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I'm a Marketing/Advertising pro with 15 years experience in retail, restaurant & cpg industries.  Celiac Disease saved my family and has inspired me to be a student of gluten, an advocate for awareness and eager to help businesses that serve our growing market to DO GLUTEN-FREE RIGHT!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Don't Feed The Kids

This post is in response to a Huffington Post Today's Mama blog post "Why Do Your Kid's Allergies Mean My Kid Can't Have A Birthday" which you can read here 

Dear Carina and millions of moms who share your frustration,

I was you. Frustrated parties were a food headache for me. Kinda proud to say my kids, thankfully no food problems with us. Felt incredibly sorry for the moms that had to deal with THAT drama. Annoyed that drama had to be my problem.  My 3 kids, they were all good.

At age 4 my little princess got hives from strawberries and then suddenly, I was in the club – food allergy mom – no strawberries for the princess¸ keep those strawberries away from us. Oh it was heartbreaking, we had to give up our beloved trips to the strawberry patch and she had to give up her favorite food and ice cream flavor. Oh man, it was rough. The best friend wanted a strawberry cake for her birthday and her mom bought us a special cupcake. Yep, I knew that day, I was in the club.

Three year later, I learned that I HADN’T A CLUE!

At 1 ½ years old, my big strong baby boy got sick, really sick – doctors didn’t have any answers and he was dying. Tbear (as we affectionately called him) dropped from 30lbs to 20lb in 6 weeks and withered into a child who couldn’t stand, couldn’t sit up without assistance and ate with a deep hunger followed by violently losing it in both directions. No thanks to the top notch medical team, we discovered his reaction was a autoimmune reaction to gluten. Celiac disease it was. That gluten filled stuff that all of us love had suddenly become a toxic poison in his system. And the disease, well it caused his body to also reject dairy and soy.  Tbear got better rapidly on a restricted diet and oddly, the rest of the family, we started changing too. Turned out, we didn’t have a clue but celiac was not just Tbear's disease, we had a house FULL of autoimmune reactions to gluten and bad reactions to dairy. We had had a multitude of physical and mental health problems that disappeared, some of which we didn’t even realize we had until they went away.  For the record, if your gluten-filled cupcake is anything like an oreo, it will land my 8 year old in the hospital for days with internal inflammation that appear like his insides are literally about to burst. A crumb from that cupcake or a little milk in the frosting, that will turn our happy home into a house of horrors for about 3 days. But that's my problem. Other moms have it way worse. 

So here we are. A gluten free, dairy free, soy free, oh and I almost forgot, strawberry free family and we don’t want any bit of your gluten-filled cupcakes or pretty much anything you have to offer. Eat em up, we bring our own treats, everywhere we go. Don't worry about us. No pity either, we've never been better!

But here’s the thing, we aren’t alone. When I learned that my daughter’s classmate had a anaphylactic reaction to dairy and another to peanuts I started paying attention. 

1 in 13 kids has a food allergy

1 in 100 has celiac disease (and research is suggested this number may be closer higher)

1 in 10 have a gluten sensitivity 

The consider this, diet is now believed to play a critical role for many other children like:

1 in 50 with autism-spectrum disorder

1 in 10 with ADHD

1 in 10 with asthma

1 in 10 with Juvenile Diabetes

And this list just skims the surface – factor in eczema and other autoimmune issues and my head starts to hurt. While I’m no math wiz, I can tell you… that’s a lot of kids who “may” have a food issue that their parents have to be concerned with.  Do you really want to be the one feeding them? Really? So your kid's day isn't ruined?  Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds? It's really not your call! 

Today is not like yesterday and I don't even want to think about the food-challenges of tomorrow. Your kid isn't my kid or anyone else's kids. There is the one thing that's become abundantly clear

So let your child eat his cupcakes. But do it at home. Keep ‘em away from school and my kids and all these other kids who can’t, or maybe just shouldn’t.   

As for you and all the other moms who find the food-allergy kids a burden, it time to woman-up and BE TODAY'S MAMA!  

Stop pretending that cake makes a party and that not having a cupcake with ruin a child’s birthday. You’ve created that notion, not your child. Rise up to the occasion and change the conversation. Be a role model mom for all the kids, the food-sensitive ones included. Celebrate the birthday with cheer! Replace the cupcake or processed gummy bear and with a goodie bag stuffed with stickers and rainbow looms. Visit the class with a great book or bring a party game. Ask the teacher if you can send in materials for a craft project the kids can get their hands dirty with. Be creative with your talents or offer a tiny fraction of your time. For my daughter’s birthday, we skipped the snack and instead we made a scary spider out of pipe cleaners, felt and feathers. It was awesome. The kids had a blast. And not one child asked “where’s the snack”. And trust me, the teacher preferred it.

As moms today, it is time to evolve and teach our kids that food doesn't make a party.