Over the past month, with the start of school for both of our kids, we’ve been busy with curriculum nights, school meetings, and several other types of community events. It seems like during this first month of school, we have had something going almost every night of the week. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Let’s get the bad out of the way first, since it’s quite obvious. Having something every night of the week is very taxing. Juggling who takes who where, determining what we’re having for dinner let alone when we have the time to sit down and eat it, etc. can lead to one looking at the calendar and saying “Where did that month go?”. And we only have 2 kids! How did the Brady’s do it?!?
But we manage to find a way to make things work which leads to the good part of having such a busy schedule. Attending all of these activities, especially those related to the beginning of the school year, allows us to reconnect with people that we may not have seen for three to four months, if not longer. This is especially the case when we go to activities related to Cam’s school. These are parents there that, in some cases, we have now known for nine years. We’ve watched their kids grow up right alongside Cam and even if we’re not the closest of friends with them, they are familiar faces in the crowd. They are people that I would trust if my son (or my daughter with her friend’s parents) needed to interact with them. Like most people, I’m more comfortable in a situation when I am surrounded by things familiar to me. It’s that internal fear of the unknown that, when removed, allows us to relax and be ourselves. Seeing these faces, smiling at us when we enter a room, brings me a sense of comfort. I’ve never been one to shy away from meeting and speaking with a stranger but, admittedly, it’s that much easier when you know the person.
There lies the challenge when you are part of the Twitterverse. You communicate with others but are you truly ever comfortable? We are blessed to have so many followers of our Celiac Teen Dad blog on both Twitter and through WordPress. We are part of a worldwide community that is helping to raise awareness for celiac kids and the gluten-free lifestyle. It shows how small the world has become through the introduction of new technologies when some of the people that we speak with and consider our good acquaintances are people that we have not even met face to face. But, thanks to a few special ladies in the gluten-free community, some of these barriers have been removed. The event was a gluten-free fair in our region and these voices of 140 characters or less became familiar faces to me. When I met Pam (I’m a Celiac), Jen (GGF Gourmet), Cindy (Vegetarian Mamma) and Lauren (EpiFamily) in person, it was as if I was attending a family reunion. They welcomed me with open arms (literally) to the event and as a part of their community. They took down any uncertainty that I had built up and put a sense of comfort and confidence in its place. More importantly, they asked about Cam. They wanted to know how he was doing and if he was going to be coming to the event that we were all attending. Unfortunately, he was not and in hindsight, I wished that he had been there. For these wonderful ladies are a part of his community now, too. They are the advocates that understand what he is going through and people that I would trust for him to ask any questions of if needed. They, along with so many others that I have been lucky enough to meet within the gluten-free circles, are the new familiar faces for us in this journey. And that brings me nothing but comfort.
Have you ever stopped to think about how many social groups you are a part of? It really is a fascinating thing to do if you have a few minutes of time. As I sat down to think about all of the groups that my family is blessed enough to be a part of, I kept having “Oh, yeah, forgot about that one” moments. Just think about all of the circles of friends you have and you’ll understand how well-connected you actually are. College friends, neighbors, kids’ friends’ parents, church friends; the list doesn’t stop. I’m not going to go through all of the groups that I came up with but the number surprised me.
When Cam was diagnosed in September, we became a part of several more community groups. Some were forced upon us, others we joined voluntarily. Cam became a part of a small but growing group of people diagnosed with Celiac (currently 1 out every 133 people). It’s not a group that he’s a member of by choice. In contrast, by choice I have become part of a wonderful group of people sharing their Celiac and Gluten Free stories out there in the Twitterverse. Learning of their ordeals and following their stories has reiterated to Cam (and myself) that we are not alone with this new challenge. But we were never alone. During the past week, there have been several enlightening moments that have reminded me that we’ve had the support that we’ve needed since day one.
It started at a conference that my wife and I asked for with Cam’s teacher team. We’re not concerned about his grades or his behavior at school. After the “Oreo Lab” incident, we wanted to make sure that the teachers were understanding of his situation. (Side note: I know in the past day that there has been quite the stir up with a post that a school mom made about not being able to have birthday cake in the class room. While I disagree with most of her flawed statements (read the Gluten Dude’s response for feelings that are similar to mine), this conference was not about chastising the teacher who used the cookies in the class. Cam is mature enough to know where gluten is and is not. Our meeting was more about how he was personally adjusting in an environment where we were not with him.) The meeting with the teachers was great. They listened, asked questions and had a genuine concern for our son’s comfort levels while under their watch. Signs for support continued later in the week when we went to a surprise birthday party for my godfather. Here, among relatives that we see maybe once or twice a year (and that we haven’t seen since Cam’s diagnosis), caring and considerate questions were asked. The hostess of the party asked if they could provide a GF pizza specifically for him, the one person among the group of 40 or 50 present that would need this. A beautiful and non-selfish offer that was definitely noticed. From friends asking us how they can help accommodate our needs to make Cam “comfortable” when inviting us over for a simple get-together to his orthodontist assistant revealing to us that she and her daughter are both Celiac patients and sharing some of their stories, the number of supporters have been shining points during this past week. These are the signs of compassion that makes what we are doing just a little bit easier.
And we hope to continue to find support in the days to come. This next week, we will be going to our first meeting of the local Gluten Intolerance Group. The group in our town is affectionately known as the Gluten Free Gang (Cam asked if he could get a GFG tattoo, I shot that idea down quickly). He’s looking forward to meeting other kids who has what he has (he’s the only one in his school with Celiac). My wife and I are looking forward to meeting other families who have experienced this lifestyle change and sharing tips and suggestions with them. We all are looking forward to a positive experience and the chance to add one more group to our list to count on.