas list for Santa (10 months before Santa would ever see such a list), and I think he was up to dinosaur number one hundred and twenty-three. Apparently, my brain needed longer than his to click into place. How did this realization not leap out at me until his teacher mentioned it?
I was completely overjoyed and proud of my son. At the same time, I was curious to test this little hypothesis. I hadn’t really thought of our son as being gluten-free since he hadn’t had any issues. He didn’t have celiac, as far as I was aware, but the poor kid was forced to forego a lot of the treats he loved because of his sister’s ailment. As a reward (and a little bit as a test), I decided to make him his favorite treat in the world: banana muffins. The regular kind, not the nasty kind I’d been attempting to make for the two of them since the switch. He thought banana muffins (the gluten-free kind), were the worst things he’d ever tasted in the world. We got home from school that day and I went to work. “As a special treat, I’ve decided I’m going to make you some real banana muffins!”He looked at me skeptically. “Real banana muffins?”
“You mean the gluten kind?”
“Yep,” I said. He leapt to his feet. “Yeah! Real banana muffins! I can’t wait,” he beamed.
He waited patiently while I made the muffins. He was so excited to see the final product, he grabbed one and wolfed it down. “Delicioso!” he said. He’d been watching Dora. He asked for another. Well, okay, I thought. He and his dad are the only ones who can eat them anyway, so “here you go,” I said. He ate four of them.
I went off to put on a load of laundry and take care of a couple of chores while he watched some of his video. I came back into the room about twenty minutes later to find him completely naked, jumping up and down on the couch, and flailing his head around in a circle. I called his name. No response. I called again. No response. I yelled at him. Nothing. I walked up to him and tried to get him to stop. He wouldn’t. It was as if he couldn’t hear me at all. In that moment, if anyone had seen his behavior, they would have been convinced my son was autistic. I wondered if he was. I’d never seen him act like this before. He couldn’t snap out of it. He couldn’t stop jumping. That was it, I decided from then on, he, too was going to be one hundred percent gluten-free.