We knew the dinner could be disastrous, but we had to start somewhere and it was best to start in our own home. I called Adam to the table as I brought the box into the house. Once he was up in his seat I opened the lid, making sure he was quite a distance away.
"Adam, this is pizza. Pizza is DANGER for Adam. It will make you sick." Adam just looked at me.
"Yes. Pizza is DANGER. DO NOT TOUCH! DO NOT EAT!" All three older children have an allergy to dairy or intolerance to lactose. Owen, 4, already understood. Although before his diagnosis, pizza used to be one of his favorite foods, even if it made him sick. Thankfully, tonight he was okay. Jason and I actually told Owen that if he wanted to try a piece he could, but it would probably make him sick. We haven't tested out his minor dairy allergy in about 6 months, so we figured this would be a good trial for him if he started to melt down about not being able to eat it.
To our surprise he helped in making sure that Adam didn't touch the pizza and refused it himself. He kept telling Adam how dangerous it was and how it would make him sick. Owen explained to Adam that it was okay for Mommy and Daddy to eat the pizza because they don't get sick. I was so impressed with my little learner/teacher.
Adam wanted the pizza box lid up the entire time so he could stare at the pizza. He licked his lips over and over, desperately wanting a bite. At times he would call it pasta. I guess it does look like pasta in a way. Both dishes have the same coloring. Adam is our Italian boy.
There were moments when I had to pull his hands back, so he wouldn't touch the cheese. It was then that we realized it would be very difficult to keep Adam safe. Even though he was sick for the first year of his life and then some afterwards, he doesn't understand what food does to him. This process of teaching him what he can and can not eat is going to take YEARS!
After dinner I was determined to find an alternative for the boys. Owen was missing out on one of the very few foods he will eat. You could tell Adam wanted desperately to eat pizza too. Finally I came across a cheese that could possibly work. Ingredients included pea protein and tapioca OR arrow root flour. I wasn't sure how Adam would respond to those, but we'd just have to see.
At 2:30 PM this afternoon Jason started clearing the kitchen so I could make homemade pizza dough. It had been YEARS since we had done that. Owen asked what Mommy was doing. I explained that I had found a way to make a pizza that would be safe for everyone. I continued to tell him that once the kitchen counter was clear I would start making it. The pizza would be ready to eat at dinner.
The process of making the dough and kneading it brought back so many wonderful memories of years past. The scent of the yeast filled the house. Jason and I reminisced about times past. Excitement filled my entire being thinking that we would all be able to eat pizza as a family regularly. Owen was so happy. Adam begged and begged for the pizza as I was preparing the dough. Strangely Lydia didn't fuss tonight while I was making dinner. It was all too good to be true.
It really was. As the freshly baked pizza came out of the oven I cut it into pieces and distributed them on the kids' plates. Carefully I cut up Lydia and Adam's slices into bite size pieces. Owen wanted his whole. The moment was here. It was time for everyone to sit down.
The minute Owen looked at his pizza he started to whine. Adam tried taking a bite. Jason and I believe that perhaps the pizza was still too hot, although I find that hard to believe. I had put each piece in the freezer to cool down. No matter what the problem was Adam spit the pizza out and started to cry. By this time Owen was screaming.
"It has cheese on it! I don't want cheese on it!" Calmly I tried to explain to Owen that pizza does have cheese on it. He couldn't grasp it. I took a knife and scraped the cheese off. Owen was still not satisfied. He continued to scream. Jason and I tried all that we could to calm him down. Finally, we took him to his room, where he continued to scream for 30 minutes. Adam threw his plate across the table begging for "Pops." Lydia actually did take a few bites, but didn't finish her slice.
I was about ready to cry. So many emotions were running through me at that moment. If it hadn't been for the memories and happy times the smells of the kitchen evoked... If Owen hadn't been so excited for me to make pizza he could eat... If I hadn't just spent over $10 trying to make a pizza that the kids could eat. I had just spent an entire afternoon in the kitchen, and for what? The sound of screaming children.
Once I had my own emotions under control I was ready to go up to Owen's room and talk to him. Owen has these expectations in his head about how things should be ALL the time. When something doesn't go as planned he loses it. When I say lose it, I mean LOSE it. He screams. The look in his eyes is as a mad man. His whole body shakes.
Jason and I had talked about what had happened. I didn't have time to make another pizza tonight. Honestly, I'm not sure how one would turn out without cheese, or if it would be what he expected. All I knew was that Owen's tantrum had come from his unmet expectations, not my slaving in the kitchen all afternoon to make a pizza.
Owen still needed to eat. I couldn't imagine how crushed he was about his pizza. He had been waiting for it for hours. I pulled out Lucky Charms I was storing, waiting for his birthday and some Finding Nemo Fruit Snacks I had just purchased to hand out to his class for his birthday at school this week. With the food in hand I went and talked to Owen. Thankfully he was able to move on and get past his pizza.
He LOVED his dinner of Lucky Charms and fruit snacks, although afterwards he said he didn't like the fruit snacks.
Lydia tried some fruit snacks and loved them. Feeling bad for Adam, since he can't eat them, I pulled out miniature marshmallows. They are one of Adam's favorite treats. He ate Corn Pops and marshmallows for dinner.
As Owen was eating his Lucky Charms I realized a difference between the cheese on his pizza and the real cheese on my pizza. His cheese had melted, but not all the way. You could still see each and every strand of cheese. That's the way it goes with non-dairy cheese. On Jason and my pizza, the cheese had completely melted with no lines. I had the idea to ask Owen if our pizza had cheese on it. He replied,
"No." It wasn't the actual cheese itself that bothered him, it was the presentation of it. So much for pizza in this house. You've gotta love typical Asberger Syndrome behaviors!
My reason for writing about this on this blog...
I feel this experience definitely encompasses why Fun Without Food is so important. With every child that has special dietary needs, food tends to bring out behaviors that we'd rather not see, especially in public. It can be just plain dangerous. More than anything having food around is not fun for the parent who plays life guard or referee.
Pizza will definitely not be in the house for a long time. I prefer to be happy.