Mother’s Day is here again and it got me thinking about the mothers who are in my life. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how different the mothers are that come into our cafe, deli & bakery. They are different by necessity. Each year on Mother’s Day we all acknowledge the mothers in our lives but a mother to a child with food allergies, celiac disease or autism is quite different because of the additional burden when it comes to caring for her child. A very big part of this care is safely feeding that child.
If you think about it, most families can go out to eat and celebrate mother’s day and they can go out to eat anytime and anywhere. If invited to a BBQ; they can go and relax and eat with friends and family, they can order take out for a quick meal at home, they can go to school or on vacation with no worries when it comes to eating. That is something that the parents who come here with their children are not able to do.
If you know (or are) a mom to a child with Food Allergies, Celiac Disease or Autism, then you know what I am talking about. If you are not, I would like you to imagine your life and what it would be like if you had to inspect every morsel of food that your child or children ingest because of the fear of behavioral changes, severe sickness or the possible death of your child.
Imagine Yourself in the following situations:
-Your child with autism is not invited to birthday parties. What do you need to do every day to reassure this child that they are truly loved and special?
-Your child is invited to a birthday party and you have to bring every morsel of food with you to make sure that they are safe. You can’t just drop them off and then go out for coffee; you have to watch over them like a hawk to keep them safe from all of the unsafe food around them. What would that be like for you?
-Your family is invited to Christmas or a holiday meal and you still have to make your own safe meal to bring for your child. You never get a break, what would that be like for you?
-Imagine going on vacation and the additional weeks of prior planning required in order to find stores where you may be able to find safe food and trying to find restaurants that could safely feed your child. Imagine coming up empty handed and knowing that when you go on that vacation, you will need to drive rather than fly so you can bring all of your coolers full of safe food with you.
-Imagine not being able to eat out on vacation, you have to make every single meal at home. So, basic hotels are out of the question, you must rent a full house with a full kitchen. You never get a true vacation.
-Imagine planning that trip to the beach, renting that ocean front condo and you or your child can never step foot outside or onto that beach because they are selling dry roasted peanuts on the boardwalk right in front of your condo and the sand is littered with peanut shells. All your child wanted was to go to the beach and you made that happen but your child could only look at that beach through the window!
-Imagine going to a restaurant that says that they can accommodate your child’s allergies and watching them get gravely ill after eating their first bite. For many this includes administering epinephrine and an ambulance ride to the hospital and a several day stay in that hospital. You then feel guilty for trusting that restaurant or waiter or chef with your child’s life.
-Imagine reading and inspecting every food label, calling food manufacturing companies and being assured the food is safe. You feed the food to your child and end up calling 911 because it was not safe after all. How do you forgive yourself when you know it is not your fault, but you are there to protect your child…how do you process this and live with it?
-Imagine sending your child to school and panicking every hour of the day wondering if your child is safe, even when they are grown and in college!
-Imagine the hours spent educating family, teachers, nurses and other students at school about the seriousness of food allergies, celiac disease and autism.Or volunteering to mentor parents of those who are newly diagnosed. Exhausting! Then you still have to be nice to the doubters or those who don’t care how serious your child’s allergy is. Frustrating!
-Imagine telling your family about your child’s shellfish allergy and a family member dangles a shrimp in front of the child’s face on Christmas Day. Do you still talk to that family member?
-Imagine telling your family about your child’s Celiac Disease and they think that it is okay to give them “just a little bit” and they say things like “he/she does not look sick” or “are you sure it was the “gluten” making them sick?” (Like you and your child don’t know when they have ingested gluten…others know when they have a cold, the symptoms are easy to recognize each time you get a cold; the same is true with Celiac Disease and a gluten reaction.)
-Imagine trying to explain to your family or strangers that your child is not being a “brat”; and that he/she has autism and is having a difficult time adjusting to this new environment. Imagine dealing with the disapproving and incriminating stares from strangers and not ever being able to lose your composure.
-Imagine sitting across from your doctor and hearing him tell you that you have breast cancer and your first thought is “OMG, how will I safely feed my food allergic child while going through this?” (You know that well meaning neighbors and friends can’t bring meals that are safe for your child when you are going through chemo.)
These mother’s wear a halo and a cape that is invisible to many, but not to me. I see the invisible super hero emblem that you display proudly each time your child needs to eat. These mother’s are truly super heroes! I am not saying that these mom’s love their child more than other moms; what I am saying is that they spend more time actively loving, worrying and preventing tragedy than the average mother. These mothers and their children truly inspire me and I am thrilled to be able to allow them some time to relax and feel the difference when dining at One Dish Cuisine Cafe, Deli & Bakery. This is why I am committed to opening more safe havens for these children and their parents.
Mother’s Day would not be complete without honoring the other great mothers in my life. My mother-in-law, Pat, raised a wonderful son, David, who is committed to welcoming folks back to the table with me here at One Dish Cuisine. Pat’s weekly presence and support mean so much to me and I am so grateful to have her love and support and to have her in my life.
My ex mother-in-law, Emily, is still a support system to this day! She is still that safe port in the storm for me when I need to talk with someone and she always gives me the courage to stand up and dust myself off and move on when things go wrong. I am so grateful that we have maintained such a wonderful relationship and I have learned so much from her and am happy to still call her my friend.
For my sisters who each show their children the love and support that they need; unique to their own circumstances. Each of you inspires me with the challenges that you handle so well each and every day. Thanks for being great moms and great sisters.
My mother, Vickie, who had seven children in eight years (no twins), buried two of them when they were young and still managed to pick herself up each day and chose to see the “good” in her situation. Not only has she financially supported One Dish Cuisine but she taught me that loving and giving is the most important thing a person can do on this earth and when you combine that with following your passion; then you will feel complete. It took me quite a few years to get over the self induced “pity party” that I was having about my own situation, but thanks to my mom, I finally saw the light and understood that the food I was making for myself could also serve the needs of others. I am happy to be able to live with passion, purpose and sleep well at night. I have never worked so hard or so many hours in my life and I don’t have any personal time for friends or family, but my mother taught me that this type of sacrifice is okay; knowing that what I am building here is so important for so many in need. I am so grateful that she taught me not to be afraid of challenges and that faith, love and giving are the most important gifts that I possess and that I have the ability to use these “gifts” every day and these gifts that I have don’t cost me anything when I give freely. I am thankful for my mother never giving up on me, she is truly my hero.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you great mothers, you all are Super Heroes!