Sunday, April 29, 2018

On Peanuts & a Paradigm Shift

Good Sunday evening. 

Well. A great many of you read last week's in-depth peanut analogy. I know some of you read weekly; I know others moseyed over after hearing I'd officially lost it. It is human nature to crane your neck & try & see the carnage from the wreck. Whatever your reasons, I should say thank you I suppose because with so many eyes on the blog, my website received more traffic, I sold a few copies of Dear Miss Moreau, & I woke up one morning to a lovely new Amazon review of the book. So, you know, silver lining & all. 

Trey came home Monday night and handed me a jar of peanuts. Yes, yes he did. A friend sent me this:

I was sent a few other stellar peanut memes. Seriously, some of you are the best. Some of you pointed out the great irony that of course occurred to me, namely that peanuts have very few carbs. I suppose I gravitated to peanuts because other D-moms & I have discussed the way the world stops & reorganizes itself for a peanut allergy. This is a curious matter to those of us who count carbs & administer insulin all day long, every day, in order to keep our kids alive.  My peanut analogy resonated with some, with others, less so. 

I have written about almost everything under the sun in the last seven years. I have shared thoughts that should be far more interesting &/or controversial to the general public than what I shared last week, namely: (1) I am not overly jazzed about the upcoming school Field Day for a handful of reasons about which I expounded, & (2) I have been frustrated by the amount of sweets offered my diabetic child this past school year (the aversion to sweets being a large part of my aversion to Field Day). Y'all. These last two statements, which sum up last week's blog, have caused more fervor than anything else I've ever posted on this blog. This is astounding to me. 

If you know me, you could have probably guessed how I feel about all of the above anyway. I am more of a Read Jane Austen in the shade while sipping hot, bitter coffee Day gal. I look at Reagan's life, at her schedule, & I long to simplify it, every aspect of it. I don't want to homeschool her, but I have considered it seriously for the first time the last few months because I desire a calmer, simpler, & yes, healthier day to day schedule for her. She is always exhausted. About a month ago I got a text from a fellow elementary mom that simply read, "Too much. It's all too much." I can't recall what exactly at the moment was stressing her out. 
Anyway, I wish this many of you were as interested in blogs about what my book club is reading or what lamp I bought from Pottery Barn. I was frustrated & I was venting, yes. That's not a new feature to the blog really, but it struck some nerves.    

Know this about me: if I am upset with a specific person over a specific instance, I will talk to you. I will talk with you face to face if possible or otherwise somehow address the issue privately. I will not passive-aggressively write a blog or a social media post & lob it in your direction. The only individuals I have addressed on here are authors whose authorial decisions angered me & politicians who completely deserved to be excoriated.  

If I vent on my blog, it is about something that is frustrating me that is not attributable to an individual, but rather (usually) simply the way the world works. In this case, I am trying to figure out what is best for my child physically, educationally, emotionally, spiritually, etc. There are incalculable factors that weigh in that decision, & yes, one of them is the lack of control I feel I have over her (very delicate) body during the hours she is at school. 

We feed kids junk food often. It is what we do, especially here in the South where, to quote a wise friend, we erroneously equate food with love. We don't question this practice much despite mounting evidence that we probably should. That was largely my point: Let's maybe teach the kids to have fun simply running around outside &  feed them a nice peanut butter sandwich washed down with some water. A shift in thinking would remove some of the hurdles in mine & Reagan's day, but it would most definitely benefit all the kids now & later as they pick up healthier habits. 

Sugar is addictive. It just is. Most Americans eat about five times the recommended daily amount of sugar. A simple google search will reveal a plethora of articles from a variety of sources on sugar's impact on both the brain & the body. It is all sobering to read. Citing a UCLA study, a neuroscientist, a professor of medicine at Georgetown, & an endocrinologist, this Huffington Post article explains the impact of excessive sugar consumption on the brain:

(1) Creates a vicious cycle of intense cravings
(2) Impairs memory and learning skills
(3) May cause or contribute to depression and anxiety
(4) Is a risk-factor for age-related cognitive decline and dementia 

And that's just sugar's impact on the brain, to say nothing of the dangers it poses to the body. Nearly every disease we fear is linked to consuming too much processed sugar. That excess processed sugar is detrimental to both the brain & the body is no longer up for debate. 

We spend a fortune on our kids ensuring they get a good education, have cute clothes, have memorable vacations, & have all the ball or ballet gear they need. I am suggesting we think twice about their diet, about the amount of sugar they're consuming at a time when their bodies & their brains are growing, at a time when they're young & we should be teaching them (& we should be modeling for them) positive, lifelong habits. 

