We’re in the drive-thru line for McDonald’s again. “Hi, I’d like a four piece chicken nugget happy meal with white milk and no sauce and a large unsweetened iced tea.” Again. When we pull up to the window, the kid who takes my credit card compliments me on my sunglasses. He likes them, but he asks where my blue glasses are.
My McDonald’s guy sees me so often, he knows what color my eyewear is. That’s a really embarrassing thing to admit over the Internet.
I really wish that we didn’t go to McDonald’s as often as we do, but for $4.00 I can feed Eva protein and fruit and calcium that I’m 98% sure won’t kill her with a trace of nuts. Sure, I’m also feeding her fat and salt and reinforcing a deep love of fast food and basically I’m what’s wrong with kids in America, but it’s a four minute, four dollar solution to the constant exhausting problem of trying to feed a kid with allergies.
I am not the poster mom for winning at food allergies. I try, but realistically I don’t get home made bread baked every week and we can’t afford the expensive nut-allergy-safe brands all the time so chicken nuggets happen instead of sandwiches a lot. It’s also a better day all around when we don’t have the food battles. Eva doesn’t understand the emotional weight of “I spent four hours baking bread and whipped together this homemade mayo and bought the expensive meats and cheeses that won’t kill you with trace particles of nuts so EAT YOUR SANDWICH” exhaustion. She just thinks I’m a crazy person who puts her in time out over turkey for no reason.
I think there’s the occasional assumption that we are a nut-free family by choice, like it’s a lifestyle decision we made to set ourselves apart. Going nut-free overnight like we did when Eva was diagnosed with food allergies doesn’t mean that you fill your house with fresh produce and gourmet brands. It doesn’t mean you whip out the cookbook every night and serve restaurant-worthy substitutes to make up for not being able to eat out at restaurants. It definitely doesn’t mean that your toddler will become a micro-foodie who picks up on the joy that is grilled chicken and roasted carrots.
Well, it didn’t for us anyway. It meant the list of foods that we could afford and the list of foods that wouldn’t kill Eva and the list of foods that Eva would actually eat got together and duked it out and at the end of it all we had this stubby little list of stuff that was left over. It’s a fine list with most of the basics (produce, raw meats, rice, beans, eggs, milk, etc.) and I’m insanely grateful that we aren’t staring a milk, wheat, corn, or soy allergy in the face because you wouldn’t believe how many staples that knocks out. Still, the list is boring and Eva gets tired of it and then it’s all a battle because I can’t afford the expensive kid-themed nut-free products at Whole Foods.
So, McNuggets in the car. Never in the restaurant, where the peanuts from the hot fudge sundaes might be rolling around in the PlayPlace that Eva isn’t allowed to play on. Just nuggets in the drive-thru while Mom enjoys a large iced tea and a small prayer that the drive-thru window guy doesn’t think too badly of me because he sees me so often. And even if he does…c’est la vie. Today she’s eating. Today she’s not having an allergic reaction. And maybe tomorrow I’ll make bread or she’ll eat the roasted carrots or she’ll wake up and the allergies will have disappeared overnight and I’ll make PB&J sandwiches on store bread for her lunch every day. A mom can dream.
Disclaimer: We’ve decided that McDonald’s is a reasonable risk for our family, but be aware that the restaurant does serve and handle nut products. If you are dealing with a food allergy, always educate yourself about contamination risks and be prepared for an emergency before you eat at McDonald’s or any other restaurant.