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!!