I love to eat out. Eating out will never be the same experience, however, unless SG grows out of her food allergies. We still do it, but now jump through hoops to keep her safe. Of course, we gladly do it. But it STRESSES ME OUT!
If you ever see me at a restaurant, I might look CRAZY to you. I feel a little crazy. I immediately cover her high chair with her cover (Yes, she’s 28 months old and I’ll continue to use her cover until she’s old enough to sit in a booster seat. She’s not there yet.) I wipe down the entire table with a baby wipe- sometimes two or three times. I air dry the table with my hand. (I won’t use a napkin from the restaurant. What if someone had dairy/cheesy hands or residue while rolling the silverware in napkins or when dropping off our extra napkins???) I immediately stick the little plastic placement down for SG to eat off of. We ordered a few hundred of them from amazon.com. I wipe down my hands with a wipe again before handling her food- which I bring from home. I carefully set out her little meal before her. I warn her to keep her hands on the table. She’s so sensitive that if there’s cheese caked somewhere on the high chair underneath the cover and she touches it that she’ll break out in hives. I, of course, try to pick the cleanest looking high chair.
Then I sit back and try to maintain some semblance of sanity and not worry if SG is going to be okay and safe. Try. I usually warn the server of her food allergies. No, we’re not cheap! I’d LOVE to order her anything off the menu, actually. I don’t care about the price. However, this is our reality if we want to eat out somewhere. It’s almost not worth it because I stay on high alert while I bug the Huzz and he sits back and relaxes. Doesn’t this all sound relaxing to you???
When my food comes, I feel like I inhale it all without breathing. I want to finish quickly so I can go wash my hands and wipe my mouth and not be contaminated. And if you know me, I’m a SLOW eater. Like super slow.
SG hasn’t yet figured out that when we eat out, she’s eating food from home. She’s too young to know the difference. There is an option for us, though- Chick-fil-A! Our local Chick-fil-A (CFA) knows us and our special orders. Did you know the grilled nuggets are dairy and egg free? And they are grilled on their own special grill? Nothing else is grilled there. Yay! Their french fries are fried in their own space- nothing else is fried there. Yay! Their lemonade is safe and yummy! Yay! (I do wipe the cup down). SG gets to have grilled nuggets, french fries, and lemonade from CFA. I request the food to be “red flagged for a glove change for a food allergy.” My CFA is very accommodating.
We recently ate at a restaurant, just me and SG. I didn’t have her lunch planned (my bad!) so I ordered her CFA to go and she ate it at another restaurant. A cop was dining there and as he passed our table said, “I remember those days with my kids- where they only want french fries and you have to bring it with you.” He said it with a smile. I almost blurted out “My child has food allergies and I have to do this. I wish she could eat anything she wanted from any restaurant!” Instead, I just savored the moment of feeling normal, smiled and said something like, “Yeah, she loves Chick-fil-A.”
After writing all of this down, I’m wondering why we even bother eating out. And sadly, I can tell you. It’s my lack of planning. Even though I have a good collection of safe recipes, I’m hit or miss. I’m either little Holly Homemaker for a week or falling apart at the seams at dinnertime. Sound familiar? Please tell me I’m not the only one. Food allergies or not- meal planning and FOLLOWING THROUGH with the plan takes effort and energy!
Eating out: How do you do it if you have food allergies in your family? Do you cook all the time? Do you venture out as a family? Have you found safe restaurants? Or do you avoid them like the plague? I feel a little better now after telling the world why I look and act like I do in restaurants. It’s not because I want to- it’s because it’s a small price to pay to keep my precious child safe.