Friday, July 12, 2013

Parties, pizza and cupcakes

Later today, we're heading to a three-year-old's birthday party at a local park! I'm so looking forward to it ... my daughter's first party invitation!

We've actually had it pretty easy so far in terms of social situations and food choices. Most people we know are pretty cool about the fact that we adhere to a certain diet and avoid certain ingredients, and since we haven't actually attended a child's birthday party until now the whole party food dilemma (if you can even call it a dilemma -- it does not have to be one, really) hasn't come up. However, since I know there will be pizza and cupcakes at the party (as specified on the invitation) this is about to change.

My concern is not about my daughter and whether she eats the treats. She will not be eating pizza, and this is not up for debate. Instead, my concern is about how our avoidance of the party food is perceived by the hosts and other people in attendance. Even though I am very strict about the food we bring into our home and I have very strong opinions about what people should and should not eat, I do not expect everyone to share my views and/or follow the same path that I follow. I don't want the fact that I make certain choices to be perceived as judgement or criticism toward others who make different choices and I don't want it to seem like a big deal. Because it is not judgement or criticism and it is not really a big deal. It is just ... us. Nonetheless, I am nervous about it. I want to handle it correctly, with no hurt feelings and without people feeling like having us a party is too much of a hassle. I am confident in the choices I make for our family, but if I am to be honest with myself and everyone reading this I need to admit that it is causing a bit of social anxiety. And not just regarding this specific situation ... I am nervous about how this particular situation carries over into other situations. What I mean is this: I'm OK with treats now and then, as long as said treats pass my personal litmus test (i.e. a homemade cookie might be OK, whereas an Oreo would not be OK). Suppose we turn down treats at a party because we are "paleo," only to be spotted the following day giving our daughter a small dish of ice cream at Salt & Straw? If someone does not know me well and does not know where I stand on the subjects of treats, how will this be perceived?

Anyway, I suspect that my feelings about and approach to the party situation will change over time. As with everything to do with parenting, opinions and perceptions change as we gain experience and get to know our kids better. Who knows, it might even be different by the time this particular party wraps up. For now, though, we've decided to handle it like this: First of all, I will feed her before we leave (if she's hungry). Also, my husband (who is not always paleo; he eats mostly paleo at home but is not always paleo away from home) has agreed to pass on the pizza and cupcakes for her sake. She's more likely to want something if she sees us with it. Finally, we're not going to say anything about it. If/when we're offered food, we'll just politely decline and we won't mention anything about it to our daughter. Unless someone asks, I won't bring the subject up. I am tossing around the idea of making some paleo cupcakes or cookies to take along, but I'm not sure whether this would be appropriate either because of the whole ice cream scenario described above. For us, paleo is a choice that we make because I believe it is the healthiest path. I cannot honestly say "oh, we're gluten intolerant" because even though I personally believe everyone is gluten intolerant to some extent, we have not been diagnosed as such and every now and then we do eat something that has gluten in it. Of course, I am probably overthinking the whole thing. My daughter will probably be too busy playing and enjoying the party to even acknowledge the food!

I'll post an update in a couple of days! Hopefully I'll leave the party with some new ideas on how to approach these scenarios that I can share with everyone. Meanwhile, some parents have shared their views on the topic on my facebook page already ... lots of varied opinions for sure! Please feel free to share your own. Thanks and have a great weekend!!


  1. We too have been dealing with this dilemma. I completely understand your frustration and anxiety surrounding your cupcake/pizza situation. My son has gluten/dairy/soy/corn/grain/chocolate/coffee intolerances which means we are hardcore paleo with 0 wiggle room. I am in fear of the birthday parties so much so that we didn't have one for our son's recent 1st birthday. He got a meatloaf with a candle in it. I wrote about it in my blog about our little paleo baby. How we will handle the situation when we have to go to someone else's party is unknown. I have though about making him his own cupcake but it is just going to have to be a tough conversation most likely. Let us know how the party goes. Good luck.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Tabitha. I love the idea of a birthday meatloaf! I bet he loved it. I'll read your post about son, and I'll update everyone on how the party went soon too. :-)

    2. Birthday meatloaf = pure awesome!

  2. We've been on the birthday party circuit of our closest family friends for five years now and have never eaten the cake. They know us--they know we eat differently than they do. I have different ideas of "moderation" than they do--most "moderation" of cake means one piece a day and for us, it's kind of limited to our own birthdays. Granted, I've become a little lax with the preschool menu choices (they keep serving Puffins as a snack--ugg!), but birthday parties are something I can be more prepared for. For a long while, I did bring a snack for D. that she liked that was not going to steal the show, but not make her feel left-out of foods that people use to celebrate. While you don't want to use the "gluten and egg intolerance" card as easily as we do, it is fair to say that you feel she's too young to have sugar, or grains, or whatever--even if you have them occasionally.