My sister & I both exercise regularly, & you know what? My parents, both now in their sixties, also still exercise regularly. I don't keep a lot of junk in the house (for obvious reasons) . . . but neither did my mom. My sister & I also make getting our kids to church a priority, as did our parents when we were young. It all starts now when they are young. I'd love to see a paradigm shift in thinking regarding food in schools because these kids have one body, & the sooner they learn how to take care of it, the better off they'll be. 

I wish we'd ease up a little on giving them something that is habit-forming when they're tiny & growing & cannot yet make informed decisions about what to ingest. We're truly responsible for it all when it comes to kids — their physical, emotional, spiritual, & educational growth. That is an enormous responsibility, one that sends me into the fetal position at times. Maybe that's why there are hurt feelings. I get that. I angered some folks, & I too have had better weeks. I have honestly never felt quite so misunderstood in my life. We're not seeing eye to eye about how to handle these tiny, precious blessings that have been placed in our hands. That's going to happen. Ultimately parents are responsible for their children, but they are out of our care for most of the week during the school year. We all have different ideas about how best to handle this communal time during which they must learn, eat, & have occasional fun.  

I've probably shared this before, though I can't be sure. The first time I dreamed after Reagan was diagnosed, I dreamed our family had attended a wedding. We were at the reception. I turned a corner & there stood Reagan with a plate in her hand. On the plate was a half-eaten piece of wedding cake. It was a vivid dream, & truly it was a nightmare. I have never forgotten the details of the dream. I've learned a whole lot about how to care for Reagan since I had that dream, but truly at the time I thought she'd never eat cake again, not without ending up in the hospital. I am always a little uneasy when she's away from me. This has gotten better as she's aged, but the low-level hum of worry is always there. When she's away from me & I feel the food situation is totally out of my control, some of my cake-nightmare panic resurfaces. 

I don't try to be controversial; I try to be honest. The only reason I've continued blogging this long is because it is easy to keep writing so long as I am just honest. It's not worth the time it takes to sit & type if I am being phony or glossing over something with which I am wrestling. I think this is probably also why people keep reading. I have never been as honest as I was last week about the emotional struggle of caring for Reagan. It is harder than words could ever express, & I suppose I should not have attempted to verbalize my frustrations. For whatever catharsis it provided me & whatever comfort it was to other diabetic caregivers to read, it also angered people. I wanted to try to explain my frustration & the emotional toll Diabetes takes, but some walked away with feelings of anger or resentment because I remain frustrated despite their efforts where Reagan is concerned.     

Imagine your child's school planned to show an R-rated movie. You don't want your child watching. You wish other parents supported you in this & also desired to shield their kids from the film's content, but you are alone in your effort to keep the movie from being shown. The school offers to bleep out the curse words or fast-forward through certain scenes, but you see this as an imperfect solution. 

Do you see? Do you at all see? Some of you do. Some of you don't. I am fine with that. I appreciate those who've offered to bleep out the curse words for Reagan this last year. I do. I have been & will be contacting you personally. Thank you. The bleeping of the curse words is just often an imperfect solution for Reagan. I didn't want to admit to you or myself that most often the best solution is for her to not watch the movie at all. I am rethinking a lot of things where she is concerned. This past year's strategy is unsatisfactory to me. I am sorry to have lashed out over all this & in so doing inadvertently angered people who have only been genuine in their efforts to help. 

So, okay, okay, no more analogies. 

All the food makes me crazy for a variety of reasons. There are excellent reasons to at least reconsider how much & how often we offer junk food to kids. Stating this is not a personal assault on anyone, though it is challenging the status quo, which is usually dicey & not well received by some. Think about your struggle to lose weight as an adult. Think about the habits you wish you could kick. Give your kid the gift of not facing the same struggles in adulthood. It's just a thought.

Thank you a thousand times over to those who have spoken to me, whether because you had words of encouragement to offer, because you are also stressed out juggling your work & the details of your kids' schedules, or because you are/were upset with me. Not only are we addicted to sugar, we have a tragic communication problem that often rears its head in an ugly way when there are tender feelings involved. It is easier & perhaps more emotionally satisfying to do everything but speak to a person, including but not limited to gossiping & turning into a passive aggressive ninja on social media. I've done it, too. I had an AP student last year who would break down people's passive aggressive social media behavior with me, both the content & the grammar; he truly may have a future in psychotherapy or something. Anyway, I could share some memes but I'll keep moving.  

