The obligatory post about food
They say that March is National Nutrition month, which is a but awkward since I really have nothing to contribute to the discussion when it comes to nutrition. (Case in point: my breakfast on Sunday consisted of two Eggo waffles with sugar-free syrup, three strips of bacon, and coffee with a splash of whole milk — with a “Sell By” date of eleven days prior. I also had a bacon-cheeseburger for dinner that night.)
But I do have something to say when it comes to food. Not as it relates to diabetes, but to allergies.
Both of my kids are allergic to milk, to egg white, and to peanuts. And though they seem to handle it well (the older one is seven, and the younger one – too young to understand or to care – is two. And while allergies and diabetes are radically different, there are a few similarities which hit uncomfortably close to home.
Like the “you can’t eat that” / “can you eat that?” discussions.
When someone asks this question of me, I typically see it as a reflection not of me, but of them and their understanding (or lack thereof) of diabetes. I also know how to handle myself and how to face adversity. I’m a big boy.
But with the kids, it’s different. The effects are immediate, and the effects are unpleasant. So, just like me growing up, they get the “special food” treatment.
No gooey-cheesey slices of pizza. No ice-cream cake. We need to arrange for “substitutions”. Birthday parties become a place to be differentiated.
The special meals weren’t fun for me growing up, and I’m sure it won’t be fun for them (when they’re of age to have such opinions). I know it disturbs me when I see it — or worse, when I say these things — and it’s not even the same thing.
Or the “why did they get these allergies?” / “what did you do to cause it?” questions.
My wife struggles with this one a lot. Did she eat too much peanut butter while she was pregnant? Did nursing the kids for a year do harm, rather than good?
The questions come from others as well as from ourselves, and nobody knows the answers. It’s not like we did anything “wrong” in bringing them into this world — at least not that we know of.
But there are always the thoughts of what might be different if we did things differently.
What if? Well, I don’t know the answer to that, and I’m not sure I’d be comforted to learn the answer anyway. But thanks (sarcastically) for asking.
How about the “will they outgrow it?” / “will they deal with this for their whole lives?”
It’s not quite the “five-year-promise”, but it’s still the question that assumes we can gaze into the crystal ball and see what lies ahead.
We can’t. And though I often hope, I really have no idea.
“Oh, I get it. You should try..”
Usually this comes with the presumption that it is a lactose-intolerance, and that a simple pill will help. But just like those trying-to-be-helpful-but-don’t-know-any-better folks who try to push Type 2 tips on us Type 1s, pushing a lactose-intolerance treatment to help with a simple, run-of-the-mill dairy allergy reeks of a person just waiting for their chance to speak, without bothering to listen to what is being said beforehand. It can get annoying, and after awhile — it gets old.
It all gets old.
But seeing it affect someone I love seems to bring a clarity to a concept that I’d never before seen when it was only about myself. It’s the concept about “your relationship with food”.
I’ve heard those four words used together quite often, and never could quite understand what it meant. For some reason, food never involved a complex analysis that centered around socially fitting-in or standing-out. The discussion of food and me was always about me and the food.
In fact, the most disturbing “interaction” with food that I can remember was when, before-diabetes, I was in our town’s summer recreation program (i.e. the cheap alternative to summer camp), and when I bough a Bomb Pop from the ice-cream truck, it took me a long time to eat it and a counselor yelled at me to “hurry up!” and to “never order that again!”.
Perhaps being directly yelled at over a food choice made me numb to the more subliminal, implied, or self-directed scolding that comes from facing food restrictions.
But seeing it on the outside makes me see it differently.
I don’t know if my kids are, or will be, bothered with their special substitutions, or the Ice-Cream Social exclusions, or being sequestered to the peanut-free table. Like me and diabetes, it will probably be all they ever know and they’ll become numb to it.
But as a parent, seeing it from a distance, I see how it could affect them.
I’m starting to understand the concept of a strained relationship with food.
And I don’t like it.