We’re coming up on five months since my son was diagnosed as a Celiac. Changes that we have made to our lifestyles are prevalent in our home every day. Right now, I’m listening to the bread machine churn out another loaf of Gluten Free sandwich bread (a wonderful recipe that I will have my wife post soon to my Twitter page). This is on the heels of a mildly-successful attempt at brownies (a little dry but light years beyond the 1st effort). But changes aren’t just designated to only the kitchen and our diets.
We’re a travelling family. We try to make it to the beach every summer (my wife’s happy place) and the kids have been to Disney numerous times (my happy place…side note: so excited that there is going to be a Celiac convention there in November!). We will often take small day trips as well as we are located only a few hours from many major cities and popular tourist attractions. It used to be that we would just be able to hop in the car and go at a moment’s notice. We would usually pack a picnic by throwing sandwiches and chips in the cooler and then stop at a restaurant for our second meal if we weren’t yet at our destination. Now that we need to be Gluten-Free, this doesn’t come as easy as it once did. But, by no means is it impossible.
We view this, as with a lot of things, as another way that Celiac is not going to beat us. We’re not going to let an auto-immune response stop us from being who we want to be. We have always known that pre-planning for trips has resulted in successful adventures but now, it is an essential step. We have rated success in the past based on how much fun we have, was the experience unique and did we make lasting family memories. Now, we add, “did Cam have a reaction” to the list.
The trip this past weekend was wildly successful. Memories were made, fun was had, we were part of something historic and my son had no issues. I credit all of this to my wife’s due diligence in prepping food and bringing along things like individual macaroni cups and “safe” snacks to help with fill the 12-year old’s bottomless pit of a stomach. She also found GF-friendly restaurants in our area that accommodated our needs and lessened our stress of finding someplace where we all could eat. She really is a remarkable person. I credit my daughter, our non-Celiac, for understanding her brother’s needs and not complaining about the extra steps and special considerations that we need to take since his diagnosis. And, as always, I give my son so much credit in doing what he needs to do to get through what life had dealt him. I hope that my great family can act as a model for those who don’t think they can maintain the same lifestyle after their diagnosis. It may take some extra time but the payoff is definitely worth it.
I was working from home a couple of weeks ago, when my kids were on holiday break. Since I normally do not have lunch with them, I thought it would be nice to take them out and do some bonding. Hey, time is flying and any opportunity I can get to spend time with them, I’m going to take. Now, as many of you who have Celiac’s or have a Celiac child knows, eating out is a challenge. We decided to go to a restaurant chain that we had gone to in the past and had success in them understanding Cam’s special eating circumstances. One thing we noticed immediately was the difference at this location in how the staff preparing the food reacted when Cam identified himself as a Celiac. But, some of the same precautions were taken so we didn’t think anything more of it. In hindsight, this is where we were wrong. Now, I’m not going to call out the name of the restaurant in this blog post but I have contacted the branch ownership and expressed my concerns.
That evening, Cam had his issues and as a Dad, I was upset with many things, including myself. But in these situations, who is too blame? Absolutely I blame the restaurant location that we went to but do I blame the individual workers? Since we have had good experiences at other locations, I know that the policy is in place so was it a branch manager who didn’t educate their worker or the worker not paying attention to our needs that I blame. Do I blame myself for creating the situation and taking the “easy way out” but going to a restaurant and not preparing a gluten-free meal at home where I know the conditions are safe? Do I blame myself for now causing this “bad memory” for my son which may deter him from eating at this restaurant ever again? Probably not but when his buddies get together and decide to go grab a bite to eat from this place, will he hesitate?
The answer is that I could easily blame everyone but instead choose to blame no one. The guilt of putting him in this situation is one that I need to deal with and one that will come up numerous additional times. That’s on me. As role models, my wife and I will need to keep a positive attitude in these situations and roll with it in support of our son. Because, really, the blame is on Celiac’s and the only thing we can do for the time being is what we already are.
I love birthdays. I love the fact that birthdays are your day to celebrate yourself. Yes, you share the day with thousands of other people worldwide but in your family, friend group, classes, whatever, chances are you are the only one who can say that you were born on that day. I think that’s awesome. Why not take the time to embrace and celebrate everything that you are? I know a lot of people, especially in the age demographic that I recently entered, are not so keen in talking about their birthdays let alone celebrating them. But in my house, it’s a big thing. I love my wife’s birthday as she spends so much of her time and effort making sure that we are taken care of that she should be celebrated every day. I love my kids’ birthdays as those two days are reminders of two of the best days in my life (ranking right behind my wedding, of course).
So, why should Celiac’s change celebrations? Why should an unwanted guest spoil our party? My son was invited to a birthday party just a few days ago and there was going to be pizza and cake and video games; a regular diet following,12-year old’s version of Utopia. Well, Cam of course has to worry about two of those three elements (thank goodness video games aren’t an issue or he’d be bored to tears). Did this affect our RSVP decision? Of course not. We said “yes” as soon as we could. It’s a birthday, we celebrate!
Now, of course the decision was not that easy. Cross-contamination, eating the wrong thing and feelings of “not wanting to be left out” all are concerns. But we had many things going for us that helped the decision process. 1). We had a host that understood the seriousness of Cam’s situation. She sent an e-mail to us personally asking if there were any GF foods or pizza that we preferred, what she could serve in lieu of cake, etc. We had Cam take his own pizza and some Udi’s double chocolate chip muffins but the thought that she had our son’s safety in mind gave us reassurance. 2). Cam gets it. HIs maturity beyond his years is making this life-changing transition so much easier. He understands what he can and can not eat and he is ok with it. It’s such a relief to his mom and I that he has this level of responsibility. 3). Saying “no” would have resulted in him missing out on something fun due to a stupid “disease”. Do we let Celiac’s win this one…no. It does not control us, we control it.
So, we helped a friend celebrate another trip around the sun and used our education and understanding to make the best of the situation presented to us. Next up is my wife’s birthday. Will we celebrate…absolutely! Will she let me get into her combination rice flours, xantham, tapioca, etc. that she has meticulously maintained for a GF kitchen to make her a birthday cake? Well, maybe next trip.