One of the hardest things about being the parent of a child with food allergies is worrying about how he feels when he sees other people eating things he can’t have.
When his friends at school have cheese-and-cracker snacks, for example, is he jealous? Is he confused? Does he think his mom is cruel for sending apple slices and organic graham crackers … AGAIN?
At home, he doesn’t know any better. We all eat the same dinners, and with the exception of regular milk in the fridge for my husband, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything our son can’t have in the fridge or pantry. (Now, food he won’t have? That’s a different story. Grrr.) And when we eat out, I don’t get anything that he can’t safely steal off my plate.
Mac and Cheese and Allergies
Full disclosure: One of my favorite things in the whole world is macaroni and cheese. I don’t think I’ve ever met one I didn’t like. Add some bacon and green chilies? Mmmm, salivating. But seriously, even that mediocre-at-best Kraft stuff? I like it. It’s safe to say that not eating dairy over the past couple years has probably saved me from gaining many, many pounds.
So, the fact that my kiddo can’t have it is tough.
Is he perhaps healthier as a result? Sure, maybe. But he's a kid. And mac and cheese is the quintessential food of childhood.
Only once did I try an allergy-friendly mac and cheese (sorry, cheez). My husband and I found it vile—likely because we know just how amazing cheese is. Meanwhile, our boy refused to even indulge me in trying it.
The Almighty Daycare Menu
For the entire time that my son has been at his current daycare, he’s never gone on Mondays. Coincidentally, the monthly mac and cheese lunch day has always fallen on a Monday. I’ve loved this star alignment because it means that my son hasn’t had to watch kids eating mac and cheese while he stares down a plate of grilled chicken and rice.
But this week, it happened.
They switched up the seasonal menus, and now, mac and cheese day falls on a Friday. I spent yesterday agonizing over how awful this experience might be for my son. Then, I spent some time thinking: How can I send him a delicious lunch that rivals the mac and cheese?
I’m sorry, but nothing can adequately compete with mac and cheese. It just can’t.
The best I could do was pasta in marinara sauce.
It would have to be a special preparation, though, because we’ve already had a pasta night, and I’m adamant that we not overdo it on the pasta. But how in the world was I supposed to find time to make dinner and this special lunch?
In mentioning my dilemma yesterday, my husband said, ”Let’s just have pasta again. That way, you don’t need to cook two meals tonight.”
Why did I fight this again?
So, that’s what we did. Thank goodness for a husband who helps take the pressure off where meal prep is concerned.
And thank goodness our boy has something vaguely appetizing to munch on while his peers indulge in mac and cheese.
It's a silly thing, perhaps. But it's also a very real thing. And I don't think my son has the vocabulary to really tell me about his feelings around lunch just yet.
And now, I have to acknowledge this reality that mac and cheese falls on Fridays for the foreseeable future. It’s not the end of the world, I know. But it’s just one of those experiences you only really understand as an allergy parent.