It’s the day before Thanksgiving and for the second time, I am making the Turkey Day dinner at my house. In years past my husband and I travelled to my sister in law’s house for dinner. But because the meal isn’t allergen friendly John was never able to eat the meal. When he was younger, around 2 or 3 years old, it worked out fine as all he ever wanted was Tyson Chicken Nuggets anyway. I brought my little lunch bag with his Thanksgiving dinner: chicken nuggets, apple slices and plain pasta. He was happy and it was easy.
Now John is in first grade and it isn’t so easy anymore to pack him with an alternative meal at family gatherings. He feels left out and excluded. He truly gets the fact that his food allergies separates him from other children. He feels different. Most of the time he is awesome at accepting the body that has been given to him, but sometimes he doesn’t. Food has become a source of fear and the feeling of exclusion, despite all our best efforts to make our house completely allergen friendly. I never make separate meals (with four kids under 8, I probably wouldn’t anyway even if there weren’t allergy issues). We don’t order in pizza, I never make my signature lasagna anymore and I can’t remember the last time I popped an Easy Mac in the microwave for a quick lunch. Our lives have changed and we are happy with it. It hasn’t been that hard, really, it is only hard when my son feels the burden of his allergy.
Thanksgiving dinner used to be one of those times where John felt different. The holiday is all about the meal, and time shared with friends and family. Without the sharing of the Turkey Day meal for the child with food allergies, there is something inevitably missed. Last year was the first year we stayed home and I cooked for just the six of us. It was amazing and wonderful and reminded me of why my mother considered Thanksgiving her favorite holiday. My kids pulled up chairs to the stove top to watch the cranberries pop, they delighted in seeing the “Big Bird” go into the oven, they helped chop celery and tear bread for the stuffing, and even shared the dairy free pumpkin pie. John always wondered by Woodstock loved eating that last pumpkin pie piece in the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving cartoon…now he knows.
Food allergies don’t have to prevent our children from enjoying and creating memories in the kitchen. These are the memories that last a lifetime. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!