Saturday, November 23, 2013

Taking The High Road With Food Allergies (Sometimes)

I was getting all ready to write a post about how grateful I am. You of those count-down-to-Thanksgiving posts where I list all the people or things that have helped me along the way.

And I am grateful. Really. Having virtual friends who have traveled this same food-allergy road is a wonderful gift. I can name so many times when my panic and frustration were alleviated by someone I've never even met in real life, but who took the time to give me a tip, or to console me.

But frankly, my lovely gratitude post went out the window when I received this email from a relative:

What can we bring to share? I have some ideas: Sweet Potatoes glazed with Chutney and Ginger, Green beans with Dijon and Caper sauce, Creamed Green beans with Dill sauce, or whatever you request.   I am aware of [FAB's son] dietary restriction.

My son is allergic to beans. We avoid all beans. Even green beans. The doctor was surprised by this, as green beans are the least allergenic of the bean family, but we even went through the exercise of an in-office food challenge just to prove to everyone he really had developed an allergy. 

That was 14 years ago. 

This particular relative has been at most Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners over those 14 years. She has brought countless problematic dishes. She has said things like "well, a little won't hurt" and "oh, I don't think it has anything he can't have!" My son has been told repeatedly that her dishes are completely off limits for him, no matter what she says.
Nothing says Thanksgiving
like vegetable tofu lasagna!

But here's the kicker: the emails goes on to talk about HER dietary restrictions! You see, she's found the God of Dietary Control over the last few years. She no longer eats animal products. She no longer eats carbs. guessed it...this email was not really about accommodating my son. This was a not-so-subtle hint about ME accommodating HER.  

Which I will. 

I always do. I have a sister with diabetes who has to count all carbs and watch all refined flour, rice and sugar. I have a brother who doesn't eat carbs at all. I have people who won't eat fish, lamb, mushrooms, mint. I accommodate them all. In many cases, I am only paying back their own care and kindness to my son. 

In this situation, I am clearly not paying back, since she's been so gleefully unaccommodating over the years. So...I will grit my teeth a little and pay it forward, in the hopes that some day, there will be a person out there like me who will accommodate my son even when it's annoying and difficult and she really has a million other things to do than make a vegetable, carb-free tofu lasagna.

Earlier this year at a wedding shower, another sister-in-law (I have a BIG family) who has never attempted to accommodate my son announced how proud she was that people complemented her on her wonderful Christmas cookies. She went on to say "So-and-So even said they were better than your mother's cookies!" I gently reminded her that Grandma's cookies did not contain real milk and butter, and haven't in the 18 years my son has had a milk allergy. It wasn't much of a contest. 

I never want these people to feel how awful it is to stare at a table full of food and to know you can only eat the one thing you brought yourself. To know it's your life and even some of your relatives don't love you enough to ask how to help you, how to include you.

Can I mention the wine when we
all say what we are grateful for?
I am trying to be grateful that I have learned the hard lesson that not everyone is always kind, and we shouldn't base our own life choices on what others do or don't do.

But can you really blame me if I just have a tiny thought about spreading lard through those tofu lasagna layers? 

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  1. Argh! Lost my comment. Will try again later .. Happy American Thanksgiving FAB! (Ours was over a month ago!)

  2. Family are repeat offenders and often the most hurtful. Why? No idea. I would do anything to keep everyone safe and accommodate dietary CHOICES, but then again we are the moms or food allergy kids. Makes me want to lose my $hit, but I won't, just eat those feelings away :)

  3. I was the food purchaser at a small school for many years. We had shared snacks (*groan*), but the school was fully inclusive and all of the parents super nice about my child's food allergies. A huge % of kids at the school had dietary restrictions, most were plausible (many clearly IgE-mediated), but a few folks were going to a specific alternative practitioner who would prescribe unbelievably extensive elimination diets based on IgG testing and -- get this -- "didn't like patients asking questions"! She diagnosed one child as being allergic to ---- get this -- water! No, not chlorine or something in the water, the water itself! Why people didn't run for their lives from her office is beyond me. Week after week I accommodated all of these wacky restrictions (remember: no questions allowed!), and now, years later, I think I still have PTSD.


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