Moving forward, I will fight for Reagan; I will limit her sugar intake even if the world around her ignores red flags about it. Some people have told me they appreciate the perspective I provide, but I am absolutely certain others would rather I hush. Elementary school makes me think I could indeed run for office & do just fine in Washington, D.C. The only thing you can't mention there is the debt.  

This week I've thought about my desperation to explain myself, my feelings of protection over Reagan, to others. The reactions to what I wrote highlighted reality for me. Those who were most open to & supportive of what I wrote are either parents or caregivers of diabetics, diabetics themselves, or healthcare professionals. Why? Because they get it. They understand the struggle. They understand the often hours-long struggle to return blood sugar to a healthy range after a birthday party. They understand the eventual consequences of slacking now. It is probably not possible for others to ever fully grasp it. I realized that this past week reading something a friend wrote regarding infertility. I read her post about something that impacts so many women, so many couples, but something that has not impacted me personally. I could feel her desperation to be heard, to be understood, coming off her words. I saw my own desperation to be understood reflected in hers. 

It is just human nature to cry out in this way from time to time, to say, "I am here & I am struggling mightily," & the Internet makes this possible. It was not my intent to offend others by voicing my frustration with a world that is often filled with hurdles for Reagan. Some people unknowingly place hurdles in her path. I wish the hurdles weren't there, & I appreciate efforts that are made by others to remove the hurdles, but at the end of the day she is & always will be climbing a mountain. It guts me to my core that this is her task, but she gets up every day & together we (usually) rise to the challenge. 

I've spent many months frustrated with myself for not saying No when I should have. I should have said No to things at work, & I should have said No to Reagan regarding a lot of what she's eaten. I have not been as purposeful about ordering my family's life, Reagan's health included, as I should have been. I should have answered parent inquiries about Reagan differently, maybe more honestly. I should have handled the daily snack differently, insisting most of the time she eats nuts or something else with very few carbs unless running low. 

So we are moving ahead. I will have considerable flexibility regarding my teaching in the fall. When school begins again, Reagan will rarely eat what is offered at parties or for rewards or snacks or whatever. She loves books & stickers & stationary, so we'll move in that direction. She will be healthier for it, & she will learn that the world will keep on spinning if she doesn't eat what others are eating. 

I am exhausted physically & emotionally. I am not going to push for changes that would likely benefit all the kids because this is not a popular idea here in Louisiana. I know some parents share my views about nutrition as well as treats/rewards because they have contacted me. It's nice to not feel alone, so thank you. I very much appreciate the words of a friend who stated the following (I quote her here because she stated this publicly already):  

We as people don't like to sit with uncomfortable feelings. And that's what you're asking people to do: sit with their feelings and truly evaluate why a change might be beneficial to Reagan and to others. People, moms especially at times, can be very defensive of past traditions because it makes kids feel loved, popular, etc. But there is no reason we can't evaluate if those traditions still serve the right purpose. And make no bones about it, Reagan isn't the only one in an elementary classroom that could benefit from a policy shift/change.

I sat beside the author of those words in English class while we both learned to write, & I am so appreciative of what she had to say.

I will say No to Reagan more often. We will craft our own policy regardless of what's happening around her (& isn't that what you want to teach your kids about life anyway?). Saying Yes to her now is not an option most of the time, but she will thank me later. I think. I hope. I'd love more help from the world around us, but the reality for her wherever she goes throughout life is that her disease will always be misunderstood by some & the food temptations will always be there, & that is fine. She is a smart & strong & brave young lady. 

It's not important if everyone understands the details of Reagan's body or our lives or my frustration. Trey understands. My mom & my mother-in-law understand. God understands. For every side-eye, I've received a text or message to just put my head down & fight for her & lean on those who understand. 

We're headed to the endocrinologist in Jackson tomorrow. We are facing a blood draw at this appointment because, while it's not yet time for our yearly blood draw, apparently last time they forgot to check her thyroid. So we fight on, day after day, needle after needle. Well, Reagan fights while I straggle along breathlessly ranting about carbohydrates.  

Seniors, I made tomorrow's doctor's appointment thinking you'd be gone already. I hate to miss what is one of your last full days of school. I should, the Lord willing, be there & maybe join you for breakfast for a few minutes Tuesday morning. We'll chat about who has to take their English final. I love you all.  

Y'all stick around. Next week we'll talk about something noncontroversial like whether or not gender is biologically determined.  


1 comment:

  1. You are a great Mom Anna! Keep on doing what you are doing!