Dissent

I needed an extra hour at work yesterday so I asked my in-laws meet me at my daughter’s after care. Then I forgot my phone at work and was really late, so they arrived before me. The first thing out of my daughter’s mouth when I walked up was, “Mommy, I’m mad because Ms. J said I couldn’t have snack like all the other kids because of my special diet. I hate my special diet.” And that was how my in-laws were alerted to current plan of action.

My husband went over there last night to grab the cloth diapers they forgot and ended up staying a long time. I knew that whatever was going down over there, it wasn’t good.

I’ll probably never know exactly what was said at my in-laws place. All I do know is that now my husband is not sure if the negative social/emotional experience of being “left out” and “different” is worth the possible gains of following this diet strictly. He’s fine with us doing it at home, but he’s not sure he will support making our daughter follow it at school, after care or any other social situation (like the birthday party last week). He says he didn’t realize it had to be followed so strictly. And when I ask if he thinks thing have gotten better, he throws it back in my face saying that if things are already improving and we aren’t following it strictly yet (we’re still using Grape Flavored Kid’s Claritin and Strawberry flavored Tom’s of Maine Toothpaste, to name a few things we still need to change) then why do we need to adhere completely to the diet at all?

I think you can imagine how this conversation went. 

But honestly, it’s hard for me to argue with that.

I mean sure, it would be great to know how awesome it could be. But if things are better now without turning our lives completely upside down, maybe I should just ease up and enjoy this improvement.

I acknowledged that this sucks for our daughter. I know how shitty it is to follow a strict elimination diet. Of course I don’t know what it’s like to do that when you’re 5-years old and just starting Kindergarten. Honestly, I don’t think she feels weird or different or judged by the kids. Mostly I think she just wants to eat whatever they are eating. She is VERY motivated by junk food.

Unfortunately she seems to be too young and unaware to realize that she has been in a better mood for the past week. When I ask if she feels better she immediately says that her cough isn’t as bad. She can’t seem to recognize that she isn’t a raging bitch anymore, that she’s actually pleasant to be around for most of the day.

I told my husband that he should look into the diet more carefully and decide what he’s comfortable with. I also told him that if he decides it isn’t in our daughter’s best interest to follow the diet strictly, and she eventually backslides into her past destructive behavior (or it becomes clear that she’s struggling to meet the social or educational demands put upon her in Kindergarten) that HE will have to be the one to research possible solutions AND he will be one to follow through on them, even if that means taking time of work to take her to appointments or therapies. I made clear it wasn’t an ultimatum, I’m simply unwilling to spend hundreds of hours of my life searching for strategies if he’s unwilling to really give this a try.

I’m so annoyed and frustrated with my in-laws right now. I understand that they only have our daughter’s best interest at heart, but it’s clear that sometimes they confuse “current happiness” with “long term contentment.” Sure it sucks for her right now, but if this helps her focus, levels her moods and reduces her anxiety, she’ll be better off for it. And honestly, if she continues acting the way she does, she’ll isolate and ostracize herself because no one will want to be around with that kind of attitude. She already struggles in social situations and has no real meaningful connections with anyone in her peer group. If she weren’t so irritable, with such rigid expectations, she might actually be able to make a friend. Wouldn’t that be worth eating a slightly different snack than everyone else?

If the diet doesn’t end up making a significant difference, she can start eating what everyone else is eating, and in a month she won’t remember that she had to eat a different snack for a few months.

And now it’s midnight and tomorrow is the first day of school, AND Back to School Night, AND I have en emotional hangover.

Life has such perfect timing.

Have your in-laws (or parents) ever overstepped their bounds in frustrating ways? How do you handle it when they don’t support your parenting?

35 Comments

  1. My MIL, who is a very helpful, caring person, was a BIG problem when Matthew was born. She has very specific views on how you should raise kids and anything outside her viewpoint was not ok. Enter my scheduled, regimented baby. Matthew was on an eating and sleep schedule that HE set and we helped solidify, but this drive her insane. Comment after comment after damn comment. Finally, when he was 6 months old, she hit a breaking point and literally tried to physically force me down the hallway to nurse him before we left her house to return home because, “he needs to because you fed him so long ago on his schedule” (it had been 1.75 hours). He was not hungry, he was content and happy, and our drive was only 40 minutes. Brian intervened and we left, and the next day, I sent a very direct, very pointed email saying that I was the only reason she sees her son and grandson (Brian never suggested going to see them) and if she keeps this up, we’ll stop coming.

