There have been a few times over the course of the past seven and half years of being a parent that I have been completely floored with sadness. The first two times followed the death of my parents when I realized that neither would get to watch my children grow up.
The third was late last week when my daughter told me, “Daddy, my stomach does not hurt anymore.” How did I get to this point?
A few weeks ago my wife and I noticed our daughter would have an odd smell. Not like normal body odor, but really hard to place. I should have known better than to dive deep down into the well that is health information on the internet. Pretty soon you are at the worst case scenario which is almost always a rare terminal disease.
Not so this time. Between some internet research, conversations with a family member, and some good ol’ process of elimination we concluded that our daughter might be lactose intolerant. Without telling her, because a seven year old can be hyper sensitive, we cut out the lactose. In our house this is a major ordeal. We do not eat a lot of meat, but cheese is a constant. Four cheese baked macaroni and cheese is a fall staple. Baked potato soup is one of our daughter’s favorite meals in the whole world.
Within a week the odd smell was gone. Not better. Gone. It also led to the most brutal statement ever from my daughter to me. She said she did not know her stomach was not supposed to hurt because it always felt that way. Wow, I felt like the worst parent ever. Okay, maybe not the worst parent ever but I was completely floored.
I am also amazed at the way a seven year old can police herself better than most adults when it comes to consuming lactose. She has turned down ice cream—thank you summer camp counselor for finding a Popsicle—and tells us when a party might have pizza so we can make sure there is an alternative. Other times she just goes without eating the treat with nary a complaint. On the flip side, it makes me wonder just how much better she feels if this is the level of self-control she is willing to exert.
Food is so basic and woven through so much of our life that eliminating a simple and pervasive component like lactose becomes a challenge and a treasure hunt. Now the trips to the New Pioneer Coop have become exercises in what dairy free items we can find that day. Vegan carrot cake anyone?
The biggest challenge so far? Finding a suitable replacement for Parmesan cheese. My daughter loves Parmesan cheese. For the first few years of her life she referred to it solely as “yummy cheese.” She would eat slivers cut from the block and hoard them at dinner. When someone brought out a canister of Kraft Parmesan cheese she looked at it askance and said, “That’s not yummy cheese.” Please help internet, you’re my only hope.