It’s Thursday. I don’t know if anyone has realized that ever since the summer ended, I’m at a loss for what to write about on Thursdays. Thursday meant another edition of the “Brown Thumb Gardener” series; now that summer has ended and I’m not doing any gardening, I’m sort of lost.
Anyone have any great ideas for a new series I could write? Or just some topic ideas that I haven’t thought of or covered yet? I’d appreciate a little nudge to help me fill in the Thursday blank!
Back to today. So, like I said, I was drawing a blank…until I read a simple little comment on the FPIES message boards.
A mom there wanted to know if anyone knew of a safe-to-use bubble bath for her 2 year old. Her 2 year old who has never experienced a bubble bath.
I didn’t even read the answers. The question alone was enough to send my brain reeling.
Bubble bath, y’all! Bubble bath! It should NOT be this complicated to let our kids enjoy something as simple as a fun bubble bath.
It got me thinking, though, about all the things that “normal” (non-FPIES/food allergy & intolerance) Moms take for granted.
Here’s a fictional account of how a Normal Mom and a Food Issue Mom might approach their seemingly identical days very differently:
Normal Mom wakes up, gets her kids up, and makes breakfast. She throws some mainstream cereal in a bowl, pours some 2% store bought milk over it, and serves it up to the kiddos. If she’s feeling inspired, she slices some bananas or tosses some strawberries on the cereal.
Food Issue Mom wakes up, gets her kids up, and makes breakfast. If she’s lucky, her kiddo can tolerate some form of cereal, but it certainly won’t be anything she can buy at a typical grocery store. Her kiddo gets the kind of cereal most adults call “goat food”; very whole grain-y, no additives, no sweeteners, very healthy but very boring. The fruit tossed on top is specially sourced, bought organic and from a farmer at the farmer’s market that she knows. The milk is probably raw, fresh, whole milk from a local farmer, as well, and has a good shot of being something other than cow (goat, sheep, camel) OR is an alternative milk like almond, hemp, cashew or quinoa…and she may have even had to make it herself from scratch to avoid additives.
Odds are, though, that Food Issue Mom has to cook something for breakfast.
Normal Mom cleans up from breakfast, gets the kids dressed, and makes them wash their faces and brush their teeth. Her kiddos insist on using a special Thomas or Frozen toothbrush, and of course, they won’t brush their teeth unless they get a hefty squeeze of the “child-safe”, candy-flavored toothpaste on the brush. She doesn’t care. It gets the job done!
Food Issue Mom cleans up from breakfast, gets the kids dressed, and makes them wash their faces and brush their teeth. Her kiddos insist on using a special Thomas or Frozen toothbrush, but they can’t use the flavored toothpastes. Food Issue families will use either a homemade toothpaste, an Earthpaste non-fluoridated, non-flavored toothpaste, or just plain water. Food Issue Mom has watched her kid have a reaction to the stuff in the “child-safe” toothpaste, so it’s no longer allowed in the house.
SCHOOL AND CHILD CARE
Normal Mom loads the kids up in the car and drives them to either a daycare center, a preschool, or a regular school (regular school could be charter, private, or public). She endures the drop-off debacle, kisses the kids good-bye, and drives off thinking about heading through the drive-thru at Starbucks on the way to work.
Food Issue Mom may load up the kids in the car and drive them to daycare, preschool, or regular school…but odds are that if she does, the location was specially selected for their respect to food allergies – and she probably has to park and go inside to meet with a teacher or administrator about yet another detail of her child’s 504 plan (necessitating using sick hours, if she works, due to being late for work…again). Or maybe she just has to go in to provide the teacher with a safe snack for her kiddo to enjoy at the 498th food-centered celebration her kiddo’s class has enjoyed since school started in September.
But Food Issue Mom may also avoid that whole mess by starting the school day at home because her family has made the financial sacrifice to have her stay home with the kids (at least until they’re older) and homeschool.
Normal Mom packed a healthy lunch and snacks for her kiddo before they left the house for the day. There was a nice sunbutter and jelly sandwich (nut-free school, you know) on some wheat bread from the grocery store, some packaged cheese sticks, a juice box, some pre-packaged apple slices, and a few contraband mini-candy bars leftover from Halloween. Overall, not bad; not something she spent a whole lot of time on.
Food Issue Mom packed a healthy lunch and snacks for her kiddo before they left the house for the day, too. Sandwiches don’t travel well for her kiddo, because gluten-free bread is very fragile. So on days when she sends a sandwich, she makes it the night before and freezes it in the baggie. By lunchtime, it’s mostly thawed, but it’s not as good as fresh. So sometimes she sends a thermos with a safe, homemade soup, and sometimes she has to send cooked, shredded chicken, veggies, and organic apples scrubbed to death, peeled, sliced, and soaked in water with some fresh lemon juice. No juice boxes are safe for her kiddo, so her child gets a bottle of water. Overall, not bad; something she DEFINITELY spent a lot of time on!
