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One of my best friends has a daughter with Celiac disease. The constant hell her whole family goes through makes me filled with gratitude everyday that I have been lucky enough to escape this fate. I really can’t understand it when people exhibit zero compassion for such a tough situation.

There are minor food intolerances, there are fad diets and there are actual life-altering conditions. It would be great if everyone could get on the same page about the differences:

Celiac disease is triggered by consumption of the protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the finger-like villi of the small intestine. When the villi become damaged, the body is unable to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, which can lead to malnourishment.

This is serious. This isn’t some parent saying “my special snowflake can’t have bread because Gwyneth Paltrow says it’s bad.” When trying to diagnose what was wrong, my friend shuttled her daughter to countless doctor and specialist visits and put her through dozens of diet changes. She watched her daughter drop weight, writhe in pain and constantly wonder what was wrong with her and why she was different.

Last week I read a post titled, Why Do Your Kids Allergies Mean My Kid Can’t Have A Birthday? The title alone made me wince – because immediately I knew she was talking about school protocol. It’s not like someone is going to be coming into her home, invading her child’s birthday party and telling everyone what to eat. This woman is upset about the food she’s not allowed to send to school with her child for a class party:

We can’t bring in homemade cookies or snacks; we’re asked to buy commercially prepared goods. Even if you agree to bring in commercially prepared snacks, you’re asked to make sure they’re “gluten, nut, and egg-free” or some other combination of scary food exorcism.

Let’s just be clear, this woman is complaining because kids with food allergies shouldn’t be expected to have the iron will of adults and know what foods to avoid and ignore. She resents the school for understanding that may be torture to a child. It makes her more upset to think of her child skipping a cupcake, than to imagine a child totally left out – or made sick by something his body can’t digest.

“To a certain extent, I get it. When I was in high school, a girl in my town died from eating a few bites of a Twix bar that happened to contain traces of peanuts.”

 

Wait, someone died in your high school from this very thing – yet you still can’t grasp how serious and important this issue is for some parents? Umm… yeah, I got nothing. You’re terrible.

Let me get this straight: I’m supposed to feed my kids processed, preservative-laden food because your kid has a wheat allergy? No. I don’t want to. I want my kid to have the made-from-scratch cupcakes, the ones made with fresh butter, sugar and yes, real flour with real gluten in it, and not a commercially prepared cupcake that has an ingredient list a mile long. How could that possibly be better? Not to mention that commercially prepared items are expensive.

I’d like to again point out that we are talking about a class party. We’re talking about food that doesn’t even need to be there in the first place. Yay for class parties and everything, but were any of you adults out there so overwhelmed with joy that you got to eat a cupcake in class that you’ve carried that memory into adulthood? Because I have absolutely no recollection of some stupid class snacks impacting my life in any way. I would probably remember always being the one who couldn’t have something, though. Or being made sick by a cookie my seven-year-old self didn’t have the willpower to resist.

I don’t want to give her post any more energy – but the reason I thought about it at all is because of something that happened to my friend last week. She posted something on Facebook about the mothers of some friends of her daughter with Celiac actually throwing gluten free birthday parties (in their homes!) so that her daughter, for once, wouldn’t feel left out. Imagine – your child has Celiac and a parent throws their kid a party that is gluten free, just so your child doesn’t have to feel left out.

This means my friends daughter can go into this party and eat everything everyone else eats. This probably doesn’t even seem like a big deal for those of us who don’t have to deal with food intolerances on a daily basis – but can you imagine constantly needing to tell your grade schooler they couldn’t have something that everyone else got? Can you imagine having to trust that your child could have an iron will around these snacks because you wouldn’t be there to make sure they didn’t make themselves totally sick?

I can’t.

I know it’s easy to write off parents with kids who have different food intolerances and issues, because we simply don’t know what it’s like. But thank the universe for people who are still willing to take an extra step to make someone else feel a little bit of relief – and make a child feel like she fits in in a setting she normally wouldn’t.

I want to be the human that thinks about other people and makes them feel important. Not the one who throws a tantrum because her son can’t eat a cupcake.