DUH! Why Didn’t I Think of That?


April 28, 2008 by Marj Hatzell

I try to feed my guys healthy food. Even the “junk” food ain’t that junky. I find that these days I spend less, they eat more (and better) and we’re all better off all-around. The boys are a good, healthy weight for their size (50%, both of them) and I’m at my best weight since having two babies. The husband? Well, he’s gained thirty pounds and the couvad syndrome excuse ain’t working anymore.

Recently, I’ve heard several times that gum can be very calming. I’ve always found gum to be kinda revolting. I don’t like to chew anyways and the sound and smell of someone else chewing gum makes me queasy. And yet, I wonder where my kids get their freaking sensory issues. Anyways, to me there’s nothing worse than some cocky sixteen-year-old smacking that gum like a cow. And then I read a study on how children taking standardized tests do better and are less distracted when chewing gum. And I still never let Bug Boy do it.

Bug Boy turned seven this year and I thought, what the heck? I’ll let him have some. I hate it, but as long as he does it outside and I don’t have to smell it, I’ll be in good shape. He declined. Wanted nothing to do with it, as a matter of fact. The kids I watch after school are all allowed to have a weekly ration of gum (which I disapprove of, but I’m not their parent and my disapproval has more to do with the fact that they fight over it and I hate the way it smells.). They always offer it to Bug Boy. And yet he declines.

We went to the local minor league park last evening with a group from Bug Boy’s school. We originally decided not to buy tickets and in the end it worked out, since my neighbor suddenly found herself with two extras when one of her children developed a stomach virus. She asked Bug Boy and I if we wanted to go with her and the other two kids while her husband stayed home with the sick kid. Sure! Bug Boy was excited.

A little too excited.

See, the reason we don’t do too much out-of-the-ordinary stuff with the boys is that in novel situations they have NO IDEA how to handle the anxiety they develop. I mean, the only way they will LEARN is if they EXPERIENCE it. The thing is, taking a kid to a baseball game, when he didn’t have, say TEN DAYS to think about going and pick out what he’d wear and rehearse how he’d behave and play it out in his head thirty times…let’s just say that we practice and discuss and think about everything we do. Ten days out from a doctor’s appointment I begin telling Bug Boy about it, show him the calendar, discuss how it should go, etc, etc. We role play it a few times, it lessens the anxiety quite a bit and then Bug Boy is calmer and can get through the event with little or no ado. So even a desirable even (like a baseball game) needs to be practiced and rehearsed. Sounds dumb, but trust me when I say it makes everyone happier.

So there we are at the game. We only found out an hour before that we were going and so we arrived a tad late (the first issue, no opening pitch or National Anthem. WRONG!). To top it off, our school had three sections of bench seats reserved. Everyone was kinda sitting wherever, especially since attendance was down due to the crummy, cloudy, chilly weather. Another issue (We MUST sit in Row eight, seats seven through eleven). We handled that alright but then other kids around us were getting crappy food at the concession stand (Bug Boy had a smoothie) and then we started spotting kids WITH GOLD RUBBER BASEBALLS and MR. CELERY shirts (don’t ask) and it was more than Bug Boy could handle. I planned to get him a snack and something at the gift shop, but seriously! People sometimes buy their kids SO MUCH CRAP and Bug Boy was insane with jealousy. And then his Mr. Celery necklace broke five seconds after we bought it(they replaced it immediately, but still!).It just snowballed from there.

Where am I going with this and what does it have to do with gum? Hold on, I’m gettin’ there. If you know ANYTHING about me from reading this blawg, it is that I am long-winded and take forever to make my point. Which is…

The game ended. They won (THANK HEAVENS WE HAD THAT) and we stood to leave. Except that it was chilly. He had to have HOT CHOCOLATE NOW, HE WAS COLD. I wrapped a blanket around him and assured him he could have some when he got home. He screamed that HE WANTED THE GOLD BALL. Now, to most people? He seems like a very spoiled child. But what they do not realize is that the anxiety had been building the whole game and that his demands had nothing to do with the fact that he was cold or hungry or wanted a freaking gold ball (like, srsly. WTF? Why do they sell stuff like that). It was about him not being able to express himself, tell me he was anxious and upset and find a way to calm himself. In his brain, it was all about being left out. It was all about being different than the other kids.

