Hindsight Parenting: Parenting a Gluten-Free Child

So Your Daughter Has Gluten Intolerance?

We can’t be everywhere, and what about those situations where the rest of her class or the Birthday party is scarfing down cupcakes with butter crème frosting decorated with raspberries? (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

“So your daughter has your gluten intolerance as well?” The nurse grimaced and her faced seemed to echo my sentiments exactly-grimace, grrr, darn-it-all and other choice words and phrases that I can’t share on this family site. A food allergy, speaking again from hindsight, is a pain in the you-know-what. Now, when we discovered certain lacy rashes that showed up on random places on Ila’s body, especially her hands, we knew that there had to be some food explanation since the timing of their appearances coincided exactly when we started solid food with her.

At first we thought that perhaps it was peanuts, and when it wasn’t that, we tried removing eggs from her diet since her father suffered from an egg allergy. Each time we removed a certain type of food, I hoped against all hope that the culprit was something that could easily be removed from her diet without it having a great effect on her life. After all, we had been through this before and I knew that a ginormous over arching umbrella like allergy was not easy to enforce or easy with which to wrangle a child into believing or liking.

When Son2 was 4 after a dinner of a Burger King Chicken sandwich, red Hi C and a large fry, he literally flipped his ever lovin’ mind in a way that reminded me of a cartoon gorilla escaping from his cage—metal bars bent, steaming coming from his nose and deep rumbling grunts coming from deep in his gullet. This behavior continued all night long and even though I was the parent, I felt as if I was being held hostage in my own home (Unfortunately not the last time this ever happened.). The next morning, sleep deprived and weepy, I visited our pediatrician Dr. Dapper sans Son2 and sobbed on a tiny bench in one of his check up offices. He patted my back saying matter of factly,”Let it out. Let it out.” Once I pulled myself together, my tear streaked face looked up and asked Dr. Dapper for advice. What he said was completely unexpected. “In order to see if his reaction was from the food he ate last night, I want you to go back to Burger King tonight and replicate the meal he had exactly. Let’s see if he acts the same way tonight.”

As it turns out he did react the same exact way and through a complicated process we discovered that Son2 was allergic to almost anything put in foods that wasn’t of the earth. That is right. You heard me. Dyes, preservatives, chemically processed anything (which is almost EVERYTHING on a grocery shelf) was off limits to Son2. Too much of that stuff and Son2 became that cartoon gargantuan gorilla trying to escape his cage. Fast food restaurants seemed to be the worst culprits and so we cut them out of our diet completely.

But as I said in the beginning of this column, knowing he had this problem and getting him to buy into it was two different things. As he got older, he indulged more and more in the forbidden ingredient prognosticating that everyone else can have it, that he should be able to have it too. The struggle to keep him chemical free became a downright battle in our house (Unfortunately, one that I lost most times.).

And I guess this is why I was so sad, anxious, and grumbly when we removed gluten from Ila’s diet and lo and behold the rashes disappeared. Of all things…of all things….gluten. I mean it is everywhere. If the moon is made of cheese, the Earth is made of gluten. Sheesh. She already begs for crackers and we have yet to find any gluten free that rival Goldfish Crackers. I can’t help but think about future problems like Birthday parties both in and out of school, snacks at friends’ houses and those quick trips to Mickey D’s after a soccer practice. I want to do it differently this time. I want to avoid the fights and the poor me attitude that sometimes comes along with depriving a child of something. I am smart enough this time to start the education part of it early. She is only two, but her dad and I have already explained that those sore hands come along with eating bread and crackers. (All right…it is a little simplified. But she is only TWO!) But it is the future that I still have no answers for. We can’t be everywhere, and what about those situations where the rest of her class or the Birthday party is scarfing down cupcakes with butter crème frosting decorated with raspberries?….(ok, I may digress…but I’ve been gluten free since June! Hold please while I dab away the drool.) Okay…

So, dear readers, what do you suggest? How does a mom go about preparing her daughter about her allergy in a way that doesn’t make her feel deprived but instead empowered? Need your help on this one and would LOVE to hear your thoughts!!


Logan Fisher

Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.  Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.

5 Comments on “Hindsight Parenting: Parenting a Gluten-Free Child

  1. Hey Logan, here’s some feedback posted to Hilltown Families Facebook Page:

    Jaclyn Carty writes, “I buy gluten free cookies with me to any social situations…just incase… My son cant have soy,dairy or eggs either so i use pamelas primarily. sometimes I find random other brands at tjmaxx or marshalls. i have tried but been unsuccsessful at allergy baking.”

    Joanna Adler Miles writes, “Bread machine! Being able to safely make bread at home for sandwiches makes lunches much easier!

    Sienna Wildfield writes, “Pamela’s makes great cookies, I agree, Jaclyn Carty! And while they may not fit all your dietary restrictions, Glutino makes great GF crackers and pretzels that other might enjoy. – I’m wondering if there is a GF pre-mix for bread machines… do you know, Joanna Adler Miles?”

    Jaclyn Carty replies, “My son loves the glutino pretzles. im also a fan of the namaste baking mix for pancakes. my husband didnt notice it wasn’t bisquick.”

    Swansea Benham Bleicher writes, “Pamela’s pancakes! Love ’em with blueberries. I add an extra egg for more fluff.”

    Sienna Wildfield replies, “Couldn’t agree more, Swansea Benham Bleicher! Elmer’s Store makes their gluten free pancakes with the same mix, and it’s so fun to be able to go out for a good old New England breakfast and be able to enjoy delicious pancakes with family and friends. Pamela’s secret ingredient: almond meal! You can even add your extra egg and then cut half of the required baking mix for half almond meal (which you can get at Trader Joe’s). Makes for a higher protein delicious GF treat! Topped with local grade B maple syrup and you’re good to go!”

    Joanna Adler Miles replies, “Pamela’s for pancakes definitely! For the bread machine there is a special one rise setting and I use bobs gluten free flour and then just follow the directions in the machine.”

  2. Logan, the transition to a new way of eating and cooking IS challenging, but once you make it through to the other side, it becomes second nature. My daughter is severely allergic to nuts/peanuts (epi-pen) and my husband is gluten/dairy free. When it comes to social eating (b’day parties, class snacks, potlucks), we have yummy alternatives ready for her. She has delicious brownies stashed in the school freezer for when occasions arise. For playdates, I have sent safe and tasty food for her to share with her friends. I have been fortunate to have very compassionate and understanding friends and a wonderful school community to support her. There are many resources out there. FAAN, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network is a great resource :http://www.foodallergy.org/. The magazine, Living Without, is also helpful. There is a lot of support available! ~Deanna

  3. Becky! Thanks for the smart advice. I LOVE it. Going to try some cooking and baking with her this weekend. Such a smart suggestion.

  4. P.S. I am a huge fan of your column and miss you regular Tue posts!!!

  5. Honestly, all the other kids (and adults) should feel deprived. She is going to eat so much more healthy food, we all should be eating what she eats!!! She is going to grow up without the chance of diabetes, allergies, etc. etc. If I were you, I help her learn to cook (stirring at first and then measuring and deciding on recipes as she gets older) delicious gluten free birthday cakes, brown bag lunches for school, after school snacks, the whole gamut. Let her freinds be begging to eat her food instead of your daughter feeling like she wants their food… I am in the middle of changing my diet and eating less and less gluten and as few simple carbs as possible. I can’t tell you how much better I feel and how much healthier I am going to be! (Ya know, if she eats the crap that most Americans eat, and goes balistic like your son did and my kids did, then I think she will not eat that type of food very often. Those are pretty natural consequences…)

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