We arrived at the apartment building and waited at the door on the third floor, but no one answered it. We first heard small voices from far away coming up through the elevator shaft. Suddenly from the elevator burst the four of them; Smiling dark-haired Kristina* and three “whirling dervishes”1, as my husband later called them. Two of the boys ran into the apartment ahead of their mother and the oldest boy, Peter, ran up the next flight of stairs and then came down them headfirst on his stomach. Fast, like he was on a sled instead of just his body.
Kristina is another Fierce Mormon Mother I came across on our trip to Sweden. She lives in Uppsala and knew my daughter, Sophie, when she served as a missionary in the ward there.
We came into the foyer where Kristina had a great big closet that we could hang up our coats. Peter whistled at me and I looked at him. He whistled again and stuck his leg up and motioned to his shoe. I quickly gathered that he needed my help and I pulled off his shoe. When he whistled again I knew just what to do. But the third whistle? I looked at him blankly and he motioned with his leg and I helped him get his outer wear pants off. Pretty good communication for a child of 5 who speaks Swedish and Italian.
What, Italian? Yes, Kristina is from Italy. She came to Sweden in high school as an exchange student and met her husband-to-be. She is lovely and was so welcoming to us. We had a great visit in her living room, where she and Sophie reminisced on past experiences. During this time Peter and the 3-year-old twins ran in the kitchen and grabbed a bag of clementine tangerines. We watched in amusement as they peeled and ate the whole bag. Peels where flying everywhere, shouts were in Swedish, three bodies were jumping up and down on the sofa, and the boys were twirling the tangerines on their thumbs and offering slices to everyone. Kristina would start a conversation, then make a correction to her boys, then start again and finally gave up on finishing her sentences.
When the boys finished the tangerines, one of them brought in a fruit I didn’t really recognize. Later in a store I saw that is was a persimmon. He also brought in a plate and a knife and Aurora expertly sliced up the persimmon and distributed it to her baby birds. It was all a blur of bodies and toys and swedish being spoken rapidly and excitedly. I said, “Wow, I am impressed they are all eating fruit!”
Aurora answered, “It’s been a long road…” My Fierce Mormon Mother ears perked up. I leaned in, “Yes?” She launched into how hard the past 5 years have been and how, especially for the last year, her boys weren’t sleeping at night. She said, “They would sleep from 9-12:00 am, then be up until 5 and then sleep for two more hours. She took them to a doctor who recommended ADD medicine for them. Aurora works as a pharmaceutical tech part-time, and she looked up the medicine the doctor was advising. She said, “There were many side-effects that I didn’t like. Then after two years on the ADD medication, the advice was to also administer a sleeping pill for sleeplesness. That didnt make any sense to me.” She went to other doctors but all the advice she got was to give her active sons medicine to mellow them out. A One-Size-Fits-All approach. She even had another mother say to her, “I don’t know why you don’t just do what the doctor is telling you to do!” Judgment, pressure, confusion. It’s hard to parent these days!
I posted earlier about Leonard Sax’ book, “Boys Adrift”, where he lists the serious side affects of ADD, and ADHD medication given to hyper children, mostly boys. Two of the side effects were the possibility of them not reaching their full height and lack of motivation. Pretty serious side effects!
Her mother came to stay from Italy, so Kristina and her husband could take a break. When Kristina came back from her trip, her mother said, “This isn’t normal, boys are supposed to be active. They should be exhausted– we need to do some research.” Kristina’ s mother found an Italian doctor who recommended changing their diet instead of using drugs to calm children down. Kristina said first they eliminated dairy, then sugar and tried to do more fruits and vegetables. She said it has been a month but already she and her husband have noticed a calming affect. The biggest change though, is, “They are finally sleeping through the night!” She said it was tough cleaning out their cupboards and getting rid of all of the goodies and processed foods but they are all feeling better. She is a Fierce Mormon Mother because she knew something was wrong, she was open to wisdom from others and searched and studied on her own. Then she followed through, and was committed to their eating plan. That commitment is the “Fierce” part. If you have to battle doctors, or other parent’s opinions you will do it. Am I saying never listen to doctors? No. Just do your research when your gut is telling you that what the experts are saying is wrong. It’s this guarding of our children from too much of whatever is harmful that is so important. I asked her if she packs a lunch for them at school and she said the school didn’t allow that and at this point she didn’t want to battle that. All the children have to eat the same thing. But she felt like improving every other meal and snack when they were at home has really made the difference. She said they still have “godis” (goodies) but on a much more limited basis.
Sophie as a missionary had helped her a lot when she had lived in the ward and Sophie said now that a year had passed since she had been in the Uppsala ward, the boys, on this visit, were acting much more calmer than before. As Kristina walked us to the door she said that ward members didn’t know her boys could walk down an aisle at church because they were always running.
The whirling dervishes were finally walking down the aisle.
We said our good-byes and left that happy, noisy place where a mother was doing all she could to help her children grow up healthy and unnecessarily medicated. She defied the one-size-fits-all state medical system and did what was best for her three boys. AND she is finally getting a good night’s sleep.
a member of a religious order who has taken vows of poverty and austerity. Dervishes first appeared in the 12th century; they were noted for their wild or ecstatic rituals and were known as dancing, whirling, or howling dervishes according to the practice of their order.*names have been changed.