When Nathan looked at the menu for day camp this week his eyes filled with tears.
"You don't understand, Mom," Nathan said. "I have to watch all of the other kids eat the yummy snacks that I can't have."
He was right. The menu was gluten-filled with fast-food hamburgers, corn dogs, pizza, Goldfish crackers, Cheez-Its, brownie bites and more. He knows all of those items are on his"no-no" list. His tears turned to wailing which was hard for this mama bear to watch. I was heart-broken. Nathan has to know that I am going to move heaven and earth to make sure he has a healthy alternative--probably something even better than what the "normal" kids would be eating, but he didn't want to be different. I made sure he had gluten-free options of the same items the others were eating, but they were still different. And he was not a happy camper.
I understand how he feels. My office had a pot-luck luncheon today to celebrate a co-worker's retirement and I felt excluded. I'm 40-years-old and felt that way. I can't imagine how difficult that is for a 10 year old. I brought 2-liter drinks to share, but I skipped the buffet because nothing was safe. Even if I had brought a gluten-free dish, it would have likely been cross contaminated before I made it through the line. It isn't worth getting sick. I don't enjoy taking my "different" lunch into the room with 100 people asking 1,000,000 questions, but that's exactly what happened. I'd rather sit at my desk and eat my sandwich.
I don't want my child to feel this way. There has to be a way to get through to camp organizers, teachers, students, friends, and family so Nathan and other children with dietary restrictions won't feel excluded or different. There are plenty of tasty options that ALL kids will enjoy. Honestly, I think all of the kids would feel better and behave better if they ate real food instead of junk. And they will eat it if that's what is offered. Kids that come to our house don't even know we only serve gluten-free food. They like eating here and they keep coming back--sometimes too often!
So, we've decided to take Nathan to a gluten-free camp next summer. There are no options in Mississippi, but I've found a gluten-free camp in Michigan that I've been following on social media and it looks awesome! I've already been recruited to help in the kitchen, which I am honored to do. I want to help make sure Nathan feels like a regular kid without having to worry about reading labels and inquiring about gluten. I'm hoping to help him and other kids like him have a great experience.
Have your children attended gluten-free camp? I'd love to hear about their experience.