Last summer my family made a huge dietary change. We became a gluten-free household—no more wheat, rye, or barley. Which meant no more bread-y things. Which meant no more pizza nights *gasp*. We completely changed our tried-and-true dinner menu. Buh-bye Kraft Mac and Cheese. See ya good ol’ chicken nuggets. Our go-to meals became fish, veggies and rice, and crustless quiche.
I know what you are thinking: Look at this crunchy mom. This family is just being trendy. What? You’re too good for chicken nuggets? In fact, none of these things are true. Our then 4-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which gluten causes damage inside the small intestine. This damage in turn leads to the inability to absorb essential nutrients which can lead to a host of really serious medical complications. The only treatment for Celiac disease is a lifelong gluten-free diet.
We did not ask for this diet change, but it was given to us. We decided to become a completely gluten-free home in order to best take care of our daughter. And because Celiac is genetic, our doctors recommended keeping our 7-month-old son gluten-free until he is tested for the gene as well. Being gluten-free is medically necessary for our family, and Celiac is not something that one can grow out of or get over.
Because many people do not understand the serious long-term issues that gluten can cause for people with Celiac disease, and because our daughter is not quite old enough to monitor it herself, my husband and I find ourselves becoming the “gluten police.” Baking day in pre-K? Call the school with a friendly reminder. Holiday party? Here is a list of what is safe for her. No, one cookie is not OK. Thanks. Playdough art? Make sure she washes her hands before lunch (yes, playdough has gluten in it! Who knew?).
So, no, we are not being hip or wholesome or superior. We are doing this for the health of our family—not by choice, but by necessity. Man, how I miss real bread. Last-minute takeout is a thing of the past. Birthday parties are always BYOC (bring your own cake) for us now. It can be frustrating at times.
If our family had a choice, believe me, we would still indulge in the classics that we all know and love and would continue to make trips through the drive-thru at the end of a long day. Unfortunately, it is not in our cards, but that’s OK. If going gluten-free is all we need to do to treat our daughter’s condition, I consider us very lucky.
Happily, my daughter is very easygoing and is adjusting fine to our new cuisine. We have found great-tasting alternatives to traditional gluten products, and she doesn’t seem to miss the big G at all. Mommy and Daddy on the other hand…well, sometimes.
So, next time you overhear someone at the pizza place ordering a gluten-free pie that is taking forever to make, or observe a mom gently refusing an offered snack for her child at a birthday party, please resist the urge to judge. They may not be trendy after all. They may just be taking care of someone they love.