My son stood in the kitchen, yelling at me, “I just want to eat DAIRY!” His rage was unannounced, and I quickly attempted to figure out what he meant. As I asked clarifying questions, he only seemed to become more agitated until he finally broke down and started crying. While quietly comforting him, I understood exactly what he was saying. There wasn’t a single alternative that I could offer in that moment that could make up for the fact that he has to eat differently from nearly all of his peers.
Years ago, when my son first started equine therapy, his therapist recommended that we meet with a naturopathic doctor to see if she might be able to offer some insight into the challenges that we were facing as a family. After researching the information shared with us, my husband and I decided to try what was being recommended. We eliminated dairy, gluten, and refined sugars from our diets as well as any toxic chemicals and soaps that we were using in our home.
I remember the first day I planned to start experimenting with cooking after spending weeks looking up recipes. I had completed my grocery shopping and was about to begin cooking when intimidation creeped in, so I escaped to my room and positioned my body in child’s pose on the floor. I thought to myself, “Only crazy people do this!” As I laid there, Bethel’s You Make Me Brave played, and I began to weep:
“You make me brave, you make me brave;
You call me out beyond the shore into the wave.
You make me brave, you make me brave;
No fear can hinder now the promises you made.”
In that moment, I was reminded that I was not alone, and with that, I stood up, walked into the kitchen, and began experimenting.
Eventually, all four of us were tested for food sensitivities.
My determination grew as I sought to carefully provide nourishment for my family that would help our bodies instead of harm them.
Teaching children about foods that are better for their bodies has proven to be a challenging task.
There was a day early on when we had to grab a quick lunch out at a restaurant, and one of my boys saw someone using ketchup. He turned to me with a horrified look on his face, pointing out how “bad” it was that the man was eating regular ketchup. In that moment I realized that our new way of eating would invite us to carefully consider the ways we explained our choices when it comes to the food we eat.
As the boys have grown older, the conversations have become more challenging. Their understanding of the body’s connection to food is limited, understandably at their age. As an adult, I am able to connect pain and discomfort in my body with the food that I eat. My kids on the other hand aren’t usually able to make the connection. Instead, they focus on the fact that eating this way makes them different and unlike their friends.
The process of changing our diet has been emotional for us. We all have an emotional connection with food whether we want to or not. Eating differently than others can often be isolating and embarrassing, depending on how you are received. Social gatherings seem to always revolve around food, and when you have a special diet, you tend to stick out like a sore thumb. Initially, it felt easier to avoid social events that involved food but as time has gone on, I have learned creative ways for my family to feel included despite the differences. I can feel uncomfortable and awkward, yet I imagine it is exponentially more distressing for my children.
“What do I bring to the party?” has been a literal question each time we are invited to be with others. By being vulnerable and sharing this part of our story, I am discovering connection and care that I never expected. In this space, my passions for inclusion and diversity collide, and I am aware that I bring much more than nourishment for those I love.
Bethany Cabell, a lover of simplicity, is often inspired to write by the relationships she holds as a wife, mom, and a physical therapist. Bethany, her husband and their boys returned to life in Texas after wandering off to the Midwest for a season. What she once pictured her life to look like has forever been changed by her two sons. Navigating this messy and beautiful path of parenting two children each with their own unique challenges, she finds grace and beauty in the gift of each moment.