The One Where I Play Helicopter Mom

Lorelai at her skinniest

Our family has been gluten free for 4 years—you’ll notice that is the age of my youngest daughter. She was diagnosed with celiac disease as a baby—a very sick, very tiny baby. At 9 months old, Lorelai weighed in at 14 pounds. That tends to make a momma coddle a child, just a bit.

It’s always been a struggle, even now when she is growing (nonstop) & healthy, to remember she isn’t a teeny, tiny baby who needs me to tend to her every need—but I try. I may live in the middle of a helipad, but I am no helicopter mom. However, I’ve still managed to shelter her just a bit.

I didn’t mean to do it.

It was just easier to keep her with me than leave her with people who weren’t familiar with her dietary requirements. It was easier for me to provide every meal than worry that our parents would forget to read labels. It was easier if I did things myself than to teach the hubby everything I was learning.

Lorelai's 1st day of School

Lorelai's 1st day of School

Earlier this week, she went to preschool for the first time. The girls’ school was very carefully selected with their dietary needs in mind. There is no kitchen so packing a lunch is required by all & doesn’t leave them feeling left out. The directress is gluten free, as is the son of two teachers, including Lorelai’s new teacher. I have always been confident that gluten would not be an issue at this school.


Until Tuesday at pickup, when Lorelai told me all about the pretzels she had for snack.

I immediately called the school to verify they were gluten free—we eat pretzels all the time, but this would be new to the school. As it turned out, I was right to panic. A new teacher was supervising dismissal & gave all the kids a couple pretzels. Lorelai ate two, but the amount of gluten doesn’t matter in our case. All week, I’ve had a very sick, completely out-of-control child on my hands.

So, how is this a Mom Fail? I’m not exactly taking the blame as the school should have been on top of it (Side Note: They’re extremely apologetic, worried about Lorelai & have verified that all staff members now know of her needs.). However, Lorelai didn’t know to ask! She hasn’t been taught to be an advocate for herself.

Because I always do it for her.

Since then, we’ve been practicing “Does this have gluten?”—I should have worked on it before school. I should have taught her to ask about her food allergies before eating something. I should have equipped her to manage her own health. I should have been preparing her for life outside of our bubble. But I didn’t.

And that’s on me.

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Article by justheather

Heather Sokol is the married mother of 4 amazing, active children. They have created in her a Sports Mom, Scout Mom, Allergy Mom & avid coupon clipper. Is that miscellaneous enough for you? She shares her deals & tips at Inexpensively.com and reports progress on learning to be a grownup at JustHeather.com. justheather tagged this post with: , , Read 91 articles by
4 Comments Post a Comment
  1. DorianTB says:

    Heather, I totally sympathize with you, having learned my own lessons about gluten and food allergies the hard way. I’m sorry that Lorelai got so got from the pretzels, but I’m glad that some good came of it as far as helping you and the personnel at Lorelai’s school to be more vigilant while she’s still young. When our daughter Siobhan was a toddler, my well-meaning but forgetful mother gave her a taste of peanut butter while babysitting. Soon we received a frantic phone call from Mom, saying Siobhan’s eyes had swollen shut, and she was hot all over and crying her heart out. Luckily, her throat didn’t swell shut, but the harsh lesson all of us learned has stuck with us since then. My dear mom was super-vigilant about checking for nuts for the rest of her life after that (she died at the age of 82 in December 2009). As soon as Siobhan became old enough to keep track of her own food (in kindergarten), our family made it a point to teach her to read food labels and ask people if whatever she was about to eat contained nuts (she’s allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame), so she could speak for herself when we weren’t around. Now that she’s 13, she’s even more vigilant and responsible about her food allergies.

    As for gluten, Siobhan can handle it, but when I eat it, I immediately feel like I’ve been sucker-punched in the gut. On a trip, I threw caution to the wind and ate wheat pancakes at a restaurant for two days in a row, taking Prilosec to ward off the stomach pains. Bad move! Although my stomach didn’t bother me, the Prilosec was useless against my other gluten-related symptoms, including crushing fatigue, brain fog, and moodiness. I was sick as a dog with a gluten hangover for a week. But now even Siobhan keeps track of my gluten, asking, “Mom, are you sure there’s no gluten in (whatever I’m about to eat)?”

    Sorry to blather away like this, but you really struck a chord with me, Heather! :-) Here’s hoping Lorelai will be back to her happy, healthy self ASAP!

  2. punkinmama says:

    First, don’t be too hard on yourself! You’ve done a great thing in protecting her and now you’re focusing on the right thing which is teaching her to be an advocate for herself!

    It’s doubly hard since she’s had pretzels at home – it wouldn’t have crossed her mind that she shouldn’t have them. Makes it hard when there are substitues, but I, for one, am glad they exist.

    Anyway, just wanted to say you’ve been doing a great job, so don’t beat yourself up. You’re on the right path now in teaching her too!

  3. Kristi says:

    Heather, you are too hard on yourself.
    My child wasn’t until around 6 before he really “got it” and could advocate for himself. Even though he is now 8, I am still a “helicopter” mom, and I make no excuses for it.
    I was recently in charge of snacks for a church function & had several children with allergies. One set of twins were allergic to dairy, so when it was cupcake day, she sent in special cupcakes that were dairy free. Once we were educated on their allergy it really helped bring it to the forefront of our thought process.

    I would suggest sending some gluten-free snacks to keep in the classroom (just in case they are ever needed) and to also use this as an opportunity to help educate your child’s preschool.

  4. You know, sometimes we overlook the obvious when we’re so busy being a Mom. We have all done it.

    I went to a birthday party for a 7 year old last weekend and there were twin boys there that have a severe peanut allergy. They were sweet kids, hams, actually- they were hilarious. And every time food came out, they asked (way more than what was necessary), “Are there peanuts in that?” They asked for the cake, the ice cream… the soda, a cup of water… They were great advocates for themselves, and made jokes about it at the same time :)

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