This week has been all about Easter. It has been full, full of seeing friends and family, people we don’t see nearly often enough as life inevitably gets in the way but that we enjoy so so much when we do. Relaxed trips to the park, soaking up the long weekend with the Mr at home and then enjoying lazy mornings with no school run where we can eat our breakfast in our pyjamas whilst we wave Daddy off to work. It is a lovely time of year, of family time, of fun, about celebrating the spring, the new adventures and now since E started school it is also about having these two lovely weeks to spend with her at home. And of course chocolate. Because what is Easter without chocolate…..right? It’s like Christmas without presents, Birthdays without cake, Valentines without love. Chocolate of all shapes, sizes and varieties adorn shelves everywhere in the weeks (sometimes months) leading to Easter and is what 99% of Easter activities are geared towards. And why not? It has become synonymous with this time of year and what is the harm? It’s all about balance after all.
Well. Except when you have a child with food allergies. Then it becomes a time of overcompensating for the difference they feel, of trying your hardest to make them know it’s ok and that there is more to Easter – to life – than chocolate. Yeah, a pretty tricky concept at 5 years old when all your friends are talking about is how many eggs they got and which one’s are their favourite when out on an egg hunt. Why they should miss out on all the activities that are geared so heavily towards the creamy stuff because you don’t want them to feel a sense of loss and that it’s easier to avoid such situations than watch them explain to every single person that offers them chocolate that they can’t have it with a look and responsibility far beyond their years.
E is allergic to milk (and eggs, and pineapple – and trees, grass, dust, baby wipes and suncream whilst we’re at it, but that’s another post entirely!) I can’t help but feel a sense of sorrow for her. That somehow she has lost some freedom, a sense of childhood recklessness and innocence. She doesn’t know any different of course and has had these allergies since she was born but her life definitely doesn’t come without sacrifice. We are lucky in that her reaction is not severe as such, especially with the milk, but it still needs to be avoided completely and that comes at a cost to her. A big responsibility on her little shoulders. She is the most mature Little Lady and has always been that way, who knows if these experiences have contributed to that but I guess she has to be and as a mother I almost want to shelter her, to help her live in a world she feels safe and comfortable. It is my job to equip her with the tools and confidence to be different and to be ok with that.
So times like this are tricky, Easter, Christmas, Birthdays and even every day when you are in your first year of school. School lunches, events, parties and play dates with new friends all come with explanations. She has to be the one to plan, we do, to be the one that is sought out in a room full of children and pointed to what she can and can’t eat; or stand there lost when it has been forgotten and she doesn’t know what to do. I could cry tears every single time that happens and I am almost never without emergency supplies in my handbag. Recently we went to a school “Chocolate Bingo” night, I have to admit I hadn’t heard of it before but apparently it is a thing! I had a lengthy discussion with E about why she wanted to go and that she wouldn’t be able to eat anything on offer however she was adamant that she didn’t want to miss out as all of her friends would be there. I didn’t want her to have to miss out either. So we went, together. Thankfully we didn’t win any of the prizes containing what seemed to be an obscene amount of chocolate however I still sat there and watched her eat the carrot oaty bar and an apple I had brought with me for her whilst everyone around us went in and out of the tuck shop purchasing cakes, biscuits and more chocolate. On the way out, just as I thought it was over, for this day, for now, all the children that didn’t win were offered a small chocolate egg. I know that even at the small village school she attends they can’t be expected to screen everything for her but when she had to say no thank you directly to a teacher when all of the other children were already unwrapping theirs in the playground absolutely broke my heart. I am so so proud of her. Even after all this time, all the events, I still felt a lump in my throat. And as a tired E, past her bedtime and sat in the back of the car on the way home sadly turned to me and said that she wished it wasn’t her, that wasn’t it strange that they know she can’t have it yet they offered, that she didn’t want to have to say no all the time and that one day she hoped she might grow out of it; there it was again, the tears of sorrow for her and the guilt I feel as her mummy.
As we have been on this road for 5 years we have found ways to cope generally, we have found fantastic brands and vegan treats that she loves and that go some way of replacing the usual things that other children receive or even when she is too polite or embarrassed to explain and comes home to “swap” what she has been given or found in a party bag. We have all become super aware of labels and ingredients knowing which seemingly dairy ridden treats actually have never been near a cow – ever looked at the back of a Chocolate Bourbon Cream? – hint, there is no dairy in them! Somehow though it still feels emotional and hard.
At home we obviously manage just fine, on occasions we transfer the focus from food to other things she loves like books and craft. For Easter we had an Easter hunt. There were bright coloured plastic eggs hidden around the house and garden in every nook and cranny; containing rhyming clues for her to read and follow. The excitement just built and built as she deciphered the clues so eager to get to the next and wondering where it would lead. At the end, so excited she is running, that very last clue which leads to the garage, behind the garage door, the old red garage door that needs paining, there, hidden in those two cardboard boxes was a trampoline. A trampoline that she has been asking for for what feels like years. A trampoline that despite having a day away just the Mr and I on a spa day we made a detour to buy, just for her. I don’t know any different but I am positive that the smile on her face when she found that little treasure could not have been any wider, chocolate or not. We try and make times like this about family, re-iterate the importance of time together of doing things and having fun.
For E, she has her favourites, she enjoys dark chocolate and most minted varieties are ok for her. We have our trusty eggless, dairyless cookies that she loves to bake and although I am yet to find a cake recipe that stands up to being an actual sponge she is more than happy to sit with an After Eight. Holding the small square between her fingers and nibling like a mouse, thus getting absolutely covered in sticky dark chocolate and somehow, even now, seems to be physically unable to eat it without a suspicious chocolate ring all around her mouth like she has eaten it in the dark! It is such a small thing, a moment of innocence, and it makes me smile, which in turn makes her smile, a smile that reveals the chocolate covered teeth that in turn makes me laugh too – laugh and hold a tissue to hand so as to not stain everywhere that is!!
I do worry that it will become trickier as her sister grows up. So far she doesn’t seem to have any allergies at all and although at 14 months hasn’t had chocolate yet, as she grows up there won’t be any need to stop her. How do you deal with that? How do I make them both feel equally as valued, as individuals and also relate to each other, to explain to R that she can’t share with E and still hope that they are as close as they are today. That every Easter can be like this one, no worries, no divide, just sisters. Maybe even sisters that have chocolate covered mouths together, be that After Eight or Dairy Milk.
Here are some photo’s I took over Easter of my Little Ladies, E looks so excited and I do love the little moments they capture, and the fact they are still young enough to get away with cute bunny ears!
Linking with the lovely Katie over at Mummy Daddy Me for her “The Ordinary Moments”