This post is from contributing writer Debra Worth of Worth Cooking.
We found out our daughter could not have corn, and it rocked our world.
It was everywhere. Even in our corn syrup free household we found many instances of it. It was in our vanilla, baking powder, canned tomatoes, mustards, balsamic vinegar, toothpaste…
That was three years ago. Three very full years. Ones with hard lessons learned, tears shed, and now 24 foods added to her no-no list plus another daughter born who also has allergies.
I know I am not the only one on this path, so I wanted to share some of the things I have learned (and re-learned multiple times) over the years. Things I wish I had known from the beginning!
You’re Not Alone.
So, you find out your child can’t have X, Y, Z (and every other letter but M), and it is overwhelming. An important part of fellowshipping (breaking bread) and day to day life (cooking, budgeting) are thoroughly rocked. It effects every part of your life, and it can feel pretty lonely.
But, I am not the only person to have walked this path, and neither are you. Your specific story might be different, but there are people who (at least somewhat) understand.
Even if you don’t know anyone in person who deals with food allergies and/or restrictions there are online support groups which are a blessing! Talking to people who have been there done that is the best feeling.
I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I found out other reasons allergy moms have cried in their pursuit of feeding kids. My tears over that stupid egg/nut/dairy/coconut/starch/cane sugar/honey free sweet potato pie flop last year seemed less crazy then!
Find Your Emergency Meals.
Some of the most disheartening advice I ever received was to serve pb & j (or other typical emergency meals) on “those days” – the kind where nothing goes right. None of the example meals given we were able to have.
But, in hindsight it is still good advice. Life happens, mistakes happen, emergency room trips happen, and everyone still wants to be fed.
So, we find a few emergency meals that work for us (such as the sweet potato skillet pictured) and fall back on them when everything else is going wrong.
Grace, Mommy, Grace
There are so many good things to do. There are crafts, decor, housekeeping, green living, acts of service, study, quiet times, fitness, healthy living things to do. Good things.
There are but so many hours in a day though. Limited times means limited activities. Give yourself grace, regardless of your story.
If you need to cook every little thing from scratch and allergy free, spend hours trying to find sources of food you can have, and take 2-3 things to any potluck or church service, then an extra scoop of grace just might be warranted!
Keep It Simple Sweetheart.
I stress, I worry, and I fret. I must give my kids special foods. All these restrictions are no excuse to not pass down the foods I grew up with or that they see other children eating.
All kids need crackers, don’t they?
Then, I give my kids a medjool date or fruit frozen on a stick and they dance with excitement. Most of the time the over-complicating it is for my benefit, not theirs.
I do go the extra step occasionally, much to their and my delight. But they are usually baby steps. Juice or fruit to color things naturally, or using cookie cutters for shapes.
It’s Hard For Others to Understand.
Remember how I said you aren’t alone? It’s true; however, there are so many people out there that don’t understand, so give them grace.
Before allergies, there were many times where I simply did not understand, and even made hurtful comments in my ignorance and/or thoughtlessness.
I am saddened to say, I thought the mom who came during snack time at VBS was a worrywart, and otherwise strange.
I have also been hurt in the midst of food allergy stuff.
Assumptions about what caused her to react to foods, the smaller ones not worth avoiding (though they hurt my little girl), and even a few times people not wanting food I offered due to it being “strange”.
Honestly, most of the hurtful comments and situations could have been avoided with a bit of empathatic thinking.
Still, I need to remember they haven’t been where I have been.
They haven’t had the sleepless nights with my crying children, or need to cook around the restrictions I do, so the food is foreign to them. So, grace and love and forgiveness and trying to remember how hard it is to understand it is.
Celebrate What You Can Eat.
This is probably the biggest one!
With all of our restrictions there still is a beautiful array of foods we can have, and enjoy. Colorful, fresh, beautiful foods.
Foods that show God’s handiwork in their bright beautiful array of colors and textures!
Quality ingredients that are respected and handled well is the secret to good food no matter what restrictions you are working around. So, celebrate them and enjoy them!