    To return the favour to families, we have opted to have D's birthday celebrations with her child friends not be focused around food. We've been to her favorite big tree for a play date, the apple farm to pick apples, the pumpkin patch, and this year we're considering roller-skating. I bring a snack (real food) for the kids, but I save the cake and sweet-whatever-if-we're-doing thing for her special birthday dinner with our family and closest friends (who already know we're weird-like-that :-)). I do not feel kids should go to 20 birthday parties/year and eat cake with all their buddies and their friend's buddies--in addition to every sugar-laden holiday from Valentine's Day to St. Patrick's Day. Phew. Lots of sugar. I hear you though, it is hard to say no politely sometimes without offending.

    My grandparents are the worst. On top of being hard of hearing, they are constantly asking if the kids want a "(soda) pop." After I politely decline enough, they just serve it up! Once we had a great time stuffing all the sweet treats in our pockets and under her dress. She found it wildly funny and we managed to escape only coated externally in frosting. My grandparents do note how polite and generally mellow my kids are and often comment that I must be doing something right. They do not get the food thing though! They just want to turn on the sweet faucet and let it run right down their throats.

    Good luck! It's okay to decline cake for your child. You're probably not the only one who does not want your child eating cake, even fancy-from-the-expensive-bakery-cake. Sigh. I read a good article recently here about this very thing--keep with it, it gets to the birthday party part at the end, talking about why we ought not passively accept cake and what it tells our children when we do:

    Good luck--it's the start of a long path!

    1. Thank you so much, Jennifer. Your comment is very helpful, validating and reassuring to me. Thank you for the link, too. I will definitely read it right away.

  3. The way I have always dealt with parties with my kids is that I don't worry too much about it. If they eat non-paleo treats at a party, they do...

    I know you don't want your daughter to eat the pizza and cupcakes, and that is what you should stick to at the moment. But I suspect that as she becomes older it won't be quite as cut and dried.
    I work on the theory that once they are teens or even older kids not in their teens, you won't be attending the party with the kids (honestly, not many parents stay once they are 7 or 8 or older, and your daughter won't want you there either!), and at that point you won't be able to decline the offer of the non-paleo stuff.

    At some point she is going to eat things that are not paleo simply because it is offered and because she is curious to try it.

    I would rather my kids ate a few non-paleo treats and worked out for themselves that they are not all that they are made out to be and that most paleo stuff tastes better and doesn't make them feel bad. that way, when I am not there, they can make better choices.

    I guess part of my attitude is that I have older kids - my eldest will be 15 in a few days and my youngest is 9. I can't stop them eating non-paleo foods at that age because they will spend their allowance on it if they want to. so I would rather educate them about healthy food choices and then cross my fingers and hope for the best.

    I figure as long as they are eating paleo and healthy at home, the odd non-paleo candybar, cupcake or pizza won't kill them (there are no food allergies involved here). I guess it is all about balance.

    I am not saying that you should allow your little girl to eat the pizza or the cupcakes, more just giving you the benefit of my experience. Avoid it for now... because you won't be able to once she is older.

    I hope both of you have a fantastic time at the party... little kids parties are the best! It gets much less fun once they get older because they just want to hide away in their bedrooms with their friends and listen to music....

  4. I worked at a children's play facility for several years and helped with hundreds of children's parties. From my experience, so many children have allergies, diet restrictions or alternative diets for numerous reasons that most parents rarely even bat an eye at it. We often had parents bringing in alternative snacks and treats for their child.

  5. Wishing you the best of luck! My kids are 7 and 3 and I wish I'd known more/done things differently when they were younger - their feelings of "entitlement" to party food are firmly entrenched now... But anyway, just wanted to say that is a great resource on this kind of thing - she has mentioned that she always like to bring a treat along to parties, partly so her kids can have something that is safe for them that feels like a treat, and partly to help the host feel relieved about not having to serve something special they can eat.


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