On Gluten and Sleepless Nights
Frankly, I don’t even know where he found it. The problem is that gluten exists in EVERYTHING and it hides in the strangest of places:
That stinking stuff hides in the stupidest of places, and the DragonMonkey post-gluten is a pitiful sight.
Well, actually, if I’m being honest, during the initial stages he’s just annoying.
Something about gluten in his system turns him into the kind of child that makes me daydream about heading to the corner for a carton of milk and never coming back.
The signs creep up slowly: The first sign that he’s managed to infect himself with some kind of wheat product is an increase in his energy.
Imagine a 6 year old with ADHD who just downed 14 candy bars.
Yeah, we’re talking that kind of increase in energy.
The DragonMonkey bounces from room to room, careening off furniture and clipping corners as he bolts past.
His normally sweet behavior flies out the door.
Every toy is thrown. Every book is slammed against a wall. He has no interest in being held or anything remotely involved with being still.
“KICK!” he cries gleefully, lashing out an unsuspecting cat with his stubby, toddler leg.
The cat gives a pitiful meow and slinks away to another corner.
“HEY!” I say, reaching forward. “NO KICKING!”
“SQQQQQQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” The DragonMonkey eludes my grasp and bolts into another room, shrieking wildly at the top of his lungs.
“GET BACK HERE. NOW!” I can usually stop him with my Angry Voice, but not when he’s had gluten.
I round the corner into the kitchen only to catch the faintest glimpse of him as he disappears around the bend.
Of course, I may not be able see him, but I know exactly where he is.
“EEEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! EEEEEE! EEEEEEEEE!!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! EEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”
I hear the rapid-fire clomping of his toddler-hooves as he races down the hallway, shrieking in a constant, high-pitched, supersonic scream that makes me fantasize about poking out my eardrums with a fork. It might hurt, but at least I’d have some peace and quiet.
“GET BACK HERE. DRAGONMONKEY, NOW!” I’m exhausted from chasing him all day, but if I’ve learned anything from working with dogs and horses, it’s that follow-through is a must. I stomp after him, cornering him in the hallway.
“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEE..” He barely breathes between his nonsensical, agonizingly high-pitched, fire engine screams of energy.
“Get in the corner, right now!”
“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEE…”
“EEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE…”
“Fine,” I do my best to raise my voice over the near-constant set of shrieks that are echoing in the hallway. I don’t know if he can hear me, but it makes me feel like I’m doing something. “If you’re not going to obey, then you are going straight to your crib.” I’m not against spanking, but there are times when it’s appropriate and there are times when he’s just too riled up for it to sink in. For spanking to be effective, he needs to understand the correlation (“DragonMonkey, if you pull the cat’s ear one more time, you will get one spank. Do you understand?”)
“EEEEEEE! EEEEE! EEEEEE!...”
Yeah. There’s no way I’m getting through to him with any kind of words. I reach down to pick him up, and he twists out of my hands, feet and arms flailing violently. Purposefully.
“EEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEE! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! KICK! KICK!”
“YOU DO NOT KICK MAMA! CRIB. NOW!”
I drop him in his crib and do my best to not slam the door behind me.
From inside the bedroom comes the muted sounds of a full-fledged tantrum. He slams against the the sides of his crib, rattling the slats like a gorilla, alternately shrieking and sobbing at full volume.
I lean my head against the doorway and fantasize about living in an alternate universe where it’s legal to eat your young.
It usually takes about an hour or three of this behavior before I realize what’s happening. Once I do it helps.
A couple of hours after the gluten-infested energy attack comes the rash.
“Owww.” The DragonMonkey trots out of the hallway, hand clamped over the back of his diaper. “Da poo. Oww.” He complains miserably.
“Do you have poo?” I reach for him, and he backs away, eyes wide.
“Awww, I’m sorry baby, but if you’ve got ‘da poo’ then Mama has to change you.”
The DragonMonkey spins on his heels and bolts down the hallway, and once again I’m playing corner-the-toddler.
My reward for catching him is that I get to wrestle my way through a diaper change.
“Ow! OWWWW! OWWWWWWWWW! OW! NO! OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! NO! NO! OWWWWWWWWWWW!”
He kicks at my hands and does alligator-rolls on the changing table in an effort to avoid my touch. I have to rinse him off in the tub as there’s no way I’m going to get anywhere near his heiny with a wipe. Besides, I’ve learned to pamper his skin during these episodes.
Sure enough, hours later the blistery, angry looking weals appear. They are puffy and raised, looking like burns against the whiteness of his skin.
