Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Treats, Love, and Food Allergies

We're having a good Easter. My kids are now 18 and 14, but my 14-year-old daughter likes her traditions and still insists on the full basket-and-egg hunt, even while she's announcing she's really too old for all this.

My son has refused to hunt, or even to get out of bed the last couple of years, so this year my husband put the rest of their school-year allowance in the eggs. $10 an egg. Suddenly, he's in there fervently hunting. (They're down to their last couple apparently-unfindable eggs and are busy snarking at each other, so it's a good time to write a post.)

Easters past have been all about the...Legos? I will just admit it. Throughout my son's childhood, I simply inserted toys in any slot where candy was supposed to show up. A Lego for Easter. A Lego for a difficult trip to the doctor/dentist. Multiple Legos for Halloween. Secret Legos, slipped to him surreptitiously, while all the other kids are eating cake and ice cream. Over the years, our basement has turned into a Lego hoard that would make the builders at Legoland jealous.

I look back now and think why? Why did I invest so much money in redundant toys that really should have gone into his college fund?

And then I think about the cousin Easter baskets. Every year, the baskets would get handed out, and each child would sit down and fondle their chocolate wonders. The shiny wrappers! The giant bunnies! The enormous candy bars! And, in my son's basket: Lifesavers, Mike & Ikes, Airheads and Twizzlers.

The same candy at every party, every holiday, every lunch, every classroom treat.

By the time my son was in the late elementary years, he had learned not to care about the candy at all. It simply wasn't the important part of the party for him. If I had stood back and really looked, I might have seen that taking the food part of things away was actually helping him to enjoy and invest in the rest of the party in a more engaged way. My son loved parties and he loved people. He really didn't care about the cake. I did.

Food is love, after all, and the Lego was the best I could do to show my love in place of all those shiny, wrapped candy bars and Cadbury eggs and cheese-stuffed pizza and butter birthday cake with real cream ice cream.

Does different always = unequal? Does food always = love? Do we do our kids a favor by rushing into the gap with that Lego so they don't have to sort those equations out for themselves?

My son, despite my Lego-whenever-he-might-feel-left-out program, seems to have grown into a young man who can acknowledge, but not resent, the differences in his world. Yes, it's a PITA that he can't eat at his girlfriend's favorite restaurant...but what a testament to his character that they end up there often, anyway. Somehow, despite the Legos, he has learned it's not all about him.

That's something I'm very grateful for this Easter season. Sometimes they grow up well in spite of us.

Wishing you all a safe and very happy Easter!

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  1. Sometimes I think we project a layer of loss onto our kids' experience that they don't feel . . . the loss *we* feel that they can't share in the food-related experiences that we have nostalgia for. That is, after all, one of the pleasures of parenting . . . reliving your own childhood through the eyes (or the tastebuds?) of your kiddo. But they don't have this nostalgic burden . . . they can experience pleasure with a different experience or a different food, and that's great. They'll have their own treasured memories. And it's good for their little bodies when they don't eat so much sugar.

    HOWEVER . . . I do think it's genuinely hard on our FA kid (well, mine anyway) when they are the only ones without a sweet treat or when they perceive their treat as grossly inferior to that of the non-FA kids. My child is 9, and she still struggles with this emotionally.

    I tiptoe around trying to explain to non-FA friends or teachers that we adults sometimes perceive a loss with these "altered" traditions than the kids don't feel. Somehow the teachers twist that in their minds to mean that it's totally okay -- nay, somehow *character building* for my child! -- to give cupcakes to all the kids except my kid . . . who gets a tootsie roll from her treat box. Frankly, I wish they would make a better effort to do fully safe/inclusive treats or just skip the superfluous sugar. The kids get plenty of that, for **** sake.

    Happy Easter to you -- glad your kiddos are having fun searching for cash! Mine love the egg hunt, regardless of what's inside. They used to make me hide the eggs multiple times over the course of the day, just for the fun of repeating the hunt. :-)

  2. We are a Lego-Mom-and-son-team as well. I never wanted 150 pieces of anything in my house, yet now we couldn't even count. We should probably have a special insurance policy for his room alone with wall-to-wall shelves of Legos.

    I think for me, as I saw our food-obsessed society metaphorically tearing him down, excluding him, breaking his heart, I provided tools that enabled him to "build" an interest in something else, develop skills, have fun on his own terms, and prioritize the importance of food. Sure, perhaps we could have done with half the inventory, but he does not focus on food, would rather DO something than eat something, and can have a conversation with anyone of any age. He leaves a sustaining impression with his "engineering" and articulation skills.

    Hopefully it will all pay off at the dentist office as well!

  3. We do the Lego thing now...Legos for everything! Funny thing is my non-FA kid would rather get the Lego too. He got a chocolate bunny today, ate one bite and declared he didn't like it. (he's 3). He ate a ring pop from my 5-year-old FA son's basket instead!

  4. Aaaaah, Legos. I have been trying to figure out what I will switch to when my son is too old to e placated with bubble wands and stickers. Legos it is!

    But in seriousness, I do appreciate the sentiment. We were with grandparents this afternoon and I was glad that the kids were focused on hide and seek and then shooting off paper rockets from the arage with the fun uncle, instead of just spending the entire afternoon choking down on junk food.

  5. I think we have to separate food from love - food is just food - but easier said than done of course.

    I counter the left out feeling with the prettiest & tastiest cupcakes I can make - freeze them - and then bring them along to any event where she might not have anything to eat. The other kids frequently want what she has!

    Love your articles, keep them coming!

  6. Really enjoying your blog! Might you be interested in an interview for a book on allergies that I'm helping my client develop on personal stories of families with food allergies. Drop me a line if this sounds like something you'd like to be a part of: alex [at] prolancecommunications [dot] ca

  7. I totally agree with you and wish I had realized this when my son was younger and I was so sad that he could not have candy like the other kids. I did try to hide that sentiment from him but why did I waste my own feelings on it? Seeing that his non FA sister doesn't even like peanut butter or mac and cheese he probably would not have liked it either. It's time to focus on living and forget about the salt packed, sugar laden totally bad for you food that they can't have.

  8. I love this post

  9. Hopefully this link can post -- for all of us Food-Allergy-Mama-LegoQueens!!


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