Normal Mom speeds through the grocery store, checking items off her list. She sees a new snack that looks pretty good; a quick glance over the label shows a reasonable sugar level and a little bit of fiber so she tosses it in the basket. Hopefully her kids will like it.
Food Issue Mom plods through the grocery store, checking items off her list. Even though she’s buying the same things as always, she still has to read every ingredient on every item because manufacturers change products without warning. She’s watched her kid get sick from her carelessness once before, and vowed it would never happen again. She sees a new snack that looks pretty good; a quick glance over the label shows that it MIGHT be safe…but this is a new manufacturer that she’s never called before so cross-contact could still be an issue. She snaps a picture of the snack with her phone and posts it on her allergy message boards asking if anyone else is familiar with this manufacturer, and hopes she gets a positive response before she’s done grocery shopping. While she finishes, the snack goes back on the shelf. Since she didn’t get a positive answer from her post, she makes a reminder on her phone to call the manufacturer the next day and ask about their practices.
Normal Mom gets off work, picks up the kids from their respective after-school care, and heads home, thinking about what to do for dinner that night. In the end, she thinks “Forget this! I’m tired. It’s a pizza delivery night!” and that is that. The biggest issue of the mealtime is whether to get black olives on their order. The family eats their pizza and spends a couple hours together before the bedtime routine starts.
Food Issue Mom was either home all day and began cooking dinner at 3:00 p.m., or gets off work, picks up the kids, and heads home, panicking about dinner. In the end, she makes safe food for the kids to eat as soon as she gets home, which takes about 45 minutes of hard cooking (and that’s with using frozen, pre-prepped ingredients), but doesn’t manage to feed the adults in the household until 20 minutes before the kids bedtime. All told, she cooks at least two full meals that night: one for the food issue kiddo, and one for the rest of the family. Unless, of course, she has more than one food issue person in the house. Then she cooks more. She doesn’t get to spend any time with her kiddos unless they decide to come hang out in the kitchen with her, because all that cooking takes time – and requires a whole lot of clean-up, too.
Normal Mom battles with the kids to get them to take a bath, as usual. To entice them to climb in, she promises a bubble bath. The kids are happy! They dive into the tub to watch the bubbles from the random pink bottle Mom grabbed at Walmart grow around them. One kiddo accidentally swallows some bubble-filled water; Mom just shakes her head and tells them not to do that again, running the water momentarily to let the gagging kiddo rinse their mouth out.
Food Issue Mom battles with the kids to get them to take a bath, as usual. Her best incentive to
bribecoax the kids into cooperation is the promise that the kids can take their Legos into the bath with them. She’s too scared to let bubble bath into the house; once, her kiddo swallowed some regular bath water with some name-brand baby shampoo and was sick for days. Since then, she spends every bath time constantly reminding the kids “don’t swallow the water!” and uses special soaps that don’t have her kiddos allergens in them.
I know I’m missing things, and I know I’m completely generalizing both Normal Moms and Food Issue Moms…lots of Moms don’t do things at all like this!
But it’s fictional. A little generalization works.
I still think the point is made, though.
Normal Moms take EVERYTHING for granted, which is as it should be! Living with food issues isn’t fun, and shouldn’t be normal.
It should be okay to not question every item your child touches, tastes, or even looks at. It should be okay to not worry about every possible interaction with a new food or product your child may have.
Normal Moms (usually) aren’t being mean to Food Issue Moms; they’re just doing what they should be doing…and have no idea how difficult it is for Food Issue Moms who MUST question every.single.thing their child comes in contact with.
It’s great that Normal Moms can take so much for granted, but I’d like to challenge them to spend one single day looking around their house, paying attention to what their child eats and what products their child uses, and imagine what it would be like to have to question the safety of every single one of those items.
Nothing is automatically safe. Not your kiddos:
- children’s tylenol
- bottled water
- juice boxes
- dental floss
- bath soap
- laundry soap
- cold cuts
Imagine being concerned (ranging from low-grade fretting to outright terror) all day long that someone outside of the home will ignore your hard-earned knowledge and feed your child something they shouldn’t have.
It stinks, doesn’t it? We Food Issue Mama’s are totally jealous of your ability to NOT think about all these things.
Normal Mama’s, it’s right and good that you should take all these things for granted. All we Food Issue Mama’s hope for is that, every once in a while, you recognize that you CAN.
What’d I miss? What other things do Normal Moms take for granted?