It really helps to have wonderful friends and family. Ever since Bunky’s diagnosis, I’ve been in awe of how much people have worked to accommodate our family’s new dietary restrictions (as we’ve all gone GF). My father has designated space for us in his pantry for all our food, not to mention how many times he’s treated us at his local health food store so we can stock up on overpriced GF treats during visits.
This picture of B and her daddy is from the terrace at my dad’s beach house. We are lucky in so many ways.
Days after B’s diagnosis, our dear friend and former neighbor made gluten and allergy free cupcakes – for everyone – at her daughter’s 3rd birthday party. They were delicious and it was wonderful to be able to offer B a treat along with everyone else.
I know it won’t always be like this, and to be honest I don’t expect or assume it should be, but I do so appreciate these kind gestures.
Over Fourth of July weekend, we made our first big road trip with Bunky. Maybe five hours in the car doesn’t sound like much for some families, but for us it was a lot. We bought some new toys, packed our entire pantry, tanked up on gas, and crossed our fingers. When we arrived at our friend’s beautiful country home in western New York, their two children, almost 6 and 4, greeted us with handmade welcome signs and toothy smiles. Bunky had a blast enjoying country life with her pals and so did we. It was wonderful watching her run in grassy circles around their lovely house, discover animals like orange newts and pond frogs, learn new games, and even roast her first marshmallow (though she refused to eat it, even though it was perfectly safe). In three days she tried new foods (broccoli and turkey burgers!) and shook off some of her old clinginess with a new surge of independence.
Our friends had stocked their fridge and pantry with food and treats we could all eat. They even had Udi’s bread in their freezer! We cooked every night and for the first time EVER, our daughter slept ALL NIGHT LONG two nights in a row. We attributed this amazing feat to their children’s boundless energy and their many acres of land. Our city girl has never run so much or so freely.
I think what strikes me now, is how normal we all felt. There was no problems about food exclusion: in addition to our friends’ thoughtfulness about food, my husband made sure to pack GF ice cream comes and enough homemade strawberry ice cream for all the kids to enjoy.
Now I realize this is not how it’s always going to be. In fact, we may be living in a bit of a celiac friendly bubble. It’s still early on for us and our daughter is so young. We haven’t had to tackle day care or school, sleepovers or camp. Let alone adolescent rebellion. As a stay at home mom, I haven’t had to trust other caregivers or family members to make sure she doesn’t eat gluten. But one day soon I will and I know it won’t be easy.
But we’re lucky. If Bunky eats something with gluten she will get sick, temporarily, but she won’t die. I don’t have to pack an Epi Pen in her lunch box, just safe food. As she grows up we will continue to teach her what she can and cannot eat, and soon enough she will be her own advocate. I think this will make her stronger, more independent, and perhaps more empathetic to others who are set apart for dietary, health, or other reasons.
She still sings her song, “no wheat, yes meat!” and the other day at a play date when I reminded her she couldn’t eat the goldfish crackers being passed around, she looked at me meaningfully and said, “Mom, I’m only looking.” This broke my heart a little bit, but mostly made me proud.