Recently, thanks to a certain baby with a immature tummy, I have reluctantly joined the ranks of the dairy free. Additionally, my entire family is vegetarian. So right about now it feels like I can’t eat a thing unless I have prepared it (or bought it) myself. I’m okay with that. I’m flexible and I don’t mind going without a snack or even a meal because my daughter has a social engagement aka a playdate. Our hostess, I have found, may mind. It actually seems to bother me less than the people around me when I have to abstain from chocolates or sandwiches because milk.
Yes, I just said because milk. Just like I sometimes don’t get excited about the buffet table because meat. Someone else might not be chowing down because wheat. Or because peanuts. Or soy. These days, it seems we all have little – or not so little – dietary peccadilloes that can mean everything from skipping the proffered slice of birthday cake to not eating anything at all.
And that’s fine, whether our choices aren’t really choices at all because they’re dictated by allergies or we just would prefer not to eat anything with a face, thankyouverymuch. As long as we don’t force our families’ dietary restrictions on other people, we can all agree to get along with one another and eat what we want to eat.
So what’s the problem? The problem is that playdates and even making new friends can be a source of stress for moms and kids who have to eat around the rules. Vegans, folks who keep kosher, pescatarians, and the paleo crew all know that I’m talking about. You find yourself wondering how to bring up your eating habits in casual conversation so you don’t have to feel like you’re making a grand announcement when you tell people that no, you don’t eat white flour. Should you clue your fellow moms in before playdates – and if you do, will they feel pressured to make you something special even though you haven’t asked? Or what if you don’t, and they whip out a gorgeous spread of tidbits you can’t touch?
I say keep it simple when planning playdates that will include snacking. Let people know, as simply and as casually as possible, that you don’t eat whatever it is you don’t eat. It’s not at all rude to do so provided you’re not using your explanation as an excuse to launch into your meat is murder speech. You’ll avoid a lot of awkwardness later on by being up front, and you’ll avoid a lot of awkwardness in the moment by doing your best not to make it weird. Dietary restrictions in families are just a fact of life these days. Seriously, don’t make it weird. And if your dietary restrictions are due to an allergy, by all means share the severity.
Like can I eat a PB&J sammie next to you, or will that literally kill you? When I’m planning a playdate, that’s the sort of thing I’d really like to know in advance!