This year, as usual, no one signed up to be Room Mom for my second graderʼs class. So, as usual, I ended up with the responsibility. We found out that my son had celiac at the end of the last school year, and the traditional end of year party is a pizza party. So my hands were a little tied on that one. And to be totally honest, since he was newly diagnosed and still cried every time someone brought in cupcakes, I caved and let him eat the pizza. But this year, I am better prepared. I have a stash of frozen cupcakes in my freezer for birthday parties and a stash of brownies in the nursesʼ freezer at school for unexpected events. And my son is slowly getting accustomed to the fact that he just canʼt eat what everyone else can. Because heʼs different.
Child psychologists are always telling us to teach our children to embrace qualities that make them unique and different. Even religion tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, meaning that no part of our physical or mental self is a mistake or accident. And sometimes, this is a pretty easy sell. Like if someone (me) is shorter than their peers, or has a bunch of unwanted freckles. But Iʼm having a bit of a hard time getting my son to love the fact that he will never be able to eat Papa Johnʼs pizza, or somebodyʼs birthday cake without his body basically rejecting it. Iʼm thinking the best I can hope for is resigned acceptance.
This is where the whole story and about being Room Mom comes in. I was in the middle of planning the Second Grade Holiday Party, and I suddenly thought of one of my favorite quotes (courtesy of Spider Man)....”with great responsibility comes great power”. I love that quote, it cracks me up that its from a superhero show and I like to quote it to my sons whenever applicable. But the application in this case was the realization if I wanted to, I could try and make the class party entirely gluten free. It could be my sonʼs chance to be just like everyone else. Which prompts the following question...is making the classroom party G-Free an abuse of power, or an exercise in enlightenment?
So I started to think about implementation. On a twenty five dollar budget I need to put together 4 stations: cookie decoration, ornament making, reindeer food kits and a party game. And unfortunately, reindeer food kits include oatmeal, and buying enough gluten free oatmeal and sugar cookies for 25 kids would blow my budget right there. And then I pictured the kids eating gluten free sugar cookies....”this tastes different” or “why are my cookies so crumbly”. So I decided against having an entirely G-Free party for three reasons. Cost, ease of execution, and lack of a acceptable sugar cookie. I donʼt know of any pre-made G-Free sugar cookies that are very good, and although Iʼve had some success in making my own, they taste good but are kinda crumbly. Iʼd rather just have my son have his own G-free cookie that heʼs used to and buy pre-made cookies for the rest of the class. That way, he wonʼt have to listen to his classmates (possibly) complaining about something that he considers delicious. I think that would be more hurtful to his self esteem than simply eating a slightly different cookie. Besides, Iʼm pretty sure my son would rather have me spend my money on more Christmas presents. So with one fell swoop, my grand plan was sacked and my power rendered useless - as if someone brought gluten-filled Kryptonite into the room.
Have I made the right choice? I donʼt know, but Iʼm sticking to it. Iʼve decided that, given the facts, it would be an unsuccessful exercise in enlightenment. Iʼd love to hear what you all think since I still have quite a few more class parties to organize over the course of the year. Regardless, Iʼm still stuck making at least a batch of sugar cookies for my son, so if you have a great G-Free sugar cookie recipe you would like to share, please do. And if you know of a yummy, chewy pre-made cookie that I havenʼt tried Iʼd love that info too. Hereʼs to a happy Holiday season and successful gluten free baking!
G-Free Mommy Hilary
Christina Almsted says
My daughter has a box of disposable gloves for her, and her two gluten-free class mates to use anytime the class is making cereal necklaces, pretzel log cabins, or most recently gingerbread houses. She can't eat or wear the end product, but she likes that her creations then look like everyone elses.
I also keep WOW sugar cookie dough in my freezer. It makes fantastic non-crumbly cookies when rolled out that everyone loves, including my non-GF friends and family. The ginger molasses dough also makes perfect gingerbread men.
My niece was diagnosed with celiac disease at one year of age and she is now 4 and in preschool. Her mom (my sister) appreciates if other parents choose gluten free snacks, but the teacher always has something on hand for her daughter "just in case". My sister's attitude is that her daughter needs to get used to it - this is her life. Yes, it's not fair, but eating different food and choosing health is going to be her path every day for the rest of her life.
If I was organizing a party, I would probably buy mostly gluten-food because of cost, but make sure there were at least some gluten free options. That way the entire spread isn't off limits.
As a mom with a household of people that can't have dairy, eggs, gluten, and corn I too often create allergy free environments for my family whenever possible. Holiday gatherings, school parties, you name it.
For sugar cookies I use Only Sometimes Clever's blog as a resource and this sugar cookie recipe http://onlysometimesclever.wordpress.com/2006/11/15/big-batch-gluten-free-christmassugar-cookie-recipe/ I love it. It makes a ton of cookies and I generally bake about half of it and then use a cookie scoop to make balls of dough to freeze. Then anytime we need cookies I have ready bake dough in the freezer that is safe for everyone.
Good luck and hope that helps!
PS and for the record I don't think there is any abuse of power in exposing kids to healthier food. 🙂