    I got a sincere apology and things completely turned around. We get along swimmingly now. We have very different views on raising kids (including strict diets, as you know), but she keeps her opinions to herself. As she stated in that email, “Matthew is an obviously very happy, content baby and just because you’re doing it differently doesn’t mean you’re wrong.”. EXACTLY.

    I nipped it in the bud. But I didn’t need them to provide daycare. At the time, they had helped us a total of two times. You’re situation is different. But I would not let that stop you from addressing it, however you can’t be as direct as I was.

    You have every reason to be upset.

    1. If it were just them, and my husband supported our decision, it would be different. But they have made him doubt what we are doing, so I can’t just “nip it in the bud” with them. If they refused to follow the diet I’d just not send me daughter over there without us and that would be that. But what they did instead was convince my husband we shouldn’t follow it, and that complicates things a lot more.

      1. Absolutely. Brian is the one who set the kids diet, and I’m the one who set their eating and sleeping schedules, so it was easy to say, “would you want me changing my mind on what’s important to you because of what your mom said?”. Prior to the incident I referenced, he would tell me just to blow it off, because she had him thinking schedules weren’t important. Then he had a happy, easy to predict baby 6 months later and saw the benefit and was supportive. I wish you had more time under your belt of your daughter behaving better because he may have been more supportive of this.

  2. Yeah that is not on. You’ve had a very difficult exhausting time before you started this and the diet is clearly working. The initial stages will always be hard but you have to persevere. I think you need to politely tell them to stay out of it – or explain you are at your wits end, tell them what we know. Then tgey will understand xxx

    1. I think if my husband and I came to them and said “this is what we’re doing,” they would comply. But since by husband already wasn’t convinced, they made him even more doubtful. I’m not waiting for them to decide if we should do it, I’m waiting for my husband to decide. It’s not as easy to just tell him to fuck off, you know? He’s her parent too.

      1. Do your in-laws and husband not see the behaviors exhibited by your daughter? Do they not want relief for her?
        And from the wrath of a pint sized “raging bitch”?
        Any intervention is not going to be easy but your husband MUST have some opinion on help for this situation…??

        Kay in Massachusetts

  3. When e we’re strict with Matthews diet, I sent him to school with his own snack that wasn’t cards. This only worked for a few weeks before he wanted the other kids snacks (damn crackers) but do you think she’d be more receptive I’d you sent her to school with a snack she loves? It’s hard… Kids just want what other kids want (except Capri sun, apparently, thank goodness!).

    1. I do send her with her own snack, and I told her I can send her with whatever snack she wants, but that doesn’t seem to ameliorate the issue of not getting the snacks the other kids get. I’ve tried to ask what snacks they will be getting so I can give her something very similar, but they don’t seem to be able to tell me ahead of time what they are going to be serving.The only reason I even think we can do this diet with my daughter is that she can have a really anything, it just has to be a cleaner version of that thing. So she can’t have goldfish, but can she can have Annie’s Bunny crackers. Which makes me feel like it you shouldn’t be that big of an issue. And yet now it is

  4. Do you think there is any truth to what your husband said that it isn’t the diet because you aren’t following it strictly and that it’s something else, like the magnesium? I know nothing about this diet so I don’t know if things improve without elimination.

    1. It absolutely could just be the magnesium that is having a positive effect right now. In fact, I believe that is the main reason we’ve seen improvement so far. So it’s true that we could not follow the diet strictly, and still see positive results, Just from the magnesium. But, many kids who benefit from magnesium are the kinds of kids that also benefit from elimination diets. It’s possible we could see even more improvement if we follow the diet more strictly. Having said that,I don’t believe my daughter is going to end up being highly reactive, so maybe the diet really isn’t that necessary. At this point we just don’t know.we can’t know unless we try. Really all I wanted do is give it six weeks. That is it too long of a time

      1. There are a bunch of issues going on. It doesn’t seem that your daughter is too upset about the diet. She told you she was mad when she saw you, but did she throw a fit? Did she badger your in-laws? Would your husband be opposed to trying for 6 weeks?

