Becoming a Gluten-Free Family
It was three years ago when I realized my daughter needed to go on a gluten-free diet. No more bread, Cheerios, or goldfish crackers. Pretty much everything my child loved to eat, she couldn’t have anymore. She wasn’t growing, and the diet would help.
It did help, in fact. We figured out that my daughter has Celiac, and these diet changes would be permanent. We also gave up dairy at the same time. It was a big adjustment. Huge.
I cried a lot in those days. Every time I remembered pizza days at school and how much I had loved them and how Lane would be excluded, I felt regret. Every time I saw a blog post about a delicious recipe that I couldn’t fix, I cried fat tears.
I felt foolish sitting there crying over sandwiches and how much more difficult it was to prepare meals when I had to be careful of every single ingredient.
A year later I understood my whole family needed to be on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. I didn’t, I could eat whatever I wanted, but I was outnumbered three to one by loved ones with special diet needs. Since my daughter had just turned three she was noticing more of what I ate, and I didn’t want to keep anything from her. We all needed to be on the same plan for our meals.
I stopped eating bread and drinking chocolate milk. I lost ten pounds, and so I had to buy new pants and new shoes. Every time I went to a social event I noticed the buffet table spread with food we couldn’t have, and I realized what it would feel like to be my daughter and be surrounded by food you couldn’t eat. At Thanksgiving we go and listen to extended family talk about how good the pie tastes, and we have to take their word for it. Every social event is based on food.
One time I took Lane to a friend’s house and at snack time she announced, “I don’t eat that food. Me and Mommy are gluten-free!”
Suddenly it wasn’t about the food any more. We’re in this together.
We even have a theme song. (But I made it up myself so it kind of sounds like the Muppets’ “Mah Nà Mah Nà”.)
When people ask me for advice about going gluten-free or dairy-free, I tell them, yes, it’s hard in the beginning, but it gets easier, and it gets better. For us the dairy and gluten were just the beginning of a long list of foods to avoid. But you adjust, you find food that tastes good, and you learn that the bread you used to love isn’t worth it. The biggest help of all is to have everyone in the family eating the same food instead of preparing separate meals.
When we eat the same food together, then that food becomes what’s normal, even if it’s different from what other families eat.
When we share the same food at the table, it becomes part of our family’s culture, and no one is excluded.