“But gluten free is EASY“, so says your kind and caring friend or family member. “There are LOTS more products in the supermarkets and EVERY cafe and restaurant has HEAPS of gluten free menu items”.
These types of comments are enough for me to begin my epistle about what it really means to eat gluten free as a medical necessity as opposed to eating gluten free because it is a dietary fad. I can sound like the ‘gluten free’ police: hard line and precise.
BUT here is the thing: eating gluten free is just one aspect of having coeliac disease. For the mature minded adult who chooses to eat gluten free SOME of the time, then gluten free can appear to be easy and simple.
The other aspect to coeliac disease is your adjustment for a commitment to a life long dietary regime without margins for error.
And I think that while your gastroenterologist, the dietitian and your doctor are focussed on your physical health and healing, what is often forgotten is the emotional and psychology healing that also needs attention.
Yes, having coeliac disease is manageable through diet. There is no drug regime. But there is no cure and the journey is for the ‘REST OF YOUR LIFE‘. Plus you are AT RISK or on watch for numerous other auto-immune diseases. AND shopping becomes TEDIOUS and eating out ONEROUS.
While those with coeliac disease become RESILIENT and ORGANISED it is important to acknowledge that gluten free can be at times OVERWHELMING. There is a degree of HYPER-VIGILANCE as there is no room for COMPLACENCY.
If you have coeliac disease, you most definitely do not want to be defined by you health condition. You want no fuss made and you definitely do not want to hear flippant comments about how easy and simple gluten free is. And you don’t want your mother making a scene every time you are going to eat away from home.
My son has made adjustments, he is informed and makes good decisions about his food. He is not COMPLACENT nor does his take RISKS. But this mother, at times has been too focussed and too well meaning when we are eating out with family be it someone’s home or a cafe/restaurant. I have contributed to his angst and stress by asking those embarrassing questions and informing hosts about his dietary requirements. I have been too focussed on his physical dietary needs that I have forgotten about his feelings.
So I put my hand up and own up to being that HELICOPTER MUM hovering and being a HINDRANCE rather than a HELP. And I have said this before, that while I have been his companion and guide on his gluten free journey, especially in the early stages of diagnosis, I have had to learn to let go and believe I have helped empower him with my guidance about gluten free and coeliac disease.
My advice to other mothers is to know: when it is time to let go; when it is time to become involved; when it is time to suggest a correction; when your child understands, when your child’s emotional well being has priority.
Our children are wiser than we think. Our children are braver than we are. Our children need us to give them respect and latitude.
And just like that first day of preschool or kindy when we had to let go of their hand and allow them to enter a ‘new world’ without us, mothers of children with coeliac disease have to find the time to let go of ‘their hand’ and allow them to enter their ‘world of gluten free’ without us.
Maybe someone should have guided me earlier to be a Hummingbird Parent rather than a Helicopter Parent. Thankfully though, I have transitioned.