Hindsight Parenting: Parenting a Gluten-Free Child
So Your Daughter Has Gluten Intolerance?
“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!!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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 Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, 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.