It’s not easy being us. The G free. Let’s face it, we are living in a G filled world. A friend of mine sent me this hilarious (only to us!) photo of a list of ingredients for hot dog buns. Okay, I know, 99.99999 % of hot dog buns are gluten, but look how many gluten ingredients are in here. (Sorry you’ll have to squint a bit, it was a quick phone photo.)
Count them. Nine. NINE! It’s funny, it really is, especially when you are losing your mind like my friend and I often are. We are moms to kids who HAVE to be gluten free. Because they have celiac disease and gluten makes them sick and destroys the insides of their little bodies.
I have talked, and I will talk more (possibly ad nauseum), about how hard this can be. Birthday parties, anybody? Family outings? But today I want to acknowledge something else. Someone else.
The G eaters. The people who hang out with us. Who host us. Who love us. Who invite us on play dates. People who want to be sensitive to our (many) needs, but perhaps aren’t sure how.
But first a side bar. (You know I can’t help myself.)
The other night we were having a very sweet picnic in the park, and my husband and I watched as people gathered with several sets of friends and children, sharing food on blankets, playing ball, laughing. We were doing all those things, too, just without the friends part. It was fine, don’t get me wrong. We had a blast. Leo dug in the dirt, Emma picked flowers from trees, but there was a moment where I felt a sense of loss… I looked at my husband and said, out of earshot of my kids, who could we invite? [Full disclosure: our friends pool has shrunk since we’ve had kids, but still. Gluten is a factor.]
When we asked Bunky how she’d feel about inviting friends the next time, she got a very serious look on her face and immediately said, “But what if they bring gluten food?” It always comes back to THAT. To gluten. Freaking A. My husband handled it well, explaining that we’d just keep our GF food on our blanket and they’d eat the G on theirs. This seemed to satisfy her and we moved on.
But. But. This awful little rhyme popped into my head:
Separate blankets keep crumbs at bay, separate blankets keep friends away.
Now I know that isn’t true. Obvs it takes more than one picnic blanket to have a party. But the crumb thing IS an issue.
Bunky chose to sit apart at a birthday party because she was afraid of gluten crumbs.
And frankly, it’s a little SAD not to be able to share food. To watch friends eat things we cannot enjoy, and vice versa. Separate is not necessarily equal, as my friend whose son has celiac often says.
So, in order to help bridge the gap that is sometimes US versus the G eaters, i.e. almost everyone in our life, I wanted to compile a short list of helpful tips that I HOPE puts people at ease. The last thing we want to do is alienate the people who love us, who want to help us, but perhaps are afraid or unsure how to do so. It doesn’t have to be intimidating. It doesn’t have to be sad (well, not always). We can overcome! Let’s share a blanket, maybe.
Some Helpful (I Hope) Tips to Pass Along to the G eaters You Know and Love
1. G Free food can be good, no, GREAT – seriously!
Want to have a picnic with us, but you’re secretly worried about the taste factor of our GF stash? Or maybe you know how much our tiny slices of bread cost and you don’t want to make us go broke. Well, worry no longer! First of all, forget the freaking bread. I barely share that with my dad, let alone anyone else. Besides, you’d still be hungry cause the slices are so small. No sandwiches. BUT we can still eat together.
How’s this for a spread: platters of yummy cheese and salty meat (lots of fancy fatty meat is gluten free, yay!), GF crackers, briny olives and miniature pickles (for Bunky), hummus and veggies, guacamole and corn tortilla chips. Not feeling the finger food thing? No prob. I can whip up a G free pasta salad with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. Yum. And for dessert, we could go healthy and eat delicious, sweet, drippy red watermelon (or any other fruit). But don’t forget to partake in the home baked goodies I will surely bring.
2. But if eating the same stuff doesn’t work out, it IS okay to eat G in front of us.
It’s cool. Really. I mean, Bunky does it EVERY DAY at school. We do it when we go out to eat (on the rare occasion) with relatives. Sometimes my dad asks if he should order a G free pizza, and well, he can if he wants, and sometimes he does, but he doesn’t have to. We know how to be careful with crumbs and cross contamination. It’s, like, our job.
One caveat – please PLEASE do not indulge in a gorgeous looking G treat in front of a kid who can’t have any. That’s just cruel. I mean, duh.
3. No need to apologize about NOT having food for us.
Say we’re on a play date or just hanging out and you suddenly realize all your snacks are full of G? It’s okay, really. We ALWAYS know to BOOF (Bring Our Own Food).
I don’t know any mom of a celiac or allergy kid who doesn’t carry an arsenal of safe snacks in their bag. Everywhere. We don’t expect other people to feed us. It’s our responsibility to keep our kid’s stomachs safe and full, not yours.
Yet, check out this “Gluten Free Goodies” tray at a birthday party. The mom did this to avoid cross contamination. I totally teared up and hugged her.
If you chat with us ahead of time we can fill you in on what to offer, but that is never expected. No need to apologize either, especially since drawing attention to what a kid CAN’T eat usually makes them feel more uncomfortable. Speaking of which…
4. Please don’t make a fuss about any “special snacks” we bring along.
Our snacks aren’t special, just different. And the only difference is they don’t have G. There’s no need to draw extra attention (see above) to the food we bring, unless of course I baked you something AWESOME. Then compliment away, don’t be shy!
Seriously though, I only mention this because I can’t tell you the amount of times people have ooh-ed and ahh-ed over our mundane snacks. It’s totally a benign overcompensation thing, and I know it’s coming from a good place, but kids are super perceptive to difference, so the more you can NOT point it out, the better.
5. Cooking for us – it IS possible!
It is, it really is. But we will need to have a rather big chat first. And after our big chat, where I go on and on about truly fascinating topics such as cutting board etiquette, cross contamination, and BYO-ing our colander, you may decide it’s too much of a challenge. And that is OK. We know it can seem like a lot, cause frankly, it is. Especially if your kitchen isn’t G free like ours. But either way we don’t judge. Seriously. We’d much rather you opt out gracefully instead of plunging forward and making an unintentional mistake.
That said, right of refusal must go both ways… we also reserve the right to politely, and with the upmost sensitivity, turn down your offer to cook for us if we feel like it may not be safe enough. Ultimately, it’s our daughter’s health that is most important. No hard feelings, please.
If you do end up cooking for our girl, here’s a preemptive thank you. Most likely after heeding all our advice, all will come out just fine. And, if worse comes to worse, and G crashes our party somehow, it will be okay. Bunky will recover, and so will we. We’ve had practice, as unfortunate as that sounds, and know the deal. I’ve even done it. Yup. True horrific story. Maybe I’ll share it here sometime.
Bottom line, there’s no need to be anxious about hanging out with us, G free folk. We’re just like you, minus the G. Chances are everything will go just fine. And if not, you can read about it later on my blog.
Ha, just kidding!!
Seriously. I’m kidding. Read this post if you’re concerned.
I’d love to hear from all you celiacs, parents of celiacs, and allergy people out there: Do you get an anxious vibe from friends and family because of your dietary restrictions? Does it ever hamper your social life?