        1. It’s hard to gauge how upset she is. Sometimes it seems like she isn’t and comments like those are just to rile me. But then sometimes she mentions it at random times, when she isn’t upset about anything else and then I think maybe it really does bother her. It’s hard because she struggles to articulate how things make her feel. I’m trying to do some detective work on this though.

  5. Oh, my. I could share countless stories of my MIL overstepping the boundaries we set up, but I’ll spare you all those. One thing that struck me while reading your post is that your daughter has a choice in her diet, while those with food allergies don’t. Or, kids like me, being diabetic. I had to eat when others weren’t. I could never eat the birthday treats/snacks at school because they didn’t fit in with my diet. You are attempting a change in diet as a treatment for something medical. Just because she won’t DIE from eating things that are off plan, it doesn’t mean the diet still isn’t worth trying to see if it’s helping. Maybe presenting it this way to hubby might make him more willing to give it a chance?

    1. I think this argument would work better with him if there were more robust studies showing its efficacy. When he researches it, he finds a lot of articles that say The results of studies are mixed. If there were some study that showed this absolutely works, and if more doctors prescribed this kind of diet, I think he would feel differently about it. But at this point no professional has suggested we do this, it’s been all from me

      1. Has he read the Feingold website information? There is also a Facebook group that once you sign up you can be a part of that has daily stories of kids who are doing better because of this diet. Before and after real life stories. It’s a highly effective way of seeing the different ways it affects people. Way more than just a study would. Also, once you are clean, even if you have things off plan, at your inlaws or a snack at school, that’s okay. You can now be aware that a reaction might take place. To not make my kids pariahs at birthday parties or kids houses for play dates they can make a choice to have something off plan. But then the family all knows (including them) that when the temper tantrum happens later it is most likely because of that choice. My five year old is well aware of this now (we’ve been doing it her whole life) and it just makes them self aware every time it happens. Stay strong!!

  6. yeah. I feel you on the in-law woes. My MIL disrespects our boundaries for our kids every freaking chance she gets. Like she looks for them and then breaks them consistently. You have to convince your husband—even if he does not believe in the diet, at least to convince him its worth trying for some fixed amount of time—and then he can tell his parents. “we are doing this for x weeks, then we will re-assess and let you know if we will continue”. I know its hard for kids to feel different and left out but…its only junky snacks and treats you are eliminating, you’re not isolating her from friends or not letting her go to parties or events! She will adjust, and easier, if she senses that everyone caring for her is on board.

  7. This poses the problem: “if she continues acting the way she does, she’ll isolate and ostracize herself because no one will want to be around with that kind of attitude. She already struggles in social situations and has no real meaningful connections with anyone in her peer group. If she weren’t so irritable, with such rigid expectations, she might actually be able to make a friend.”
    You want her to behave in a way that will allow her to have friends and not struggle socially. You have proposed the magnesium and a diet change as a trial effort. You are also going to therapy with her. Do in-laws and dad see she currently has a problem? You are dead on right that if Dad is not on-board he needs to suggest other solutions and be the person to implement them. All appointments, all activities related to his solution. Especially for girls, not being accepted into social situations at school, is really really awful and I do not think he wants to take time from work to home school her. Which is the only solution for some scapegoated girls for their physical safety.
    Many decades ago, I was the scapegoat in my elementary classroom… I still carry the damage and lack of self-esteem today. It is Very Painful. And my ‘differences’ were being taller than any other child in the grade and having lived in a different country before entering that classroom.
    Do grands and dad deny her behavioral issues? How do they propose to change them?
    As a Grand and In-law myself all I can say is it is imperative as the non-parent to close your lips over your closed teeth when things are done differently and open you ears and eyes to see how much more is now known about children and learn. I see my grandchildren and am so very proud of what good parents my children are being… I wish I felt I had done as well, though I did do differently (and I believe better) than how I was raised… which was really a ‘Victorian children may be seen but never heard and certainly could never have an opinion’ approach. Each generation these days is doing a better job than their parent’s did and this is SO WONDERFUL and grands need to keep learning.
    My children blow me away with their parenting, I tell them so, and I try to do things their way. ~~Maybe being scarred socially as a child myself prevents me from thinking I always know the perfect answers. But it was a terrible price to pay and I would not want it for your daughter … or any other child.
    You and your commentators appear to be awesome parents, struggling sometimes, working so hard at multiple jobs, and raising what I consider to be the hope of our world’s future well being. THANK YOU all for what you are achieving.

