I think refined sugar has saved my relationship with my daughter.
When I was growing up, my father was not a warm and fuzzy man. But he was very quirky and very loving, so he found his own special brand of expressing affection and pride in his children. He got us desserts. “Help your mom with the dishes, I’ll go get some ice cream!” “It’s Christmas, I know you love chocolate!” “When Willy Wonka is on, we celebrate!”
However, the accompanying treats were, in order, an entire three-gallon TUB of Baskin Robbin’s Pralines and Cream, a ten pound bar of chocolate, and a mixing bowl full of MnM’s and bridge mix. When I went to college, he sent me off with an eight pound can of Hershey’s syrup. One birthday I got a television box full of different kinds of Nabisco and Hostess products. Because, dammit, if he was going to express his love through sugar, we were gonna fucking develop some diabetes! That’s how much he loved us!
I’ll admit I enjoyed it. There’s something about a bar of candy you need to break up with a hammer and ice pick that is deliriously satisfying. Having enough baked goods to swim in? Come onnnnnnn. It was pretty damn cool. And I understood. He couldn’t tell us what he wanted to tell us. He didn’t have the tools to say, “Child of mine, I look at you and I see the part of me I forgot I love. I cherish your presence on this planet because I found my heart again when you arrived. The simplest act you do affirms that God has a place in my world. You are good and smart and beyond what I would wish for and I am astounded that I am so blessed to know you.” I know, without a doubt, that is what he meant. But he had a cunning, baffling disease that broke the connection between his ability to feel that and his ability to act on it. So we got sugar. Lots and lots of sugar.
I am now a grow woman with a disease and a child of my own. I commented earlier that I had reached a weight goal I had been pursuing since the birth of said child. Well, I didn’t hop on that celebratory blog post fast enough and I’m back up again. Don’t worry, I’m not going to whine and bemoan my body. I am happy and reasonably healthy with my self-image, I can wear clothes I like and my husband thinks my butt is awesome. That’s not the point. The point is, the scale is visible evidence that I am not taking as good of care of myself as I know I can. Something is askew.
I spoke with an ancient soul in a hot young man’s body recently about my relationship with sugar. He asked when I ate it and I answered, “When I’m bored.” We addressed that and I felt pretty good about the results. So this morning at eight o’clock, when I found myself in the kitchen eating the remaining half of a Whatchamacallit candy bar, I was a bit perplexed. “I’m not bored right now. I’m spinning five different plates already and I’ve only been awake for an hour and a half! Is it stress? Could that be it? Why am I eating this, albeit DELICIOUS, disgusting mix of wax, preservatives and corn syrup before I’ve gotten out of my pajamas?”
Then my daughter came in and threw a fork at my face. I retreated to the bathroom to finish my remaining bites. She followed me, pounding on the door, then doing something that made the sick and dying dog yelp in pain when she couldn’t get me to open up.
We have talked about how much I love that child. But she is autistic. The stereotypical image of the autistic child is that they are incapable of communicating. In my child, it manifests as an inability to distinguish when she has communicated effectively and react accordingly. She will spew a torrent of stream-of-consciousness dialogue, beginning with not wanting to eat her breakfast and ending with a parallel universe episode of “Go, Diego, Go,” in which he rescues Chris Wildcratt from a rampaging robot, then explode if I don’t understand that means she wants to wear her purple socks instead. Then try to bite me. Or…. throw a fork at my face.
Then I go swallow a spoonful of Nutella.
My subconscious thinks she’s an alcoholic! And it is consoling itself exactly the way it learned early on – by eating some cake.
I am really grateful for this response on my part, or might have never figured out what was going on. I’ve shared in some of my meetings that she has become my “littlest qualifier”, (that’s super secret code speak, by the way), but I didn’t quite understand how deep this went. And thank the God of My Understanding I did, because this could go horribly awry. I can’t learn her language when I am plugging my emotional ears with marshmallows. I can’t help her with her needs if I’m expecting her or baklava to fill mine. She’s five and has poor motor coordination. She can’t fill a glass of milk.
No wonder she gets so pissed at me! Here she is, doing her best to get her brain to weave bits of dandelion fluff into a rope sturdy enough for me to pull her up, and I’m looking at it like it’s a licorice rope that bites. Scary!!!!! I mean, yes, it’s also scary to have a tiny being that has zero regard for anyone’s physical well-being aiming projectiles at my eyes. But it has to be even more scary to her, looking to Mom for some guidance and order to the chaos in her mind, and be met with a half-eaten Oreo.
Fortunately, she’s a warrior. None of this seems to have dampened her spirit or will. I ask her if mommy loves her and she nods and says, “Yep.” So now it’s up to me to separate the tangle in my heart. This piece goes here, this piece goes in the trash. It’s covered in crumbs. This one should go on the bookshelf for further study; it may be art or a slightly melted mint.
And yes. I am still gonna damn well treat myself to some Trader Joe’s French Vanilla ice cream with fudge sauce, caramel sauce and some candied pecans. (It’s called a Dirty Turtle. Add graham cracker crumbs and it’s a Dirty Tortoise because they live in the sand. I get REALLY into my desserts.) But if I get that urge at eight in the morning, maybe I’m gonna stop, remind myself that Daddy loved me as best he could, and try a little harder to listen to my kid. If it means ducking a little faster, I can do that. Because, not for nothing, I got married to this song and I choose to apply to both my husband and, now, my little girl.