A friend emailed me recently (along with other friends) with this mothering quandary: What do you do if a child you invited to your kid’s birthday party turns out to have food allergies to a lot of different things, including something in your child’s favorite birthday cake?
To give you brief background, my friend moved over the summer to a new place and invited all of her son’s classmates (he’s in first grade) to his birthday party. Granted, since school has only been in session a month and they are new to the area, she hasn’t gotten to meet all the kids ahead. A week after sending the invites out, one mother called to tell her that her son would be coming and then listed several food allergies and asked that food items with containing the allergens not be served at all. And listed several “preferred” food items that were more acceptable. She said it was hard enough for her child to fit in and she didn’t want him eating “different” food than everyone else.
I feel for the mom who called, I really do. But seriously, I think she was out of line. The fact of the matter is, her child is different, and should hardly start learning as a child that the rest of the world cannot conform to his or her specific needs. By catering to this woman and her child, my friend has also taken away the focus from her son’s celebration, to their wants and needs.
I speak coming from the mindset of a special needs child. I do not ask parents who are having a party at Chuck E. Cheese to move it because my daughter has sensory processing disorder. We just do not attend.
I emailed my friend back and advised her I would call the mother and inform her that for this particular occasion I would not be able to change menu items or provide special food to accommodate her child. She is certainly welcome to attend with her child and bring food that he can eat but if that is not satisfactory then maybe there would be another playdate or time that we could get together when it would be easier to manage her child’s needs. I told my friend that I realize that being new to the area, she wants to meet people and make new friends and be accommodating, but this was clearly above and beyond what the situation warrants.
So, what would YOU do in the same situation?
UPDATE: I just received this update in my inbox:
I called the mother back and suggested again that I could provide some alternate items for her child–as I did in the first conversation–but I would still be offering my original menu in addition. I explained that my child had specifically requested this type of party and these food items and I would be happy to accommodate her in what ways I could but changing the entire menu (and thus theme) was not going to happen. The mother informed me she would not allow her son to attend and “be made to look like a freak show eating different food.” I told her I was sorry she felt that way and that was certainly not my intent, and even offered my sympathies that I knew it could not be easy to deal with those type of things.
I actually had gotten 2 calls from other mothers asking me if this particular woman had called and informed me of her child’s allergies. Both mothers informed me that they had done the same thing that I did and she had reacted in the same way. I feel terrible for the child because as one of the other moms pointed out, he doesn’t really feel different except his mother is making him feel that way by missing out on all the fun.
Thank you for all of your friendly mommy advice. -J