I was getting my darling ADHD child Lucas ready for another day of first grade, and… I totally lost my shiz. I knocked over a pretend grocery-shopping cart (yes, intentionally), making a horrible racket as the plastic fridge-letters it contained went clattering across the floor.
“WHY CAN YOU NOT JUST PUT ON YOUR SHIRT??? WHY??? IT’S A SHIRT! IT DOESN’T TAKE TEN MINUTES TO PUT IT ON! I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO ASK AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN JUST TO GET YOU TO PUT ON YOUR SHIRT!”
My voice was trembling with rage-tears. Then Mari, who will be three in January, came up to me wearing nothing but underwear, pajamas neatly folded in her outstretched hands, and asked sweetly, “where should I put my pajamas, mommy?”
Her question was a placation. Please don’t yell at me like that, mommy. See how I get ready all by myself without any reminders?
And I finally heard myself then – the shrill, barking voice that had spilled out of me. I told Mari she could put her pajamas on the bottom step, told her good job, and continued making Lucas’ lunch, clamping my jaw shut to hold back my tears of guilt and frustration.
Today, our morning was like mornings always used to be...
I remember last year when the doctor told me Lucas had more than enough symptoms to confidently give him an ADHD diagnosis. How the doctor asked me if I would like him to prescribe medication. How I was all, “WTF??? I thought you were supposed to tell me what to do!” How I felt like I was slapping the doctor in the face when I hesitantly asked him if there was anything else we could try before resorting to medication (the medical community is generally in favor of medicating for ADHD). ‘Organic food has helped many of my patients,’ he said.
Why had I never read or heard that before?
In all the hundreds of hours of research I’d done, I’d heard of the Feingold diet, gluten sensitivity, and food-coloring sensitivity, but I hadn’t read anything that said organic eating might have an impact on ADHD symptoms. But I do trust my doctor, and I was willing to try anything.
So that afternoon, we went to Publix and spent two hours (lots of label-reading) and $200 on organic food shopping. Lucas was suspicious at first (does organic = yucky???), but I explained to him why we were changing the way we eat, about how there are pesticides in food and that we were trying to live a more chemical-free lifestyle to help make behaving and thinking clearly easier for him. I told him it might take a few weeks, or maybe even months, but we were going to do whatever it took to help him. He became a willing if skeptical participant.
We had an organic meal that night. And either because of my awesome powers of mind-control and psychological manipulation, or because it was actually true, Lucas said the organic food tasted better. The next morning I fed Lucas organic cereal with organic milk. Organic packed lunch for school. Organic dinner.
And the following morning after a day and a half of organic eating, Lucas was ready for school ten minutes early.
If you have a kid with ADHD, you know why the Hallelujah Chorus just erupted in the background.
If you don’t have a kid with ADHD, you have to understand what the typical morning in our house used to look like. (See above.) I used to break down Lucas’ whole morning into little tasks, set a timer for each tiny job. Putting on underwear, shirt, pants, belt, socks, shoes – all these seemingly simple jobs were separated. I would yell at him to get moving, take (or throw) away toys as punishment for being off-task, and in the final count-down of seconds to get out the door, I would sometimes grab his mouth and swish a toothbrush around in there just to get those damn teeth brushed already since he’d wasted ten minutes singing in front of the mirror, or maybe just staring at himself and humming quietly like the creepy kid from the horror movie does right before the mom gets the ax.
I was setting the alarm clock earlier and earlier. And still, somehow we always ended up racing around in a frenzy in those last few minutes. On a daily basis, I bit back tears as I herded the kids out the door a few minutes late, where the neighbors’ kids would wait patiently for me to take them to school, sometimes asking innocently, “How come you’re always yelling at Lucas?” because they had totally heard me screaming at him from inside the house. Which would make me have to try even harder not to cry, and then I would make stupid nervous-sounding small-talk in the car with Lucas on the way to school, saying ‘I love you’ about a billion times in a futile attempt to reassure him of my undying love for him, and assuage my crushing guilt.
Mornings. Were. HORRIBLE. This chaos was a daily occurrence; how our mornings went every single day.
So being ready ten minutes early after ONE DAY of organic eating pretty much blew my fucking hair off my head.
It was a miracle.
Lucas had a great day at school that day. The following week, after gymnastics, his instructor came running out to find me, eyes huge with astonishment. “Are you Lucas’ mom? WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING? He was a different kid today! I have never seen him so focused!” She was practically dancing a jig.
