Turning a Negative into a Positive
Why start a blog?
What do I hope to achieve?
Both of these questions can be answered quite simply.
As I tried to make sense of my son’s gluten free life, I realised that I could turn this negative into a positive and hopefully along the way help others as well as help myself in putting things into perspective.
So this is our story….
My 15 year old son was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease in July 2012 and like many people with the disease his symptoms had been ignored since he was 18 months old by doctors and specialists alike. His diagnosis did however help make sense of the previous decade plus but none-the-less its shock waves reverberated through our family as we tried to make sense of his “gluten free” life.
Along the way we have jumped many practical hurdles. Those first six months were hectic: we taste tested our way through a dozen or so varieties of gluten free breads, we struggled with “the gf lunch box challenge” and major changes were made with breakfasts, the pantry and recipes. My son had an accidental ingestion of gluten as we muddled our way through an overseas holiday, the lack of gluten free options at international airports and uninspiring gluten free airline food. I baked many gluten free recipes and as a family we taste tested many gluten free products. We had our successes and failures.
And then there has been my son’s emotional roller coaster ride on his way to acceptance of his illness and his lifelong gluten free diet. Struggling through your teenage years and Year 11 and 12 studies is difficult enough without the extra baggage of “coeliac disease.” There has been: getting back into the social scene where food plays a big part and feeling comfortable in verbalising to his friends about his dietary needs, not feeling conspicuous when negotiating gluten free meal options at a restaurant and getting back to feeling happy within himself.
I have struggled with well-intentioned comments like “there are a lot of gluten free breads available now”, “how lucky that there is a whole aisle in the supermarket with gluten free food”, “ a can of baked beans is good for a school lunch” and “I have an almond meal cake recipe I’ll pass on to you.” The reality is that the “whole aisle” of gluten free food is really only about ¼ of an aisle, that the gluten free breads while toasted are okay, but as a sandwich in a school lunch box it is a don’t go there challenge, that a can of baked beans is not a good idea for a teenager who eats his lunch on the school oval and I have heard other gf mums swear that they will scream if they see one more almond meal cake recipe. As I struggled with trying to make my son’s life ‘normal’ again, I realised that teenagers with a diagnosis of coeliac disease have their own special needs.
So I started compiling bits and pieces into a folder: the tried and tested recipes, kitchen hints, travel tips, notes about what worked and why, how we managed our transition to gluten free. If nothing else, when my son left home for uni or work, he would have a catalogue of recipes and cooking hints to take with him. This folder has grown into a blog/website which I hope other parents of coeliac teenagers and children might find useful. I had found so many gluten free websites with gourmet recipes with at least 5 major steps and needing 10 extra pantry ingredients. We don’t need the intricate chocolate torte topped with ganache. However, we busy mums with gluten free children really need the one bowl recipe using items that we already have in the pantry or fridge. We need someone to be able to say “this works well for the teenage tastes” or “this product is hidden in this section of the supermarket”.
I think what I have learnt along the way is to keep things in perspective. And as my son’s guide in his gluten free journey, I hope that he is also learning to keep his coeliac diagnosis and treatment in perspective as well.
In all fairness, I do know that my son is lucky to be “gluten free” now rather than 10 or 20 years ago when Coeliac Disease was a little known condition and when generally people did not understand gluten free and there were next to no products available in a supermarket. My heart goes out to mothers of coeliac children who live on an isolated property in the Northern Territory or to those whose children have both Type 1 Diabetes and Coeliac Disease.
This is my thanks to the many friends and family and strangers who have helped us along the way and this is also my way of turning a negative life experience into a positive one.