We were all walking to the car and Bug Boy just screamed louder. “THE GOLD BALL! PLEASE! MOMMMMMMMY! PUHLEASE! PLEASE MOM!” and he began dropping to the ground. I yanked him up by his underarm to get him standing and then he screamed, “YOU’RE BREAKING MY ARM! STOP IT! AHHHHH! STOP! YOU’RE HURTING ME! STOP!” Now, at this point? I was sure someone was flagging down a cop. I said, through clenched teeth, “Stop it. Could you BE anymore embarrassing? We aren’t getting the freaking ball!” Yes, I said freaking. Then I got accused of cursing and being a bad mommy. The worst ever. The end.

Except it wasn’t. My neighbor, THE GENIUS that she is, suddenly said, “Do you want some gum?” And like someone flipped a switch, he stopped. He was calm. The sniffling stopped. He chewed as we continued to walk. He chewed in the car while we sat in traffic. He chewed for the next three hours. He barely said a word (MY KID? WHA?).

My neighbor and I discussed it on the way home. Clearly, the gum had an effect on him. It provided a calming effect on him that I’ve never before witnessed. Let’s just say my impression of gum changed a wee bit. Help me out here, internets: Is there a healthy version of gum? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I still don’t like the way it smells.

10 thoughts on “DUH! Why Didn’t I Think of That?

  1. RuthWells says:

    The gum makes total sense to me. It provides a physical outlet for the anxiety build-up. Think of it as a stimming behavior. Unfortunately, I don’t know of a healthy gum, but surely the internets will be able to help.

  2. The other issue with gum besides the teeth is the destruction to the jaw.

    Nevertheless, if this is a way for him to communicate and deal with tension, I would argue it may have a greater benefit to him.

    Look for sugarless gums and ones that do not contain gross color dyes.

  3. Jacki says:

    See, my daughter is strange. She doesn’t like gum. She does however love Skittles and M&M’s.

  4. Angela says:

    Gum is a great tool for ‘chewers’… It provides great comfort. I’ve actually heard that chewing gum (sugar-free) from time to time is great for kids because it pulls out all of the excess food (yuck) that they miss while brushing. I let my kids chew gum fairly regularly and none of them have ever had a cavity if that helps.

  5. Trace says:

    I don’t know about a healthy gum, but I do know Big Red doesn’t have a strong odor the way Wrigleys or Juicy Fruit does (my mom was anti-gum because of the odor).

  6. Heather says:

    The best I can say is the trident sugarless and thy are little – or yu could try chicklets – they are really tiny (less size – maybe less smell??)

  7. whiskeychick says:

    I’m sure there is a “healthy” gum out there. Plus, I think it’s great that it helped him calm down.

  8. pkzcass says:

    Don’t know about a healthy gum — sugarless I guess, but I do believe it can be good for their teeth (removing bacteria and such). Someone suggested Big Red but that’s got a really strong taste and a bit of a bite. I used to love it, but am not sure how a child would handle it.

    As for your sensory issues…get a noseplug!

  9. BOSSY says:

    If you don’t like the smell of gum, then Bossy is relieved you weren’t along for her Excellent Road Trip. It was Gum City.

  10. MommyTime says:

    I’d go for sugarless, for the teeth reasons. As for the smell, mint, cinnamon, and cloying fruit seem to be the only options. But, here’s a link for sugar-free licorice gum I wouldn’t buy it till you get one small pack (this is a box with 144 pieces) and make sure he likes the taste. But perhaps it would be a smell you could live with?

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