“Let me love you a little more before you’re not little anymore” – that says it all about my state of mind as my little one celebrates his 12th birthday!
My dad often jokes, ‘Eat to live, live not to eat.’ but I love how we can express our love through food. Dishing out Allergy-Friendly/ Arjun-Friendly fun foods gives me ultimate joy especially on his special day so, every meal on his birthday is carefully thought through…
Needless to say, by the end of the day, mommy felt like this…
So the big family dinner was at Houlihans – a nice steak dinner which he loves but mommy still doesn’t know how to make!
I often hear how sons are not as caring as daughters. There must be some truth to it since generalizations exist for a reason but so far, I have not had a reason to generalize – he is the first one to notice the break in my voice even on the phone or the beginning of a tear when I am sad and my days are replete with hugs and ‘I love you mommy’ moments. ‘Yes, I gave you life but really you gave me mine…’
I wonder if my boy’s personality has been shaped by his food allergies and the constant fear he has learnt to live in as a result. He is still a shy, hesitant, wary and quiet kid but then that may just be his personality – after all, his parents were not gregarious at that age either and look at us now 😛 I can see his confidence slowly but surely emerging as he made his own choices in middle school this year. His drums teacher at School of Rock has just managed to push him to the next level and he has found a joy in playing the guitar. But, his favorite thing to do still is art – he loves sketching and his dream came true over Fall when he learnt to draw his favorite Super heroes from a well-known cartoonist. Aah the joy when he could draw Spiderman hanging upside down from a skyscraper on a dark night against the New York skyline! However, the biggest surprise this year has been his new found joy in ‘reading’ – that kid who would find every excuse in the book to avoid reading now gets yelled at every night to stop reading and hit the sack 😀 Thank you to his dedicated teachers and the amazing Ms Rowling!
An update on his allergies – the last few years hasn’t brought about significant change in his list of allergies. He continues to be allergic to all tree nuts, peanuts, shell fish, sesame, chick peas (garbanzo beans), poppy seeds and he can still not tolerate milk, eggs or soy if it is not processed. However, he can eat larger quantities of processed dairy like cheese, yogurt, curd, kefir and ice cream than he could even a year back. He is ecstatic about that since those are the fun forms of milk anyways! He can eat eggs in very small quantities but only in cooked products like pancakes, waffles, cakes and cookies. However, we have to be careful and mostly avoid products with eggs. The one big change has been soy. Until a year back soybean oil and soy lecithin were the only forms in which he could tolerate soy but now he can eat small quantities of processed soy like tofu but he still cannot drink soy milk. Luckily, he doesn’t really care much for soy but it is one less food item we have to be paranoid about!
One of the truly special moments of the past year was when we celebrated his thread ceremony. This ceremony is a centuries old Hindu custom from a time when once children were old enough to start formal education they were sent off to a boarding school. Before the tearful send off, the parents organized a huge party for family and friends to wish the child well. Of course, kids today don’t go away to boarding school but the celebration with friends and family still continues to mark the child’s journey towards becoming a young adult. We decided to celebrate it in India so his paternal and maternal grandparents could easily be a part of this festive occasion without having to endure a long plane journey in their advanced years. The highlight of this event – obviously, that it was completely allergy friendly. The chef and I went back and forth for months before the event to ensure Arjun could partake of anything without fear – it was to celebrate him so why have food he could not eat!. Fish, Shell Fish and eggs was automatically taken care of since the menu was entirely vegetarian. Soy is not a part of Indian cuisine so that was not an issue either. However, it was a huge challenge avoiding chick peas, Bengal gram, sesame seeds and nuts which is an integral part of a traditional festive South Indian meal. The chef and his team managed it with aplomb and the food was so delicious that even after a year many of our guests mention it. I will write more about it in a separate post.
This was also a year of huge learning and narrow escapes. Sometimes food allergic families relax; forgetting how dangerous food allergies can be just because nothing serious has happened in a while. Like the time when on a casual summer stroll in New York City, I almost gave a French macaron (and why are French macaron stores popping up all over ?!) to my son assuming the cookies were made of white wheat flour. Fortunately, it struck me to ask the sales girl in the nick of time and to my horror realized that that it is made almost entirely using almond flour. Almond is the one tree nut that Arjun is deathly allergic to. These near escapes have taught Arjun to double check everything even if mom has okayed it. The latest learning was on his 12th Birthday when we were at his birthday dinner outing and I accidentally gave him a piece of lavash bread with sesame seeds on it. But, the seeds did not escape his keen eyes.
It is a joy to see the sincere, caring and curious human being he is growing up to be. But, above all I am so proud that he does not take things for granted and has taken on the responsibility of his welfare in his own hands. My goal 11.5 years back when he was first diagnosed with food allergies was to ‘enable’ him because I cannot always be around to keep him safe and every single day, I can see him making giant strides towards that ultimate goal!
‘If I could keep you little, I’d keep you close to me.
But then I’d miss you growing into who you’re meant to be!’
Happy Birthday my little one!