When my son was small (or was he ever small? I can’t recall…), he was not allowed to have red things. After one too many red Kool Aids or red Tummy Yummies, or red Popsicles that caused vomiting or other general illness, we decided that he was allergic to red dye, and so when we saw some sort of treat in that unnatural color, it went to his sister, and he got the blue one, or the green one. But eventually he seemed to grow out of it, as he sneaked, or was accidentally given red items in recent years and suffered no ill effects. We stopped being concerned about it and went on routinely poisoning ourselves like every other good American.
Then we had an incident. And what I did not tell you about this incident was that on the day in question, he had consumed multiple gigantic blue drinks. It was pointed out to me that perhaps if I had not given him these blue drinks (which were public knowledge as I had posted an Instagram picture of the drink in question), then maybe we would not have wound up in the hospital. And as horrible as this thought was, there was a history of sensitivity to artificial dyes, and so we could not discount it. In fact, as medical science had been unable to explain the causes and reasons for my son’s problems, we were ready to try anything. So we went on a reverse shopping spree.
In a sudden fit of hope, I tore through the cupboards and the refrigerator, looking for any label that listed a color with a number after it. Red 40. Blue 2. Yellow 5. I tossed them all. It was like one of those Kay-Bee Toys shopping sprees I was always trying to win off of the back of a box of cereal in the 80’s. Except this time I was trying to get rid of everything in my shopping cart. And to our healthy credit, there were only four things in the house with artificial dyes in them. Minus all of the random candy of course, which has been left all over our house from Halloweens, Christmases, Easters, and Birthdays past. That all went straight into the trash. Which left us with the four items that contained those dreaded color/number combinations.
But first: a guessing game. Which one of these items contains red dye?
Yes, you guessed it. The Wonka Peel-a-Pops (which are weird and amazing in a bizarrely unappetizing sort of way) contain no artificial colors, while Twinkies contain all manner of sins. And the Twinkies were something I bought after the purge, not reading the label, thinking that they would not have red or blue dye in them. No, the four items we had in the house with deadly dyes in them were: Jell-O, which I only bought for my ADHD video, and which we were never going to eat because my kids are not fans, Kool-Aid Kool Bursts, which were one of the offending drinks that fateful day, and which we have not had any more of and only get about twice a year as a treat anyway, various Popsicles which had been sitting in the freezer since last summer and needed to be tossed anyway, and Cheetos. The Cheetos were the saddest of the three, because I could go through life with nary another Jell-O or Kool Aid, but Cheetos are a special kind of magic that live just isn’t worth living without. Luckily, they make a dye-free version!
So now our house is dye free. I bought special organic juice boxes, and natural Cheetos, and Fudgicles, and weird-looking Willy Wonka ice creams, and we are all healthier. And a week later we had another incident that was by far the worst of them all, and which I cannot tell you about on moral grounds. So maybe it wasn’t the dyes. Or maybe it will take more than a week to detox our systems, although we consume these things so rarely anyway, if our cupboards are to be believed, so I don’t know if that’s the answer after all. But we are sticking with it nonetheless!
There have been challenges. We have to avoid the ice cream truck like mad. Nothing on that truck is dye-free, I’m quite sure. So many “treats” are going to have to be given up or replaced. And this brings me to my final challenge. Edward can NOT know that he cannot have artificial dyes. Edward is the type of four-year-old boy who simply must do everything he is not supposed to be doing. If he is told he cannot do or have something, his diabolical little mind will find a way. If he ever finds out that there is a large group of food that are off-limits, that will be the end of that. So I have had to employ trickery.
On Monday we went to a big Memorial Day parade, which the kids look forward to every year, mostly due to the large amounts of candy being thrown from the trucks and floats. So before we went to the parade route, I stopped at the store and picked up several types of dye-free organic candy, and hid them in my backpack.
Any time candy was thrown toward us, I simply grabbed a handful and tossed it into the air over his head, so that it landed at his feet. He scooped it all up and tossed it into his bucket a happy boy. And when he got something in there that was not okay, I swapped it out when he wasn’t looking. Success! And then he ate it all on the drive home and had no lunch. Suc….cess?
So it’s a process. We’re learning. And maybe it’s not helping his problems at all. But, as the neurologist said on Tuesday, “I don’t think eating healthier is really a bad thing, either way.” Right?