Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Traveling for the Holidays and Eating Out

On one of my support groups recently there was a discussion about the possibilities of eating out with severe milk allergies. One member reminded us that when we go to restaurants and advocate for our child we are setting an example. Showing them how to manage their own food allergies and that we should continue to make that effort and not be afraid to walk out of a restaurant if we feel uncomfortable with the restaurant's ability to keep our child safe.

And she is right. Yet, I gave up eating out with our kids long ago because I hate the eye-rolling, the impatience, the way I am made to feel as if I am a terrible inconvenience for just asking questions.

Case in point, we were at the St. Louis Zoo the day after Thanksgiving. It was a cold day in Missouri and the zoo was not exactly packed. I stopped at a hot dog stand to get a diet coke. Max was by my side.

"I'm hungry" he said "What do they sell here?"
"Well," I answered "Hot dogs and pretzels."
"Are they safe for me?"
"I'll have to ask. Are you really hungry?"

So I begin to question the cashier. And let me set the scene. It is a cold day. The zoo is not busy. There is NO ONE else in line at this hot dog stand staffed by at least 6 people.

I ask what brand of hot dogs they are. Everyone keeps replying they are all beef hotdogs. I have to repeat myself several times to get the brand name. Farmland. I have never heard of it. I ask to read the label. One of the cashiers runs in the back to get the box. Max asks me about the pretzels. I look down at him and say it is most likely coated with egg or butter so it probably isn't safe.

I look up in time to see the cashier roll his eyes at me. He then turns and says something to the women behind him that I can't make out. They all laugh. Maybe I'm being paranoid but honestly why do people in the service industry think they can be rude to customers.

The other cashier returns with the box. I read the label and order two hot dogs without buns. Max wolfs his down and asks for another. In all he ate two and the half of Owen's he didn't want. He loves situations where he can feel like a normal kid.

And, though this is getting long, here is another example. Last summer we stopped at a hotel on our long vacation drive. We always choose hotels with indoor pools that allow dogs. This one also served breakfast. Traditional breakfasts are not exactly the safest of meals for us. But at this hotel they had out dry cereal in glass jars labeled Frosted Flakes, Fruit Loops and Honey Nut Cherrios. We can eat Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops yet there were only two scoops on the table. Since I (nor would anyone) be able to tell which scoop had been used in which cereal, I went to the kitchen to ask if I could get Max's cereal directly from the box. The lady in the kitchen asked why so I started to explain about cross-contamination. She rolled her eyes, looked away, thrust the bag at me and said "Whatever." Later a woman at the table next to us stopped the lady from the kitchen and asked about my request. They talked in hushed tones and glanced over at me. I felt ashamed. Like I had made an unreasonable request. I know they are small instances and I shouldn't take it so personally but here in lies one of my own weaknesses. I hate conflict.

So, perhaps I should keep trying. For Max and Owen. For them to learn to stand up for themselves which I obviously have a hard time doing. Perhaps it will be a good lesson for me as well.


Nicole said...

I am exactly the way you are. I usually have my husband do the asking at restaurants, but he's not always with me. It's horrible to admit, but there are times I should've been bolder and wasn't. I hate that conflict. I hate being the one who has to make things "difficult". I've never seen servers be so obviously rude as that though. I've always felt they might be doing those things behind my back. For what it's worth, I think both of the things you described could've been reported to a supervisor. Servers should never be allowed to treat customers that way.

Brittany said...


I'm a fairly new allergy mom (diagnosed in the past 6 months).....just getting the hang of things. I have a 15 month old son who is allergic to milk, egg and peanuts. It is a whole new world.....I am glad there are other moms out there for support!

Hope we can keep in touch!


Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

oh, but specifically, you should keep doing this. Max and Owen will watch you deal with the rude people and the nice people, and learn the skills from you. And, if it helps, you can have a slightly too loud conversation with the boys about people who don't understand and how we're nice to them, even if they aren't nice to us.

3 for Me! said...

OK..I should have read THIS post before I commented on your last one.

But your situation sounded a lot like my Taco Bell experience the other day....

It's frustrating!! I've been mentally calling it "Living in a Non-Food allergy world". Some people just DON'T get it!!

I can't imagine them talking behind someone's back if they were in a wheelchair and couldn't reach the scooper to get the cereal out of the bin at the hotel!!

