You're having a first birthday party for your child. You've got the bounce house filled with kids in the back yard, the pizza's about to be delivered and old friends are chatting about the other first birthday parties they've attended at your house.
But we all know what the main event is. Because when a baby turns one, he gets to have cake. And there is nothing quite like watching that first tentative taste - followed by the head-first dive into all that deliciousness.
The frosting flies. Fistfuls of cake are shoved into the mouth. It's a full-body wonderful mess.
Good stuff, isn't it?
But when your kid has food sensitivities, it's not so simple.
When Sawyer turned one, I made this dairy-soy-wheat-egg free "cake" for his birthday. It was the size of a large pancake and weighed about 10 pounds. No joke. And the "frosting" was basically melted sugar.
Poor little guy.
Yes, I know HE wouldn't have known whether he had cake at his party. But I would.
Things have changed in six years. Manufacturers finally realized they had a big consumer base for gluten-free stuff. And that a lot of kids have issues with soy and dairy (adults, too).
So I figured it wouldn't be that tough to find a cake mix for X's birthday party yesterday.
I was wrong.
If they were gluten-free, they contained dairy or soy or needed eggs. Or the substitutions they recommended were nowhere to be found at the stores near me.
Which is why two hours before the party, I still had no cake for him. I'd dispatched David to our nearest Whole Foods (which was 20 minutes away) because, thanks to my friend Joya, I'd heard they might have exactly what I needed.
And they did. David picked up a box of chocolate cake mix and vanilla frosting from Cherrybrook Kitchen. Finally! A mix that was like a regular cake mix - easy to use for someone who is so NOT Julia Child. All I had to add was oil and water and vanilla extract. Fifteen minutes later, I had a dozen chocolate cupcakes.
The frosting mix called for butter, and luckily, Whole Foods had a dairy and soy-free substitute. I mixed it up and frosted them - 10 minutes before guests were to arrive.
X spent the party walking around and trying to grab all the balloons. He ate a dinner of blueberries and tortilla chips. He said "aw bun" when I asked if he was done - the first two-word phrase he's ever uttered.
It got better, though. Because, finally, it was time for cake. And I had just the thing.
We put candles on the "regular" cupcake cake for X to stare at while we sung Happy Birthday.
Then I put him in the high chair and presented him with his first-ever cupcake.
He stuck a finger in. He looked at me. He poked it again and then put his finger in his mouth. And there was that little light, that thing that clicks in their baby minds.
That thing that shouts SUGAR!!
Soon he had his fists in the cake and frosting in his hair.
He was happy.
Me, too. I also got to eat one, and you'd be surprised by how good it tasted! Really chocolatey. And even though it's been over a year since I've actually had a cupcake, it didn't skew my taste buds.
So why did it matter so much that X got to eat cake, an event he will never remember?
It's just, when you have a child with food sensitivities or allergy, you want them to have the same rites of passage as everyone else. There are enough things they will do without as they get older - like birthday cake at his friend's parties. I live this with Sawyer and his peanut allergy every day.
No amount of wishing or pretending everything's fine will make it so. Food allergies are extremely serious and there is no worse feeling than giving your child something that makes him suffer - and I definitely didn't want to do that just for a photo op.
I knew this would be safe for him.
So on X's first birthday, no matter what his food journey will be, he got to be like all the other kids.
He got to eat cake.
*Cherrybrook Kitchen did not give me free stuff, nor am I a paid advertiser for their products. However, if they'd ask, I'd be happy to keep talking about their products. They were THAT good and helped a Mommy feel like an okay parent for a day.
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