My husband and I took a trip away this past weekend, just the two of us, without the kids. This, in itself, is a rarity, and something we needed, enjoyed, and did not take for granted. I love my children, but even I needed a break from hearing the morning screams of, “Mommy!!!”, the temper tantrums, and hearing brothers fight over a stupid toy that, I swear, neither of them really wants to play with anyway.
Our lives as a couple picked up right back to the days before kids. We roamed the streets of Boston for hours and scoped out some the best food places in the city, all day long. We wandered into pastry shops, markets, and into quaint but packed Italian restaurants in the North End. We waited in line outside in the freezing cold for dinner one night for an hour. Obviously, waiting that long for a table with little kids is out of the question; it was refreshing to do it, just us.
As we explored (and ate our way through) the city, I noticed that the biggest deviation from our life with kids was that we had no food limitations. With a child who has severe food allergies, we struggle to eat out in restaurants, even when we bring his own food with us. Just the act of coming in contact with an allergen gives him a reaction, usually just on his skin, but it’s still very uncomfortable for him.
My niece recently had a 6th birthday party. It was located at a kid’s cooking place. The activity was making pizza. So, to make my son feel more included, we brought his own special, allergy-free pizza dough. It didn’t matter. The combination of the place being dusted in flour, housing multiple eggs, and cheese galore, it wasn’t surprising when my son broke out in hives around his eye. His food allergies are manageable, but extremely challenging when our lives revolve around meals, food, and eating out of the house.
So when my husband and I spotted the most amazing looking cookie at a bakery in Boston, we both grinned at each other, skeptical, unsure, and in agreement that we needed it. It was a black and white cookie, but a different kind of one. Half of this humungous thing was lathered in decadent chocolate, while the other was finished with creamy peanut butter, topped off with chunks of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Since my son had an anaphylactic reaction to peanut butter, our house has become peanut-free, and our entire family has avoided eating anything with nuts. But, we were alone, and without our kids. I felt like the parents who go out and drink excessively when they don’t have to care for their children; but instead, we were indulging in every allergen that would, in fact, kill our child if consumed.
I will not deny that I had feelings of guilt from eating such unhealthy, fattening foods this weekend. However, those feelings of guilt quickly shifted to thoughts of my son. I felt guilty for eating and enjoying things he can’t, and probably will never be able to, eat. I felt guilty for consuming ingredients that are deadly to him and his body. And, I felt guilty that we were able to walk into any restaurant, put our name in, be seated, order off the menu, eat, and leave. This is something my child cannot do. If he does eat out, which is very unusual, we must speak to the restaurant, management, and server, in detail, about his food allergies, in hopes they can accommodate him, which may not even be feasible.
I also had many feelings of guilt when my taste buds were reunited with foods that I love. Oh, how much I missed them—particularly peanut butter, one of my all-time favorite foods, that I have chosen to give up because of my son’s extreme allergy. We felt guilty thinking about how easy life was in Boston, for three days, and not just because we weren’t caring for our children (which was obviously true, too), but because of all the food, restaurants, and daily activities we once took part in, until him.
So, my husband and I had a weekend to celebrate, enjoy each other’s company, and overindulge in many treats we have given up for my son. I am sad that my child isn’t able to experience such bliss, but I have to continue to remind myself that it is just food, and we are very lucky it’s only that. It could always be worse.
For now, and for his sake, we will continue to avoid certain foods and restaurants, because his safety and life are far more significant than any cookie we see behind the counter. But, for our weekend away, it was very fun.