Originally Posted on Gluten Free UAE in May 2013
Birthday Party. Just that bit alone right there is enough to make many parents take a big deep breath.
Birthday parties are supposed to be fun and enjoyable for all, but for the parent of a child with a special dietary need it can be a hugely stressful event.
Just as every Celiac (intolerant / allergic) child is different, so is every parent of a Celiac child.
While some parents are happy with a host preparing food for their child, others are not, others again cant be. Because no matter how hard a host may try, the child will almost certainly get sick.
I get many people approach me to ask what they should feed a gluten free guest at a party, and my reply is always the same, ASK them, ASK the mother. Because what is right for me and my child, may not be right for someone else.
My own child is hyper sensitive, so for someone to feed her would be an absolute no go. I will make her food thank you very much, less stress on the host and less stress for me, and above all, SAFE for my child. People sometimes get offended when you don’t want them to cater to your child, but lets remember here, that as little as a part of one stray crumb can cause a reaction, thats as little as a speck of gluten stuck in a chopping board. A tiny speck not because your chopping board is dirty, but because its been used for gluten foods. We all have to remember here that this is not about being polite, its about being safe. So yes, Im happy to give brands of gluten free sweets for a goodie bag or list gluten free ice cream brands and drinks, but the food, thats my department and I wont have it any other way.
Off course, this means that every party we go to, I have to replicate all the party food best as I can. If the other kids are having mini burgers, pizza and chocolate cake, so will mine! Lots of work on my part, but I will gladly do it to have my child not feel left out.
There are parties and there are parties. I used to love going to birthday parties in someones home. Sit and chill with the other adults while the kids play. Those parties now look very very different. There is often a buffet set up with food, which means children and adults are all helping themselves throughout, often running around with a biscuit in their hand. Its a total gluten horror scene when you are the parent of a small gluten free kid. I often find myself stalking my child with my packet of hand wipes making sure she doesn’t put her fingers in her mouth. Over reaction? I challenge anyone who thinks so to spend 5 days with my daughter after she is contaminated.
Much better now the play area parties, the kids play for an hour or 2, no food in sight, then they all sit nicely and eat before going home. Easy to control.
What about the gluten free childs own birthday? We have had 3 now, and all were great, a learning curve for me and also goes to show that even the parent of a hyper sensitive celiac can learn to relax if only just a little 🙂
Party number 1.
We were just over a month in to our diagnosis and Celiac kid was turning two. I was still very much learning the ropes but I had made the house a gluten free zone. I was not yet the expert gluten free baker / cook that I am today and I was very very worried about getting things right while keeping her safe.
I ended up having a small birthday breakfast, the only people invited were 4 close mum friends (and their kids) who ‘got it’ and who were all super supportive. I made fruit salad, coffee & tea, had biscuits and crackers available, and for the cakes I did a chocolate fudge cake (Swedish kladdkaka) and an ice cream cake. The party was a success and as the setting was small and intimate in a gluten free environment we were all able to relax.
Party number 2.
After just over a year of being diagnosed we were ready to take on the bigger party in a gluten environment. I went with the easier option and we went to a play area. The other kids ate gluten foods and my kid ate her food, then they all ate a gorgeous gluten free chocolate cupcake with pink icing and princess decorations. I went with cup cakes because I was nervous about the blowing out the candles part of the party with so many young kids, the kids often help to blow and cant help themselves but may also touch the cake possibly contaminating it with gluten. Cup cakes made me relax because I was able to give birthday girl a fresh cup cake when serving with no risk of contamination. None of the gluten eaters even realised they were eating gluten free so all in all a success again.
Party number 3.
This is actually not Celiac kids birthday party but big brothers. He wanted to have a party at home, and with us being gluten free it was off course a gluten free party. Gluten free food is expensive, and hard work doing it all yourself when you cant get anything catered! With some imagination it all worked out. We did chicken drum sticks, crudites and chips and dips and a pasta salad. Then big brother wanted cup cakes because thats what his sister had had. A very successful party and the first time I catered to many people gluten free in my home. It was so nice watching my kids play at a party and just be ‘normal‘. No hand wipes in sight!
Party number 4.
We are experts by now. Celiac kid wants a BIG party. So its off to a play area again, to much stress doing all the food myself again. My daughter wanted just one thing this year, to have a party, a BIG party, and to eat her cake. So I put my big brave pants on and ordered a cake from skinny genie. We are not easy to bake for as we always aim for 0 gluten, but skinny genie did a great job, no food colourings, no artificial flavours no ingredients that may have come in to contact with any gluten at any point during the manufacturing process. They even managed to make it pink, and with chocolate. When my daughter saw the cake she gasped and said, ‘Mummy, is it mine? Can I eat it?’ She was so so exited. She didn’t stop smiling for over 2 hours, then ate 2 huge pieces of cake. I fought hard to blink back tears.
As parents all we want is for our children to be safe and happy. It IS possible to make sure they are both, at the same time, although sometimes it takes some extra work. Im exited to add more parties to our list in the years to come. Please keep inviting the food intolerant / allergic / celiac kids to your homes, talk to the mums, we are happy to help.
Cake by skinny genie Dubai,
tel 04 33 888 98
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I completely agree with you. BIrthday parties are just not the same anymore. The ones my daughter goes to inevitably serve pizza and cake…which of course she can none of. I try my best to provide her with something similar so that she doesn’t feel left out.
We will be having her very first birthday in September since her diagnosis. She will be turning nine, and I think I will keep it small, everything will be gluten free and it will be in our home. Her sensitivity is still somewhat unknown to us, which I think is a good thing. She doesn’t seem to have any reactions to slight contamination or maybe we just haven’t had any (though I find that hard to believe).
I love your advice about making sure to keep inviting these kids, because us moms will make the process easy, and it would be so sad if they were alienated further!