Photo Credit: iStock
By Eden Strong
I dropped my daughter off at her friend’s birthday party and before I left, handed the friend’s mom a gluten-free cupcake. “Thanks so much for the invite!” I said. “My daughter’s on a special diet and she knows not to eat anything while she’s here, but if you could just give her this cupcake when you guys have cake that would be fabulous.”
The mom looked at me as if I’d just told her that my kid only eats fertilizer and would she mind ordering some for the party. “Oh sure, no problem,” she said with one eyebrow raised and the corner of her mouth twisted upwards to convey her disgust.
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Later, when I arrived to pick my daughter up, the kids were still in the midst of eating their cake so I stood outside the party room with the other parents as we waited for them to finish. The birthday girl’s mom stuck her head out the door and offered us all a slice saying, “The kids filled up on pizza and one little girl’s mom has her on a weird diet so there’s a ton of cake left.” In response, the other parents mumbled, “Some people just need to lighten up; it’s a party.” They laughed and talked amongst themselves - amongst ME - about how ridiculous it is that some parents feel the need to be all high-and-mighty with their “organic this and organic that.” One mom even expressed sadness that there was a child who was “missing out on the fun” and they all agreed they’d never want to willingly make their child feel different.
Here’s the backstory: For medical reasons, my daughter’s on a special diet. To add to that, I’ve chosen to limit and diversify her diet in other ways that I feel are important for reasons I don’t feel the need to explain. Certainly, I don’t expect anyone to cater to her dietary needs or go out of their way to accommodate her, but I DO expect to be respected for the ways that I choose to feed my child.
I’m sick and tired of other parents telling me to just “loosen up, she’s a kid!” I’m tired of catching the stink eye from people when I pack my a daughter a lunch full of things most kids can’t recognize. I’m over people making me feel like I’m ruining my daughter’s childhood because I limit her from certain things. What is wrong with me feeding my kid what I feel is best for her? When I see parents feeding their kids Happy Meals and ingredients I believe can cause pretty significant health issues, it’s hard for me to understand why they’d willingly fill their kids up with processed garbage and pretend it’s actually food. I look at your kids and I fear our future rising healthcare costs as well as the unhealthy spouse my child may one day marry. So while you’re cringing because my kid’s not eating a cupcake, I’m cringing because yours is.
You know what, though? I’ve realized that it’s not my place to pass judgment on what you’re feeding your child because your child doesn’t belong to me. I understand that you as a parent have made choices that you feel are the best thing for your family. I trust that you as a parent love your child just as much as I love mine and that you’re doing what you feel is best for them. And while I’m not proud to admit I sometimes form internal judgments (admit it, we all do) I realize it’s not within my rights to let those judgments slip outside my consciousness.
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The way that I feed my child is not a problem. The REAL problem is that you have a problem with something that’s NOT your problem. Yes, you with your judgmental eyes, snippy comments, and unwanted opinions. YOU are forcing social stigmas on my child and I do have a problem with that. If you as the grown-up were to simply accept what my child was eating, so would your kids and so would my daughter. In short: you’re the one reinforcing that my child is different. And yes, maybe she is different, but so is your child. Why is that concept so difficult to comprehend? Different is equal, not necessarily better or worse.
As parents, I hope we can agree that if we want to raise a generation of compassionate and accepting individuals than we need to be teaching our kids those lessons now. We need to remember that the issue is bigger than your opinions about what I feed my child.
And while we’re at it, I’ll feed my kid and you feed yours, okay?
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