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Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Food, Food Allergies and a Sometimes Resentful Sister

Food is simply fuel for our bodies. We just need a little bit of it now and then just so we have enough energy to go about our business. Right? In my household, food takes on a whole new meaning. My middle child has severe food allergies. And she seems to be just about allergic to anything that I can think of that makes me want to think about downright gluttony and indulgence. Dairy, eggs, nuts and shellfish. My little girl has never had the pure enjoyment of things most kids scream for--a rich ice cream sundae, a real buttery in your face birthday cake with tons of whipped buttercream frosting, real pancakes and waffles, cheetos, cheese pizza, decadent brownies and cookies, a grilled cheese sandwich, or a simple PB&J. My oldest daughter though, has. And she loves every single one. This is what makes managing food in my family just plain challenging every once in awhile.

I keep a completely nut free house. Just because I know that some people are so allergic to nuts, that just with a smidgen of exposure, they can go into anaphylatic shock and die. I'm not sure how allergic my child is to nuts. Just that she is. Quite frankly, I'm just not that into experimenting with this one.

Middle Child banned eggs. "Oh Mom. I can't stand the way they smell when you cook them! I'm getting iiiitttcchyyyy!" Of course, I comply. And then Eldest Child (EC) gets mad. "But I want eggs for breakfast! That's not fair!. You don't care about me. You love M more than me!" Stomp, stomp, stomp, silence. Yes! There is no slamming of doors in my house. Most of the time anyway.

On the other hand, we do have dairy products and an occasional shrimp here and there so the rest of the family can still eat what they enjoy. It's important that I'm able to find a reasonable substitute for Middle Child (MC) so she doesn't feel left out. And as long as the rest of the family can obey the rule of not touching MC until after they wash their hands. MC has very sensitive skin. She will break out into a rash if dairy touches her skin. Gooey cheesy pizza is my enemy. My Youngest Child (YC) loves washing her hands so she'll run to the sink. My eldest, on the other hand, will sometimes trail her hands along the table and pretend to touch MC, when she thinks I'm not looking, on her way to wash her hands. "Mooooommmm!" "I didn't do anything! She just wants to get me into trouble!" Some point later on, MC will figure out how to torture EC.

What I find interesting is how MC is so careful about what she eats when she is out of the house. Although I bring MC friendly food with us wherever we go, people usually want to offer MC something to eat. She questions people on what ingredients are in the food they offer her. She will ask them to doublecheck the packaging. She will also ask people to wash their hands. MC will not eat anything until she is sure it's okay. What assurance and self-control! This past Halloween, she nonchalantly handed me her bag and waited for me to siphon out the 90% (seriously) of the candy she couldn't eat. Of course I replaced it with candy she could eat.

Most of the time, MC is fine about having food allergies. After all, it is not the sum of her. It's just those times when she can't totally participate in activities when she is bothered. However, she always makes the best of it. As my girls get older and are exposed to more interesting kinds of food, it will continue to be my challenge to make MC feel normal and safe, while at the same time letting EC and YC know they are just as special. And yes. I'll let them enjoy their food. As long as they keep MC safe. No need to have sisterly resentments get in the way over food. Certainly not over food. It's just fuel for our bodies, right?

1 comment:

RighterLady said...

You should be very proud of your middle child. Asssertiveness goes a long way in preventing an epi-pen incident. I only know this because it took me years to learn not to be afraid of possibly hurting the server/offerer's feelings and to stand up for myself. You should be applauded for what you've instilled in your child!
I've started a blog that reviews food establishments (chains, supermarkets, etc) for their non-allergic compatibility. I also post some great non-allergic recipes. You are welcome to stop by sometime.
http://allergicdiner.blogspot.com