I have been Gluten and Dairy Free since January- almost 7 months now. I have found significant changes and this has kept me motivated. It was less challenging for me than others newly diagnosed with gluten sensitivity to switch my diet because I had already learned so much about this type of diet for 2 years from Lexi. In fact, it was easier for me than Lexi because I am not allergic to foods like her- chickpea, lentils, sesame and pea (why do they put pea protein in so many foods?). I can eat anything gluten and dairy free. Plus I am not an 11 year old watching my sisters eating foods that I can longer eat or sitting at a party with friends missing out on traditional cake, ice cream and pizza.
I love my daughter-her spirit, passion, and characteristics that make her unique. I have seen so many changes since she became gluten and dairy free over 2 ½ years ago. Emotional, physical and behavioral changes that are worth following this modified diet. We have become so close as we figure this lifestyle out together. I am so impressed with her willpower, knowledge about GF/DF, ownership of her diet and allergies, empathy towards others and her ability to educate others as needed.
I would be lying if I didn’t say that her food restrictions have had an impact on our lives. It does not define her, however, it has changed how I cook at home, where we go out to eat, conversations with other parents before she attends birthday parties, sleepovers and play dates. It has added more planning before vacations, school events and day to day life. The benefits definitely outweigh the extra work on our end and it is worth it, but it is extra work.
She has been away at sleepover camp for 10 days and will be gone for about 2 more weeks. I miss her and wait for photos on the website, letters in the mailbox that tell me she is ok. So far in every letter she writes that camp is awesome and every photo she has the biggest smile. I can see it in her eyes that she is having a great time. Of course, I wonder if she is sticking to the gluten and dairy free diet and enjoying all the food that they have made to accommodate her. I worry that she will accidentally eat a pea like last year and need Benadryl, but I know the doctors and nurses at camp will take good care of her and provide not only the medicine but also the TLC she may need.
After 10 days of “time off”, I have realized how much impact Lexi’s diet has had on me and our family. Even though I am GF/DF, I don’t stress about food or restaurants because I can always eat a tossed salad if nothing else is safe. I am okay not eating the yummy cake at a party or can easily bring my own snacks, GF beer or wine to make sure I have food and drinks. I can go on vacation and not freak out over what my daughter will eat because I don’t want her to feel left out or go hungry. I don’t have to carry an Epi pen and Benadryl for her chickpea, pea, sesame and lentil allergies. Our family is able to live our lives as we did prior to the GF/DF diet. It has been a long 2 ½ years! I am grateful to have this opportunity to reflect and realize how much work my daughter and I put in to her eating.
Sometimes I think it takes removing yourself from a situation to realize exactly what you are going through. I am grateful that I have this opportunity to reflect and appreciate this break. I know that other parents with children with allergies and food sensitivities deal with the challenges every single day as well. It is also a nice reminder of how much I love and admire my daughter even during the rough patches.
So even though I miss my Lexi, I am going to enjoy this time so that when she comes home, I will have the energy to live our lives again in a GF/DF world. I will be ready to call the parents before get togethers, talk to the school, try new recipes, find new safe restaurants. Together with my daughter, we will continue on this journey and make the right choices for her body, mind and spirit.