Today’s children have more dietary restrictions than any other previous generation. Children may be on a gluten-free or dairy-free diet. They may have peanut allergies or they may follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Whether it’s medical or ethical reasons, children are eating very differently than our generation did and we need to be conscious about the food we give them.
I grew up believing that food is love and looked forward to the special treats my grandma gave me when I spent the weekend with her. We often went to the Saturday matinee and stopped at the penny candy store for a dime’s worth of goodies to enjoy during the movie.
When my granddaughters started visiting, I wanted to indulge them the way my grandma indulged me. We established some favorite food rituals with them. We always had dinner at our neighborhood pizzeria and sat next to the kitchen so we could watch the chef toss the ball of dough high in air and spin it into a large disc. After dinner, we walked across the street for ice cream cones.
Our favorite breakfast ritual was sitting on the floor for an indoor picnic with scrambled eggs on English muffins. I put candles on top of the muffins and we sang “Happy Birthday” to each other.
But those rituals changed when my daughter and her family switched from vegetarian to vegan. We had to eliminate eggs and dairy which limited our food choices. The transition was difficult. I missed our rituals and felt sad that we couldn’t share them any more.
Over time, we’ve established some new ones. Now when they come to visit, we stop at Whole Foods and they pick out all the vegan foods they want. They get to choose chips and crackers they don’t usually eat at home for their special treats.
On their last visit, we went to our favorite sushi restaurant and discovered they had many vegan options. The owner gave them each a special pair of chopsticks to take home. For dessert, we stopped at the frozen yogurt shop and they got a non-dairy flavor.
Learning to adapt and accept change is an important part of all relationships and creating new rituals is just another lesson in that process.
Have you had any experiences with dietary restrictions?