Well, it's been a few days and a few hundred kilometres and close to 10 hours of round-trip train time since I've last posted and boy am I happy to be home!
First things first: I did have a pleasant visit with my sister-in-law and her family. She and her husband are good people, in some ways quite saintly, in fact. They have not chosen an easy path in life.
About six or seven years ago, they finally gave up trying to have children and opted to adopt a brother and sister, who were 3 and 4 at the time. The children had been taken from their birth family and when SIL and BIL met them, had already been living in foster care for some time. Obviously something had been very wrong with the birth family but the foster family was not great either. No doubt, both children suffered, but the little girl much more so than the boy since the foster family had only taken her so they could take care of the boy. She was not given any sense of love and caring, just tolerated.
My niece also suffers from extreme ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), with a frightening emphasis on the hyperactivity. The ADHD, combined with a lack of love during her early years has made her into an extreme narcissist. It seems like she never smiles openly, just forces a tight smile out once in awhile because she knows that that's what people expect. She stiffly accepts hugs and kisses and constantly demands things. When given what she wants, you can only expect a perfunctory thank you--again because she has been socialized just enough to know that that is what is expected.
It is clear that K. only tolerates her mother, my sister-in-law. Occasionally, she in unable to rein in her disdain and insults her openly, commenting on how fat she is or saying things like "get out of the way, old woman" (SIL is in her 40s). She is on medication, goes to a special needs class and I believe is followed by a social worker but to be honest, I'm not seeing great progress.
Little nephew, on the other hand, is a sweet, quiet little guy who is totally overshadowed by his loud, demanding sister. He is generous with his hugs and smiles and a joy to be around. I feel he is getting lost in the tornado his sister constantly has going on around her.
To make the situation even worse, K. practically has to be tied down to eat anything except sugar. I did a little sleuthing on the Internet and found that, despite lots of anecdotal evidence to the contrary, there is STILL NO PROVEN, SCIENTIFIC LINK BETWEEN ADHD AND SUGAR CONSUMPTION. I myself tend to be very sceptical of those who swear that sugar/gluten/etc. etc. immediately produce an extreme, negative effect on their bodies and/or minds. I think that the placebo effect is very strong in this area. For instance, a study found that the mothers of ADHD children who believe in the deleterious effects of sugar on their children's behaviour immediately saw behavioural problems in their children after having been told their children had consumed sugar. In fact, the children had not been given any sugar. But the mothers expected a bad result and therefore "saw" it occur. As an aside, a similar experiment was done with MSG and Chinese food. A group of people who self-identified as being sensitive to MSG were given a meal of Chinese food and then asked how they felt (I'm skipping over the details of the study, so don't start criticizing the results). Although no MSG had been put in the food, many reported the typical MSG symptoms like headaches, etc. Like I said, the placebo effect can be very strong.
But I digress...
Now, after saying that I am sceptical about a lot of what people consider food allergies, I am very concerned about my niece's diet. I know her parents are doing the best they can, but the fact remains that she eats no vegetables and few fruits (she did eat a half a banana during the three and a bit days we were there). She does eat small amounts of cheese. The only food I saw her eat with gusto was apple pie. Thank goodness the apple filling was homemade. Her parents have to supplement her diet with products like Boost. She is very tiny. Apparently, her growth curve is moving normally though I truly would not be surprised if she is at the 1st percentile in terms of growth.
All in all, I fear for my niece and for her parents and there is nothing I can do or say.
My husband is ferociously protective of his sister. He thinks that she and her husband are doing a stellar job and that, with time and love, their daughter will grow into a well-balanced, happy person. I hope he is right, though I don't see this happening. On the one occasion when I was able to have a long, private discussion with my brother-in-law's sister, she too expressed the same deep concerns that I have.
Basically, my husband has made it clear that I am just being a nay-sayer. He gets angry when I express my worries, so I am trying to not say anything...hence this long post to get things off my chest.
Although my boys are very discreet, they can only take a few days with their cousin and are always happy to come home.
So that was my Christmas vacation...and I haven't even mentioned the severe lack of vegetables I endured while away. Maybe I'll make that the subject of another post. Believe it or not, we still managed to have a good time and to spend some happy time with family, so although the sub-text is pretty scary and the future might be grim (I really, truly hope that I'm wrong), I'm glad we had this visit...
...and I'm really glad to be home!
P.S. Thanks for listening!