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Should I Keep Her Home?
As parents, we want to protect our kids. As parents we NEED to protect our kids. And as parents we never know all the answers. As a parent of a child with celiac, when confronted with particular situations, you might wonder, “Should I keep her home?”
How often do adults (with celiac) ask themselves this very question when it comes to social situations (just because of the food issue)? I’ll admit, I’ve done it. This challenge certainly gets easier with time, but yes, it is one of those obstacles we all must face.
It’s easy to tell someone, “don’t stay home” just because of the food. But in reality (depending on the situation) the whole food thing can create some very real emotions and some very real safety risks.
Think of a time when you avoided an event just because of the food. Did you wipe your brow in satisfaction, “Whew, sure am glad I avoided having to confront all that food I couldn’t eat.”? Or did you feel bad that you missed out?
Again, it’s not always easy to juggle our emotions. But we do have to remember—while we need to eat to live, we are not living life by avoiding it because of the food we cannot eat. (eek, that’s quite a sentence. You might need to read that again.)
Overnight Field Trip
So, do you send your child or do you keep her home?
Let me help you out a little. Let’s look at it through the eyes of a 10-year-old.
I listened to a particular podcast episode last Thursday and knew right away that I’d have to share it with you. I encourage you to listen to it. And even more, if there is a child in your life who needs to be gluten free, I have to strongly encourage you to share this episode with them. It’s just 23 minutes. Please take that time to sit down together and listen, and then follow up with conversation. You’ll be glad you did. (Link to this episode is at the end.)
Honestly, each and every one of us can learn from Jessica’s example, whether you are 5 or 105.
The Celiac Project Podcast
OK, I’ll admit, I didn’t even know what a podcast was until a couple years ago. And I didn’t know how to listen to one until I was invited to be a guest on The Celiac Project Podcast for a Back-to-School episode last August.
Filmmaker and director, Michael Frolichstein, creator of The Celiac Project documentary, hosts The Celiac Project Podcast, along with Cam Weiner. They both have celiac. Michael’s 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, also has celiac. She was their most recent guest.
Welllll, Jessica was introduced as a 10-year-old. She sounds like a 10-year-old. But if I transcribed the interview (which I surely won’t do) you would think she was much older. She handled herself in a very grown-up way. We would all do well to follow her example.
An Overnight School Event
Is Avoidance The Answer? Should I Keep Her Home?
Self-pity. Fear. Neither improve with isolation. And yet, too many of us isolate ourselves (either routinely or occasionally)—just because of the food.
It was that time of the year for fifth graders at Jessica’s school. An overnight trip to camp. Jessica could join her classmates on the trip or she could choose to stay home (because she couldn’t eat the camp food).
Staying home would solve a lot of issues. She wouldn’t have to worry about the extra effort of having to take care of her own food. She wouldn’t have to worry about feeling sad or left out because she couldn’t eat what everyone else was eating. And she could avoid the anxiety of wondering, Will I get sick?
But avoiding an event because of the food would also mean missing out on a class trip. It would mean missing out on a life experience.
Parents who ask themselves, Should I keep her home? please keep reading.
Starting With Nerves (Going Prepared)
For the person who requires gluten free, packing for a trip away from home requires much more thought than making sure we have enough socks and underwear. Food must be accounted for in one way or another.
Jessica’s mom sent her prepared. She sent her with all the meals she would need, and she sent her with plenty of snacks.
But still, Jessica had some nerves, as she expressed in her interview.
An overnight event is a big deal on its own. Add the fear of getting sick from cross contamination onto those nerves, (not to mention the fear of getting sick without mom or dad around). But she chose to go anyway. “It’s not just about the food,” are her wise words.
A First Meal Ruined
The whole food thing didn’t start well for Jessica. As I started listening to her interview, I thought, Oh No!
Her first meal was sent to the kitchen to be heated up in the microwave. And it was dropped. Her first meal (her very first meal)–ruined.
I won’t give away the details. Please listen to how she explains it. But oh.my.gosh!
Jessica then proceeded to share how she handled this situation. Many of us adults would have been upset. Many of us might have even cried. But she made it work.
OK, I’ll admit. I got a little misty eyed with pride for this girl I don’t even know. What a remarkable example of handling things in such a mature manner and then moving on! Good for her!
Yes indeed, her example can empower so many other kids.
Things are going to go wrong in life. We can’t always hit the rewind button. But falling apart isn’t a solution either.
*(I like to see silver linings. If this meal wasn’t ruined, Jessica wouldn’t have been able to share her experience and her solution. And it’s this example that she was able to describe, that can empower other kids. I’m sorry that this happened to her. Her experience, however, not only proved to Jessica that she can turn something around to a positive, but it also shows other kids that they can too.)
Speaking Up For Self
By sharing her solution to her ruined meal, Jessica set such a great example of inner strength and resolve. She then gave another wonderful example. The power of voice.
A camp worker offered her a camp-made gluten-free meal. He told her of some gluten-free options that were available in the kitchen. Without knowing the preparation process, however, Jessica chose not to accept. As she said, “It’s not going to be worth it.” (It wasn’t worth the risk of getting sick.)
She shared her choices and her solution. She shared how she handled her lunch after her ruined meal. And Jessica shared that there was a moment that had her wishing she was home. But she overcame this unforeseen event. As she so wisely said, “You just have to learn to live through the struggles.” (Yes, she is only 10.)
Kids with special diets have to learn their voice earlier than most. They have to learn to speak up for themselves and to be accountable for their own food choices. Mom or dad won’t always be around to help with those choices. She sure handled herself well.
*Kudos to mom and dad for encouraging her to go on this trip and for allowing her to be independent on this excursion. These camp trips offer so many amazing lessons and opportunities for kids.
But for Jessica (and any child with special dietary needs) this kind of trip offers even more. It empowers them. It lets them know just how strong and independent they can be when it comes to their own needs. Beautiful!
“I Would Have Missed Out On Fun Things”
Besides the food issues, Jessica shared all the FUN things she got to do at camp. Experiences that would have been missed if she stayed home.
As she said, “I would have missed out on fun things,” and “You get to spend a lot of quality time with your friends.”
Yes indeed, Jessica!
As it turns out, gluten wasn’t just an issue at mealtime. One of the camp experiences involved animal feed that was not gluten free. Jessica described how this was handled as well. She was still able to experience this activity, right along with her peers, (with a few adjustments).
It takes more effort to think outside of the box—but it is worth it!
Thanks for being such a great role model, Jessica!
*And kudos to her great teachers and camp staff!
Please Listen (and Share With Kids)!
Take the time to listen to this episode (with or without a child). Be inspired.