When Addison was born, I could take her EVERYWHERE.
We would go out to eat and things were easy, because she was used to going everywhere with me. Once she was able to eat, I would order meals that I could share with her. Even if she acted up, compared to now, things were easy.
Brian is an entirely different story.
Since Brian was born early, we limited his time in public places to the bare necessities. Eating out never happened.
After Brian began to show allergies to multiple foods, eating out became even harder. Unlike with Addi, who was happy to sit and eat everything put in front of her, I didn’t have that luxury with Brian. It became more difficult to entertain Brian, especially when he tired of the food I brought for him.
Through my research, I stumbled across tips for eating out with a child who has Eosinophilic Esophagitis. There are some great ideas like:
- Bring your own food – This is a wonderful option and one I have done numerous times, but isn’t the whole point of eating out so I do not have to cook? Plus, I either have to cook the food well ahead of time, in order to be prepared, or ask the kitchen to heat the food for me. The latter is easy when eating at a restaurant where you know the owner, or visit frequently, but most establishments aren’t always as eager to help. Plus, if your child decides to boycott that type of food for the day, you are stuck (this has happened more times than I can count).
- Call ahead and speak with the manager/chef – Matt and I attended a rehearsal dinner with Brian where there was a set menu. Because we were driving from out of state and going straight from the rehearsal to the dinner, I had to use this route. I called and spoke to the manager at the restaurant, who was helpful beyond belief. I explained the strictness of Brian’s diet (chicken has to be PLAIN and not cooked in any oil, pasta had to be dairy free, soy free and without any oil or seasoning). She immediately spoke to the chef and by the time we arrived, she had a special dinner ready for Brian. This all worked out great, but it helped because there was a plan. It is harder to take this option when just out and about and you decide to stop for something to eat. In those cases, I have given very strict instructions to the waitress, but that doesn’t always mean everything will be okay.
- Do not eat out – Sadly, this is the story of our lives. We very rarely take Brian out to eat with us, because 1. He is not used to being at a restaurant and becomes restless easily, meaning I am more preoccupied with keeping him quiet than enjoying myself, and 2. No matter how hard I plan or all the precautions I take, sometimes things go wrong.
Today is a perfect example.
I always have snacks with me for Brian to eat. Today, he let it be known he was tired of said snacks and said, “No” to every suggestion I gave him. I always look at the kids menu first and put an order in for Brian immediately, so as to keep him entertained. Today was not any different, and I quickly examined the kid’s menu for a possible option. Usually my go to is plain pasta. This was not on the menu, so I asked the waitress about the grilled chicken. I told her that chicken needed to be plain without any oils or seasonings. I asked if the fries were cooked in soybean oil, olive oil or vegetable oil, and she said no, which made them an option. She put the order in and Brian was served well before the rest of us.
I’m sure the other mothers out there are familiar with how a mom eats. I have been teased when eating and asked if I even tasted my food. I do not want to ruin the experience for anyone else, so I make sure my attention is focused on Brian and keeping him quiet and entertained.
He was doing pretty well, and devoured his chicken and fries.
It was not until I was almost finished eating that I noticed the first signs. Brian was having a reaction.
Sometimes it starts out so small, you just might miss it, but sadly, I have it engrained in me to watch for it now.
At first it was a tiny red spot near the corner of his mouth. To most it would look like a scratch. Before long, it spread to the area under his mouth. Tiny, red hives now surrounded his mouth. I took the food away from him and made sure he drank a lot of water to help counter any initial effects.
Thankfully, this was not bad. I honestly do not feel that there was anything wrong with the meal he was served. The waitress was very apologetic and said she told the cook to clean everything and keep it safe. The reality is that this is not possible in a restaurant. Even if they try their hardest, there is still a chance of cross-contamination, and I really believe that is what happened. It has happened before, and if we plan on eating out anymore, it most likely will happen again.
Although a dose of Benadryl has removed any visible sign, I know this is not the end of the reaction. There is still a chance Brian will react in other ways over the next few hours. For now, I will mark down in my notebook what he has eaten and make note of the reaction. The hardest part is not being able to identify the exact trigger.
I wish I could put Brian in a bubble and keep him safe from any trigger. Instead, I continue to try my hardest and kick myself when the best intentions go astray.
My only hope is someday Brian and I will be able to enjoy a meal in a restaurant together.