After school the girls were decompressing. After a while my eldest went to her room to do her homework. My youngest decided to get a snack, and that’s when Gracie started shouting at me.
“YOU ARE MEAN! YOU… YOU…” dissolves into tears.
At first I thought she was reprimanding my eldest.
“Honey, what’s the matter? Do you want to talk with me?”
For the record, when you have a child with Autism that’s almost always a stupid question. She screams in reply or goes nonverbal. I regretted asking her as soon as the question slipped out of my lips.
“YOU ALWAYS TALK! AAAAHHHH!”
Oh, I’m in for it, she’s screaming at me. I can’t imagine what has set her off at this point. I only know that she’s screaming at me and is choking on sobs. She’s genuinely upset and I’m not sure how to defuse the situation yet.
“YOU FINK YOU KNOW!
“Gracie, can I just talk to you for a minute? Come to me so I can talk to you.”
“YOU! YOU CAN’T TALK! YOU SAY FINGS I DON’T LIKE!”
Okay, well, that sort of narrows things down. There are a few trigger topics between us that she gets upset about but I’m not sure if it’s about something I just said to her that day or if it was a week ago. I’m still flying blind here.
“YOU ARE ALWAYS! ALWAYS! CONCERNED ABOUT … UM… HIGH FWOOKTOSE CORN SYRUP! YOU FINK IT’S IN EVERFING!”
“Yes, honey, it’s in a lot of stuff. It’s in a lot of things you like, isn’t it?”
“YOU ALWAYS SAY RED IS IN EVERFING! YOU ALWAYS SAY IT! THAT MAKES ME MAD!”
“Well, it’s a good thing that we find things you do like, isn’t it?”
“I DON’T WANNA BE HEALTHY! I WANT HIGH FWOOK-TOSE CORN SYRUP!”
“Hmm. I understand.”
And then suddenly I did. In the carried to get their older sister from school today my youngest daughter commented that she has a friend at school whose mom who “has her eat like we do” and doesn’t let her have much HFCS or fake food dyes. It must have been a conversation between several of the children because she said that all of the boys and some of the girls said, “My mom lets me eat anything with red in it! I eat lots of candy too!” They also apparently talked about which cereals they think have the most sugar and which kids are allowed to eat high-sugar cereals.
This kind of made me chuckle inside because these are first graders. Then Anna said,
“I can tell who eats a wot of high fwooktose corn syrup and WOTS of wed dye. Those kids act KWAZY and get in twubble a wot. I watch dem, Mommy… when dey have red snacks they get kwazy bad and mean after. My fwends see it too!”
During this conversation Gracie listened and piped in with one-word positive contributions. Mainly she gave alternative snacking ideas that were healthy and foods that were naturally red that are also delicious and foods without HFCS that make great breakfasts and snacks. I think what was funniest about this conversation was that Anna insisted that her friends were making healthier lunch side choices since they started talking about this stuff!
But phew… not to mention “oy.” Anna really listens when I talk about these things with friends and family. And so does Gracie, apparently. I gently asked Gracie how she feels when she eats too much of the HFCS and food colorings, and she said,
“I feel sick.”
That was the end of that.