Happy [Allergy-Friendly] Birthday!
My childhood was filled with amazing birthday parties, thanks to my mom. I envisioned that I’d create the same type of special celebrations for my children. I’d whip up a batch of pancakes to start the day, cook their favorite meal for dinner and then throw a fun party complete with a big cake, just like my mom did for me.
But when Joseph was diagnosed with multiple food allergies as a baby, my vision for his birthday celebrations blurred. Some of that was due to my tears. I was overwhelmed by the life-threatening implications of his allergies and by the huge task of figuring out how to keep him safe and alive. Pulling off a birthday party was secondary and, frankly, seemed impossible.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to determine that Joseph's allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, sesame and mustard, plus asthma, would not keep me from making his birthdays special. “Dry” would be the best way to describe his very first birthday cake—but I’m happy to report we’ve come a long way since then.
This month was Joseph’s 11th birthday and there was much to celebrate. We started commemorating his big day with a family outing to a park for miniature golf, go-kart racing and arcade games. The birthday fun continued when he and his dad went to see “The Amazing Spider Man 2.” Then we threw a video game party at home, complete with friends, family, a video game challenge and other activities. The food, all free of the allergens to which Joseph is allergic, included fruit kebabs, chocolate Wii remote candy bars, two Wii remote cakes and ice cream.
On the day of his actual birthday, I whipped up allergy-friendly pancakes for his birthday breakfast and we enjoyed a birthday dinner of his favorites: chicken piccata, roasted potatoes, corn on the cob and a homemade chocolate chip cookie cake (allergy-friendly, of course).
As we dug into his birthday dessert, I thought about the tears I’d shed so many years ago. Sure, the allergy-friendly ingredients I count on are different from those my mother used. But my dream of celebrating Joseph’s birthday—making him feel special and knowing that he had a blast--had certainly come true.
Have you ever worried about your child’s birthday celebration? What do you do?
Wendy Mondello is a contributing correspondent for Living Without’s Gluten Free & More. She blogs at tasteofallergyfreeliving.blogspot.com.