    1. Thanks. I recognize that the world we live in is very different from what my in-laws were dealing with when they grew up and then when they were parenting themselves. I think one thing that is hard for me is that my parents NEVER step in and make their opinions known, so I don’t have any experience dealing with this in my own family, which makes it even harder for my to navigate it with my husband’s family. Blerg. In-law drama is hard.

  8. Ugh, the undermining is my pet peeve with my MIL/FIL, but it’s gotten way better after many, many talks by me and my husband to them. The key is really having your husband be on the same page as you though. That’s tough. 🙁

    1. My husband is HORRIBLE with confrontation. His way of dealing with the ways they bother him is to just ignore it. Ignoring things that bother me is NOT how I role. This has been an ongoing issue for us, complicated by the fact that we rely on them so much for child care. Only two months until we don’t anymore! I’m counting the days!

  9. This is so challenging. It’s a real heartbreaker when you’ve put so much energy into something and you are getting undermined by the people who are supposed to be on your team. I’m sorry.

  10. I am a biologist, so I do kind of agree with your husband that the evidence for these types of diet changes and “food sensitivities” that can’t be found with standard testing is not strong and in some cases is pretty definitive that it’s not warranted or unhelpful. I don’t know what your daughter was eating before and what she’s eating now but I remember she was super picky and if she ends up not eating enough, you could be at risk for nutritional deficiencies, so I don’t think a radical diet change for no real known medical reason is totally risk free. It certainly isn’t effort free as you’ve pointed out.
    But I do understand your frustration, it is very upsetting that she’s not making friends and I know you just want things to be better for all of you, especially her. And though your husband has the right to his opinion, I agree the ILs are overstepping their bounds.
    I write this not to disagree with you but to maybe provide a window into the mind of your husband, who doesn’t sound ENTIRELY against it, if it will work and if it won’t cause other issues. One week of a perceived behavior change is not enough to prove anything, to me, because evidence shows the anecdotal success reported by many for these types of diets is often explained by placebo effect (which you can have in *your* evaluation as well as her experience, its why they do double blind trials to really know if treatments work). But if you could show him by getting him to agree she’s doing better, and then take her off it. Does she get worse again? Then put her back on to see if you get the better moods again. Keep a diary/log of tantrums and food during these times so you have as an objective record as possible. If the behavior changes followed that, I could be convinced by that evidence that it was effective and worth it. In any case good luck and wishing the best for your little one

    1. There has been a lot of research lately that shows exactly how food coloring affects behavior. So much so that many food companies are changing the recipes of their popular foods to reflect this research. I’m not sure there is a big movement that touts the benefits of food coloring. It is petroleum based and petroleum is a known carcinogen. That is a scientific fact. And anecdotal research or not, putting that in your body cannot be good for you.

    2. I am definitely keeping a diet and behavior journal (that is a big part of this particular “program”) so that I can better determine if there is any relationship between what she eats and her behavior. And I know that a week of perceived behavior change isn’t enough to show anything (I don’t even attribute it to the diet, but to the magnesium supplement which I’ve read a lot about). So I definitely am/will be following this advice. Thanks.

  11. I’ve been pretty lucky with IL’s, grands, etc.

    I understand that what you have described (your DD’s complaint and its direction and timing, the reaction to it, the lack of agreement about whether the dietary changes are worth pursuing and so on, the reasons for needing to try them in the first place) are truly problems and don’t mean to suggest in what follows that I don’t.

    That said, I can also see where two parents (you and your DH) disagree (or one believes and one is uncertain) about whether something is worth trying. And one (here, your DH) talks to his parents, the child’s grandparents, who are also involved with the child, about his doubts. And that conversation, together with input from the child, increases his doubts. And honestly, that all seems perfectly reasonable.

    I mean, yes, parents trump grandparents, and yes, clearly this is something you have decided to try and are seeing benefits from and it is worth persisting.

    But I can also see the other perspective.

    I was going to suggest (and now I see that @Kelly has made a similar suggestion already) that you try keeping a log of both diet and behaviors, both positive and negative, while you are pursuing this. I hope it wouldn’t be too hard to do, it might provide useful data (not just about how well it is/isn’t working but e.g. what off-plan dietary choices matter more and so on), and perhaps it would reassure the doubters in your family (extended or immediate) that this is worth trying, if only as an exercise in seeing how well it works (for the doubting perspective).

