Tuesday, December 27, 2011
My daughter used to cry almost every night at the dinner table. She always complained that she had a stomachache. She'd pick at her food and then say she needed to go to the bathroom. We'd huff and puff and say, "Okay, but then you're going to eat all your dinner."
Almost every meal ended in tears, or threats that she'd have to go to bed early, or go to bed without anything else to eat, or miss her favorite show, or some other punishment for the nightly game of her not eating her dinner. We rarely believed her. More often, we thought this was some sort of game to get out of eating foods she didn't like. It never occurred to us that she really had a stomachache every night.
Then, on vacation, she complained again at dinner and when we made her eat her grilled cheese anyway, she threw up. We ran through the foods she'd eaten that day. It was all pretty standard kid food that shouldn't have upset her stomach: cereal, macaroni & cheese, ice cream, and grilled cheese and fries for dinner. And then it finally dawned on us: she might be lactose intolerant like her grandfather and uncle.
The next few days we experimented without telling her. We didn't let her eat any dairy, and for the first time in over a year, she didn't complain about stomachaches at all.
We were relieved, but also felt horribly guilty. All we could think of was that glass of milk we made her drink night after night at dinner. All those times we'd ignored her complaints and yelled at her for playing games and not eating her dinner. We felt like the worst parents in the world.
I was reminded yesterday when we went to dinner with my sister-in-law. Her daughter was acting the same way mine had and we mentioned what we'd gone through with Isabelle. I saw past family dinners flash through her mind. Suddenly. she was overcome with the strong suspicion that our niece was lactose intolerant, too. She nearly cried as she thought of all the times she'd reprimanded her daughter and all the stomachaches she'd ignored. I watched her gaze at her daughter who sat at the kids' end of the table. I knew she felt like the most terrible mother in the world. I'd felt the same way. We'd thought we were doing the right thing by giving our children they milk that they needed, never realizing that they couldn't break down the lactose.
We can shake our heads and groan about it all now. We've adjusted to a life of Lactaids and lactose-free milk. It's been an easy fix, but one I wish we'd realized sooner. Milk doesn't always 'do a body good.'