Monday, September 22, 2014

Beth Hillson Part III: Raising Jeremy Q & A

My final post with Beth Hillson, well, for now anyway, is all about raising her son, Jeremy.  From reading Part II: Following Your Gut, you know how Jeremy came to be diagnosed with celiac disease at 5 yrs. old.  Jeremy is now 27 yrs. old, doing very well for himself and attending graduate school.  

I had an opportunity to ask Beth some questions - I kinda wanted a glimpse into my son's future and living with celiac disease. Of course it's different for everyone, but I was curious, was there a time (teen years) that was more challenging for Jeremy with his gluten-free lifestyle, what about dating, how was his transition to college and more. 

Thank you Beth for answering my questions and being such an inspiration! 

Beth and her son Jeremy in Central Park.

1) Has Jeremy always embraced his gluten-free lifestyle? Do you recall a time when it was more     difficult for him - pre-teen, teen years, etc.  How did you help him through it?


When we had a family gathering, I cooked for three special diets:  gluten free, sugar free, and cholesterol free.  As soon as Jeremy could talk, he started asking every guest who ate in my home if they needed special food.  When he was diagnosed around age 5, it was an easy transition.  It hasn’t always been perfect however.  Part of being a pre-teen is  to take charge of your life.  Unfortunately, you can’t take charge of your health when you have celiac disease.  It takes charge of you.  Often he didn’t want to listen to me when it came to the diet.  And I couldn’t watch him every second.  But I realized early on that you can’t fight about this diet or punish your kids for cheating.  It doesn’t work because ultimately they need to learn to take charge and they need to learn to live this way every day of their lives.  I would not fight about the diet.  Fighting puts a negative spin on this challenging regimen.  I simply said he was a big boy and I trusted him to take care of his diet, to make good choices.  I told him I would be there to help and to prepare or purchase whatever he wanted.  That seemed to work.  I know he worried about getting sick so he took charge and managed well.  Was every day perfect? Not at all.  Just like learning to ride a bike, it doesn’t happen overnight.  But kids have to learn to cope with this.  It’s their health, their lives.

2) As a mother with celiac disease, have you ever felt guilty, thinking, "He got this form me!" 


For sure.  I’ve written quite a bit about mother’s guilt.  In fact, “The Inheritance,” a Gut Reaction in my book talks about this.   But I really try not to look at the negative side of this.  There are lots of much worse things that we could have.  It takes a little effort, but the rewards are delicious gluten free food and good health.  I don’t know of another condition that is treated solely with diet. 

3) I think about Jack being on his own in college, making his meals, dorm food, etc...I know I'll     be nervous - how did you handle this with Jeremy going off to college?


By the time Jack gets to college, the diet will not be an issue at all.  In fact, it is hardly an issue now.  Every college seems to have a gluten free menu.  Some have a separate area where there is a toaster and freezer stocked with gluten-free products. The key is to find out the system at the college your child chooses and then work with food service and housing to make sure the child is able to live near a cafeteria that has gluten free options.  The big one is drinking.  Of course no one drinks until they are 21 (hmmmm) but beer is often the drink of choice.  My son is just getting into his beer phase and buys some great gf beers that he really enjoys.  He’s also no longer engaged in the campus drinking games where cheap beer prevails and it’s usually NOT gluten free.  I wrote a section on “Playing Beer Pong without Beer and Other Drinking Games” in the book and it talks about socializing (and drinking) in college. 

4) Dating. I don't have to worry about this for a long time, unless Jack has a girlfriend in 1st 
    grade that I don't know about, but did celiac disease or Jeremy's gluten-free lifestyle affect         his dating life? Scare girls away once he told them, thinking he was different or it was a               hassle. Really, who wants a girlfriend like that anyway, but I'm just curious.


Mostly, I think Jeremy picks restaurants that had a gluten free menu when he dates.  I do think he is uncomfortable interrogating the server in front of a date unless he has already explained the diet to his lady friend.  He often suggests cooking together in his apartment (now his dorm) so he can manage the diet without making a big deal of it.  First grade --- that should be adorable.  These days, gluten free is so trendy that almost everyone knows something about it.  ( I should also mention that every college dining hall I’ve encountered lately seems to have at least one staff person who is either celiac or has a friend, sibling or parent with it.)  

5) Besides reading your book that's filled with so much wonderful information, what advice do 
    you have for parents like myself, raising a young boy with celiac disease? 


My secret ingredient is humor.  It’s always gluten free.  Wallowing in the diet issues is not healthy for you or your child.  Try to put a positive spin on each challenge.  Part of parenting is teaching your child to cope and handle life’s challenges.  The gluten free diet is an extra challenge.  Yes it permeates every other part of your child’s life (and yours).  But good coping skills will help both of you handle this regimen with aplomb. 

6) Lastly, does Jeremy have a recipe gluten-free dessert that you've made for him? If so, please 
    share the recipe! 


From the time he was a little boy, I made plates of cookies for him and his friends.  Our old standby is still his favorite:  Chocolate Chip (a.k.a. Tollhouse) Cookies (recipe below) from my book, The Complete Guide to Living Well Gluten Free. I also have other yummy treats, like GF Twinkies on my blog:

Chocolate Chip (a.k.a. Tollhouse) Cookies Recipe

Thank you so much Beth for taking the time to answer my questions!  And, thank you for putting your heart and soul into a book for people like me, wanting to know anything and everything about the gluten-free lifestyle and for people, like my son and hubby living with celiac disease. I've learned so much more from your book - things I just didn't even think about! Thank you!

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