We all HATE being the ones to "be difficult" but we are our child's ADVOCATES... we protect them- keep them away from dangerous food... so we HAVE to ask for ingredient labels/lists and for clean utensils.

Maybe we just need to be more strategically vocal after we deal with rude employees in food service?? Call the managers, supervisors or corporate...

I'm feeling empowered... LOL

Thanks for sharing... it's both comforting and frustrating that there are others going through the same thing.

Mommy Brain said...

A good friend of mine has four kids and all of them have/have had severe food allergies. Her oldest are almost 8 years old (twins) and she said that one thing that has helped them mature and be more responsible than their peers is their allergies. I'm sure this has to do with her setting such a great example. So keep up the good work and know that you're making it easier for the next person to ask about ingredients.

tmgreen said...

It is comforting to know that I am not in this alone and am not the only one that is sometimes not bold enough. Miryam thanks for the reminder that our kids are learning from us.
We must all insist on better customer service!

Becky, Tony, Hudson and Walker said...

My son is allergic to milk, wheat, eggs and peanuts...the only thing that I get for him at restaurants is a baked potato. I usually stay away from even fruit b/c I never know what it has touched or been touched with. I just read your previous post about McDonald's fries, and I thought they did contain husband loves McDonald's and I always feel bad telling my boys that they can't have the fries there...that would be about the only thing they could eat there. When we travel, I try to pack fruit and such and we usually stop and get BK fries. When we go to restaurants, I take fruit and meat and we get a baked potato.

ashley said...

Hi. I stumbled upon your website while hoping to find someone with a voice similar to yours. I am just back from traveling during holidays with a toddler with tons of food allergies, and, am feeling so defensive. I needed someone to relate with, so thank you for your post. Do you live in STL? We just moved from there. Anyway, I have plenty of issues/character flaws, but have never felt so angry and defensive as I have since trying to navigate life with my allergic son. He is only 14 months I have a lot of learning to do bc I know I will continually have situtations like the one you wrote about. My hope is that, since food allergis are on the rise, more people will have a better general understanding of them. So, thanks for you blog. Hang in there and know that you are not alone. Every time you help "educate" someone it helps mamas (and children) like me.

All Adither said...

Oooooh, I got so mad reading your stories. Where's the compassion you ignorant service workers? Blah! One retort I've heard that should put them in their place is, "I'm just doing what his physician instructs in order to keep my child safe."

elisha said...

Thanks for sharing your story. As others have said, it's good to know I'm not alone.

My biggest frustrations right now are the Costco sample people. For some reason, every single one of them feels the need to belittle, roll eyes or say "it's WHOLE grain" etc., when I check the labels for my allergy kids. Give me a break! Whether it's food allergies or not, when did it become acceptable for total strangers to say what my child can eat?!

The worst was a lady serving a vegetable/supplement drink and I just quickly said "it's green tea" to deter my kids and she very snippily said, "It's NOT green tea, it's...."

Anyway... stepping down from soapbox.

I'm sorry that we are all dealing with rude people, but thank goodness we've found sympathetic souls online. :)

China said...

You'll learn to deal with it. My allergy boy is now 10. We've caused "scenes" at Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Pizza Hut, Ruby Tuesdays, etc. We're going to eat out darn it!
BTW, You are the first on my blogroll on my new, latest blog about my allergy boy:

Chef Mom said...

I've felt the exact same way so many times. Thanks for putting it in such eloquent words.

sybil said...

I have read your blog on and off for since last year. My kids have PKU and severe diet restrictions. Not sure if you are near Disneyland or Disneyworld but I hear AWESOME things about them handling food allergies/ special food requests. Also, the PKU community has a cruise just about every year that your family would do well at. People with PKU do not eat any dairy OR nuts. ( meat either but we would not be offended if you brought your own~!! ) I hope this aspect of your family life improves~! Don't give up~!!!
Mom to 2 with PKU

Alicia said...

Thank you so much for blogging. I am in the allergy boat with one son, 9 yrs old, allergic to milk and peanut. He has learned to state his allergy before ordering at restaurants "I have a severe food leave in an ambulance bad." He even does it at restaurants we go to every week! For rude people who don't understand or care, I just make a point to be extremely nice and thank the Good Lord for my loving family. I don't have to live with the miserable people in this world, and my being upset only bothers me, not them! (The therapy finally paid off!) Thanks so much for putting words to many of your fellow allergy mom's feelings!