Is it me or does it seem like food restrictions for your kids are in fashion?
Everyone can’t eat, doesn’t eat or won’t let their kids eat something, right? This isn’t criticism of those with no-kidding food allergies, but the fact that everyone seems to have jumped on the something-free bandwagon makes navigating parts of everyday life difficult — like when your kid wants to play with my kid and they, gasp, want to enjoy a snack together.
The fact that so many moms out there are raising the “intolerance to this or that” flag is starting to make playdates a chore. And no, a belly ache when your kid eats seven pieces of toast and gluten intolerance are not the same thing. We survived the seventies guzzling red Kool-Aid and Oreos so ease up, moms.
My son recently had a playdate with a girl from his preschool class. Since our kids hit it off, her mom and I engaged in some polite chitchat and stalked each other on Facebook. We each determined the other was reasonably normal and negotiated a date and time for Lucy to come to our house to play. Friendship is a lot of work sometimes.
The kids made a beeline for the playroom while Mom tried to be inconspicuous about checking out my housekeeping and decorating skills. No judgment; I’d do the same. My home was reasonably clean with no visible safety hazards so my new potential mom BFF felt secure enough to say:
“I’m just going to run to the grocery store to grab a few things. I’ll be back at 2:00… is that OK?”
“No prob,” I smiled in what I hoped was a winning, friendly way. “They can just play until they’re ready for a snack.” As an afterthought, I asked, “Is Lucy allergic to anything?” Peanut allergies are a hot-button topic at our school and anaphylactic shock wasn’t gonna happen on my watch.
Her brow furrowed. “Didn’t I give you the list?” She shuffled around in her handbag and fished out a typewritten list with “Lucy’s Food Restrictions” in block letters, perfectly centered at the top.
Red food dye, wheat products, milk products, refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, sodium…
“Oh, wow, lots of food allergies. Can she have fruit?”
“No allergies… we’re just very particular about what we put into our bodies.” She might as well have said, “And I can see you aren’t,” as her judgy little eyes honed in on the box of Pop-Tarts sitting on my counter. I think I saw her cringe.
My smile was a just a little more forced: “Apples?”
“Organic?” she wasn’t smiling.
“Uh…” I was stumped and flustered. I buy organic whenever I can, but I’m not religious about it. Sometimes my husband does the shopping and despite my lectures about pesticides, he buys what’s cheapest.
The promise of a new friend was dying. Her lips puckered as if she’d just tasted something sour — like a genetically enhanced lemon — and her eyes darted around my kitchen to see if she could spot any more offensive foodstuffs. I’m sure only the fact that both of our kids would have had nuclear meltdowns if the playdate ended before it got fully underway kept her from grabbing her little angel and escaping.
“Maybe just skip the snack?”
The woman who would never be my friend left. When she kissed her daughter goodbye, she not-so-discreetly whispered, “Don’t eat any of their food.”
The kids had a great time playing and thankfully didn’t ask for snacks. Mom showed up 45 minutes early and I was half expecting her to check her kid’s tongue for Cheetos residue.
Here’s the thing:
My house, my food. Does your kid have allergies? That’s a game changer: I don’t want hives, rashes or the shits on my conscience because of something I fed your kid. Barring that, let it go or stay home.
I appreciate clean eating, gluten free, nitrate free… whatever. I get it. I don’t love the after effects of a playdate where my kids scarfed down Skittles with a Coke chaser, but I make sure they brush their teeth and suck up the sugar high. Playdates are special occasions.
Loosen up and let your kid have a cookie. Unless there’s a medical reason, don’t make me the asshole who tells your hungry kid he can’t have a snack… and don’t inconvenience me by asking me to keep track of/prepare/assemble a special snack that’s only for your kid. Let him learn early about what it means to be a good guest and keep your food restrictions at home unless drinking a Capri Sun is going to have serious health repercussions.
My kitchen, my rules. If you can’t live with that, our kids’ friendship is destined to be confined to the playground.