    And with others, I agree entirely that yes, if this isn’t the path you pursue and if problems again arise, your DH needs to take responsibility for addressing those problems.

    1. I can see it from the other perspective too. I think what frustrates me the most is he had plenty of time to think this through, do some research, talk to me so he better understood how it all worked, but he chose to read comic books on his iPad instead. And then only when he talks to his parents does he decide he’s unsure. Of course he hasn’t do one thing to make a formal decision either way in the days since all this went down. And he probably won’t and then he’ll have to concede to me, because in the end he just doesn’t want to put in the time. And that is what is so infuriating. I asked him to read The Explosive Child about a month ago (it is NOT a long book, but so helpful to parents of a child like ours) and he said he would and of course he hasn’t read A SINGLE PAGE. And that is where most of my frustration comes from. It’s the history of him not meeting me half way on ANY of this stuff that bothers me. So when he is fine with it until his parents say something, that really bothers me.

      1. This sounds so hard!

        Are your in laws or your husband concerned about your daughter? Do you think it’s possible your husband doesn’t want to meet you halfway is because he doesn’t want your daughter to have a problem and so he’s just not addressing it?

        1. My in-laws spent some months after the kid got her label scoffing and denying its validity to my spouse. Sometimes the “accepting there’s a problem” part is very hard. Eventually they accepted that the label was neutral and helped in understanding the kid and her shenanigans and not inherently bad or a sentence to lifelong misery. My experience with the diet change is that it was night and day and within a month others noticed the change so it’s worth sticking with it if you can manage it, science or no. Maybe the firm timeline is the way to go?

          1. I think the firm timeline is what we are sticking with. And if my inlaws down’t want to support that they can postpone time alone with her until it’s over. I think my husband is coming to a place where he will support that. I think he’s starting to realize that our daughter is doing so much better, and realizing that he REALLY doesn’t want to go back to the way things were.

        2. I don’t have a good handle on what my in-laws think about my daughter’s behavior. It seems that they attribute most of the ways she struggles emotional and socially to her being super smart and therefore being bored by everyone and every thing around her. Which is a total crock of shit. The girl is smart, but she is no genius, and in many ways she is way behind her peers in social/emotional skills, especially relating to others interpersonally. They see her mostly at their house, and they are quick to pull the, “you have to go home if you can’t pull it together,” and so she pulls it together so she can stay (because they let her have ice cream and watch TV and she can have time away from her brother). But then she has a hard afternoon at home afterward because she had to hold herself together while she was over there. So I don’t think they have a real understanding of how much she struggles.

          And I think my husband honestly feels like things are good enough now and if we can just keep them this good, we don’t need to take it to the strictest iteration. He doesn’t really understand how elimination diets work. And of course he won’t read about them to gain a better understanding… so infuriating.

  12. husbands can be singularly infuriating. But I’ll talk about that another time. Honestly I feel here all you are doing is making her diet better, which may in turn help her be the best version of herself. This is not so terribly radical and I think the lack of support stinks, from the in-laws and from your husband. The world is full of junk food and we know it is linked to mood disorders, weight issues, health issues, etc – you are trying to help your daughter be emotionally and physically healthy and in this instance I maybe wouldn’t give up. Your daughter is not going to remember in any way not eating the same snacks as her friends but she will remember making friends and how good that felt. When I was going to s chool in the eighties my mom insisted on packing all of my lunches with what at the time seemed like terrible food compared to what my friends ate – homemade muffins and soup! The horror! But I lived and am totally well adjusted and happy. It’s such a joke that kids should eat junk just to fit in and it drives me bonkers. Bonkers. In this instance I say keep at it, momma bear. You’re in the right.

    1. “husbands can be singularly infuriating.” — Amen to that!

      And I totally agree with you that she isn’t going to remember not being allowed to eat what her friends were eating (at least not if we do stop the diet at some point) but that she absolutely will remember if she can be with people in meaningful ways, and feel success at school and with her peers. Those are the things that are important, that are worth fighting for. And that is why I’m doing this.

  13. your in-laws undermined you. NOT cool. While I realize that your husband was not sold the the diet, he should’ve at least stood up to them and said that it was something you are trying right now.

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