An interesting topic came up in our house this past weekend. Jude mentioned that his friends at school "look at him weird" when he eats his lunch. He doesn't always express himself clearly, so gentle probing and questions directed at getting him to clarify are par for the course in a conversation with Jude. He has mentioned in the past that he feels shy about his lunch, so after the subsequent conversation on Saturday, I brought it up again as we drove out to the goat farm.
We make an effort to create school lunches that are as "normal" as possible when feeding a child with food sensitivities. We don't go in for lots of treats, but I do try to include homemade cookies or muffins when I can. His little containers are full of berries, cut-up fruit and veggies, hummus, rice crackers, gluten-free salami, etc. The main course is usually leftovers from dinner: meat and potatoes, soup, pizza.
While we drove, we had a conversation:
"What is it that the other kids have that's different from your lunch?"
"Fruit loops and stuff like that. In shiny plastic".
(long pause while I thought out my next words)
"Do you know why we don't buy stuff like that?"
"Because we don't have enough money?"
Wow. Little ears pick up every conversation their parents have, don't they?
I explained to him that packaged foods actually cost less than good whole foods, but that we buy those healthy things because we want his body to be healthy. I tried to explain in terms he'd understand. I talked about the cells in our bodies, and how certain things can change our cells so they can't do their jobs anymore. We talked about smoking, chemicals, dye and additives in food. I reassured him that his lunch was full of FOOD: things that had grown on trees or walked on the earth, and that his body would be healthier because of it.
I reassured him that the way we eat is a CHOICE we've made as parents.
It pains me to think of him growing up feeling self-conscious or "different". I worry that it will all backfire when he's an adult and can finally make his own choices about what to eat, and decides he wants the packaged stuff. I worry that he doesn't understand my motivation or the effort it takes to make a lunch from scratch every evening instead of just throwing in a bunch of pre-packaged crap.
We arrived at the goat farm, and we each learned to milk.
As we were leaving, I said, "Jude, your lunch may be different from your friends' lunches. But I'll bet none of them have milked a goat before!"
His face shone with pride, and I knew that, for now, it's all good.