It seemed that we had found the ‘cure’ for ADHD: Just eat properly. Feelings of self-righteousness crept in. My husband and I started having those kinds of conversations, the ones that go something like this:
“What is wrong with the food system here in the United States?”
“The entire system needs a major over-haul.”
“I can’t believe we’ve been putting poisonous, carcinogenic chemicals into our children’s bodies all this time.”
“I can’t believe people just give their kids whatever crap they find on the grocery store shelf without reading the labels or understanding where the food came from.”
“This is why everyone has ADHD. It’s because of the food.”
“Yeah, and cancer, too. And diabetes. And every other health problem.”
“Yeah, it’s all because we eat a bunch of shit.”
I did my little victory dance up there on my high horse, even as my best friend warned me that the positive effects of the organic food could be a result of the sudden and drastic change, and that I shouldn’t be surprised or discouraged if the effects weren’t long-lasting or didn’t sustain the initial level of intensity.
I couldn’t stomach her negativity though. I needed a win. But unfortunately, my friend was right. As time has slipped by over this past year, we’ve lost some of the ‘miracle’ effect of organic eating. We still eat primarily organic though, and one thing I can tell you for sure: If we go off organic for more than a few days, Lucas starts scaling the walls like Spiderman on crack. Other people have witnessed this; it’s not a biased opinion.
So for now, we’re sticking with our not-so-miraculous-it’ll-just-have-to-do solution of eating organic food.
If only eating organic was a sure-fire way to prevent momma from losing her shiz…
More to come…
Last time I posted about ADHD, I received several comments from people who were craving advice. So I’m going to give you the low-down on how to eat organic on a budget. How we do things, anyway. We don’t eat 100% organic, because of the expense. So here you go, a guide to eating mostly organic on a budget:
1) Join a co-op. You can get a week’s worth of organic produce for much cheaper than grocery-store prices. There are three co-ops near me that I know of, and I don’t even live in a huge town. Google it and if you still can’t find anything, ask anyone you can find who has dreads and wears Birkenstocks.They're bound to know.
2) Know your Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen – I used to carry this list in my purse until I got it down: http://www.motherearthliving.com/natural-health/2012-dirty-dozen-clean-15-lists.aspx
3) Know what’s on your food: http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/ - I LOVE this site because you can look up every food and it tells you what chemicals have been found on that food, comparing domestic vs. imported, organic vs. conventional. For example, rice is FREAKING EXPENSIVE to by organically, but the Hubs is Peruvian and we eat a shit-ton of rice. So I found out that imported rice has fewer chemicals than domestic. It’s not organic, but it’s a major improvement over what we had been eating. And I rinse it thoroughly before cooking, which I never used to do.
4) If a fruit or veggie has a thick skin, I generally assume I can forgive it for being conventional (non-organic). So we eat a lot of pineapple, cantaloupe, oranges, etc. Unfortunately, my kids don’t get to eat blueberries, grapes, or strawberries very often. These foods are very expensive to buy organic and they are some of the worst offenders for being coated in chemicals. Cucumbers – I buy conventional, wash them thoroughly, and peel them.
5) Give bread a break. I don’t worry about buying organic bread. I can usually get thick whole-grain loaves for $2 per loaf or less. The organic stuff is three times that price and you get much less bread.
6) Meat is very expensive to buy organically; I don’t always buy this organic, but I always keep an eye out for deals. We eat fish at least one night per week – but, admittedly, per pound this is about the same price as organic poultry. To make chicken less expensive, I have a little trick: buy a whole organic chicken and ask the butcher in the meat department to separate it for you. This makes it a lot cheaper, and most places are happy to do this for you.
7) We always drink organic milk and eat organic yogurt, but cheese I forgive since we don’t eat as much of that.
8) My favorite organic brands (coupon and stock up!) are:
a. Cascadian Farms (yummy cereal, granola bars etc – I always find coupons for this company)
b. Stonyfield (dairy)
9) Regardless of whether or not it’s organic, I check the ingredient list – if it’s really long and has a bunch of stuff in there that’s difficult to pronounce, I don’t want it in my cart.
10) I also monitor sugar intake, since that seems to have an effect on Lucas. I’m sneaky. For example: I still cut his juice with water. I add quick-cook plain oats to his flavored breakfast oatmeal. (I actually hate that stuff and I don’t even think it’s real food – the flavoring part of it, anyway – but it’s one of Lucas’ favorite breakfasts, so I permit it every now and then.)
If you have anything additional you would like to add, I would love to hear your ideas in the comments!
And if this post helped you or could help someone you know, please share it!