“OWWWWWW! OW! OWWWWWW!” He sobs as I dab on anti-fungal cream and soothing lotion.
“Sorry, baby. Sorry,” I murmur.
When I’m done I pick him up, and he sinks into my arms, miserable. He’s whiny and fussy, but I find this stage a great deal easier to deal with than the hyperactive stage.
Getting him to sleep is a chore. He wakes up repeatedly throughout the night, crying quietly from stomach cramps.
Yaay for gluten intolerance.
The other night we only had a mild reaction. The diaper rash faded quickly and I thought we would have a chance at a nice night’s sleep.
We put him down with a bottle at 8.
He was up at 8:45, crying.
We gave him another bottle.
He was up at 9.
I went in and rocked him.
He was up at 9:20.
Sighing, I turn to the Bean. “Move over. I’m going to let him sleep with us tonight.”
The Bean pauses the show and I go in to collect my softly crying, sleepy son.
I place him on the bed between us, arranging his blankets around him.
The Bean turns Grey’s Anatomy back on.
We watch the episode quietly, and the DragonMonkey slowly fades off to sleep.
That is, until the credits roll.
The instant the music for the ending sequence begins to play, the DragonMonkey slams into a sitting position like he’s been yanked forward with a rope and begins to clap his hands.
“Yaaaay,” he says sleepily, eyes large and glassy. Clap, clap, clap.
The Bean and I laugh at the suddenness of his strange reaction and his robotic enthusiasm.
“Guess he wasn’t completely asleep. Heh. Cute. Want to watch another one?”
“Sure,” I say as the DragonMonkey lets me coax him gently down, his eyes fluttering closed almost immediately.
Forty-minutes later, the DragonMonkey is completely zonked out. His cheeks are flushed and he lays bonelessly between us, immune to the world.
That is, until the ending sequence starts up.
Right on cue, like a miniature zombie he bolts upright into a sitting position and begins to clap obediently. “Yaaaay,” he strangles out in a croak, struggling to open his eyes.
“What the..?” The Bean and I laugh quietly.
I push the DragonMonkey back down to the mattress where he falls asleep almost immediately.
The Bean presses a button and shuts off the tv, the closing credits disappearing with a wink and a flash of light and static.
“Yaaaaay,” intones my strange little son, hands clapping together unenthusiastically as he struggles to sit up.
“Shhhh,” I soothe, rubbing my hand on his forehead. “Shhhhh.”
The DragonMonkey rolls over on his side, cuddling closer to The Bean as he fidgets slightly.
I start to drift off.
“OWWW!” The Bean yelps. “Leave Dada’s nipple hair alone!”
I smother a laugh.
“Yaaaay?” says my son.
“Shhhh,” I soothe.
A few more minutes go by and I’m nearly asleep, when....
The feel of warm breath on my cheek drags me out of my semi-conscious dream state.
The DragonMonkey has smashed his nose against the side of my face in an attempt to see me better in the dark. “Hi,” he whispers.
“That’s it. Time for bed.” I pick him up and carry him, the bottle, and the blankey into his room. I shut the door quietly behind me and return to my bed. I heave myself down into a comfortable position and am just drifting off when…
“Waaaaaaaaah…” The DragonMonkey’s sleepy wails cut through the silence. Both The Bean and I lay tense, trying to see if he’ll cry himself back to sleep.
Fifteen minutes later his sleepy wails are now angry shrieks.
“I’ll go get him,” The Bean says, returning with an armload of angry toddler. He drops him on the bed between us. Immediately, the DragonMonkey turns to me, holding me tight.
His shuddering breaths ease slightly, and I rub the top of his head in a soft, soothing gesture. “Shhhh… shhhh…”
I repeat this for several minutes, eventually lulling even myself into a sleepy, semi-comatose state.
I’m nearly asleep when I hear it.
“Hhhhhiiii,” followed by a soft, warm nose being pressed against the side of my face.
“Hi,” he whispers happily.
“Hi!” This one’s a little louder.
“SHHHH!” I pet the top of his head for another few minutes. The second I stop, I hear it again.
“Do you want to go back into your crib?” I feel bad snapping at him when he’s so happy to be beside me, but by this time it’s after 11.
He stills instantly, rolling onto his stomach and chewing his blanket. Ah, yes. Those are good signs.
I roll away from him and fade away to sleep……
Annoyed, I reach over to pick him up and carry him back into his room.
He begins crying immediately.
I lay him back down on the bed. His eyes squeeze shut as he hugs his blankey tightly.
I lay down beside him. My breathing evens out. His breathing evens out. The Bean’s breathing evens out.
And yet I’m not surprised when I hear it.