Girl with Mirror

Who Will Shape Your Child’s Reality?

“Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know, you can’t explain. What you feel, you’ve felt it your entire life. There’s something wrong with the world…you don’t know what it is. But it’s there, like a splinter in your mind. Driving you mad.

“You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
– The Matrix

And so you chose the red pill, the blood test, the screaming child in the doctor’s office. The call comes through a few days later, a positive diagnosis for you and/or your child, and like the stop-motion brilliance of The Matrix, everything freezes in a moment in time…the planets stop… the very air that you breathe becomes heavy…and unlike the tightly clad black leather heroine known as Trinity, you feel very much alone and deflated. And so you chose the red pill, the blood test, the screaming child in the doctor’s office. The call comes through a few days later, a positive diagnosis for you and/or your child,and like the stop-motion brilliance of The Matrix, everything freezes in a moment in time…the planets stop… the very air that you breathe becomes heavy…and unlike the tightly clad black leather heroine known as Trinity, you feel very much alone and deflated.

“Welcome to the real world.”

I think I cried for a full five minutes, which may not seem like a long time, but I challenge you to try it sometime. It will feel like an eternity. The blood test comes back positive for either you and/or your child, and just like Neo trying to make sense of his life through the looking glass, you initially reject the new reality and try to convince your mind that it’s not real, that you will some day wake up from the dream, that you can rewind and take the blue pill of ignorance. Perhaps you can deal with another few years of depression, or wondering why your child is below-average growth. Maybe the constant stomach pains are tolerable after all, and you can medicate the ADHD out of your otherwise intelligent kid. Maybe it will all be okay…right?

“Why, oh why, didn’t I take the blue pill?”

It can’t be all that bad, right? After all, all my child needs is good food to eat and a place to feel safe. What I need to do as his/her mother is find a way for him/her to fit into The Matrix, to be as “normal” as possible. There’s no way I would ever let my child feel less than normal.

“This may feel…a little weird.”

Let me tell you what feels a little weird. Staying up until three in the morning trying to make gluten-free goldfish crackers feels a little weird. Spending the entire day in your pajamas without a shower, moving heaven and earth to make a gluten-free pretzel rod from crappy dough and a modified Play-Doh press feels a lot weird. Staring at your husband in the morning through blood-shot eyes and frayed slipper footie-boots may feel a little weird. And this is your new reality, when you look at yourself in the mirror and realize you haven’t shaved in four days. And this is the “truth” you promised me? You tell me this is real, that eating this goop that has all of the essential proteins and amino acids that a body needs is real? I’m not supposed to reject this reality, the way Neo’s brain couldn’t handle the truth?

“What is real? How do you define real?”

There is no doubt that what you used to perceive as “real” is a very real reality for so many other people. It is what they know and what they understand and it will never change. It is truly a strange reality in which mothers believe that neon blue frosting can even marginally be perceived as nutritious. Beware the Jabberwock, my friends, for it will slither into your soul and devour your heart in a multitude of unrepentant, unrequited coffee and birthday invites. This demon can only be defeated with knowledge, power, and intestinal fortitude. Like Alice through the looking glass, this rabbit hole runs deep.

Who you are and who you will become is entirely in your hands now that you have been freed of The Matrix. Much as Neo could not understand why his eyes hurt (because he had never used them before), it will help for you to understand why this new way of living, cooking, and coping does not feel natural. Because it’s not natural or normal to you. These are muscles you’ve never used before because you never knew you had them and never thought you would need them. So you will practice your skills and learn new limitations while you also expand new freedoms. You will delight in your culinary victories and despair in your failures, but as you grow you will come to realize that it is possible to fight Agent Smith and stop bullets through sheer force of will (not to mention wear really cool black leather trench coats and boots).

“The Matrix cannot tell you who you are.”

While it is certainly easy to now believe that your child will no longer fit in or feel normal because of the food allergy, I would argue that this feeling of yours was inevitable. At some point, your child will no longer “fit in” and “feel normal.” Perhaps they will hit puberty a little later, or wear glasses, or not have the cool car, or struggle with acne. And this is the lie of The Matrix in which we live: that somehow your child’s “abnormality” is different from any other child’s “abnormality.” Gluten-free life with your children is no different than any other adjustment that every parent will eventually have to make. (“Daddy, I’m just not skinny enough to get a date for the prom!”) The adjustment you are making has nothing to do with your DNA, prior failures, an ancient curse, or subliminal telepathy from an alien civilization. The process of adjustment is the same, even though your individual adjustments may be different. Everyone wakes up in their own special way.

“Why did I beat you?”
“You’re too fast.”
“Do you believe that my being stronger, or faster,
has anything to do with my muscles, in this place?”

If you allow your own self-worth as a parent to be defined by your ability to make your child “fit in” at all costs, then I believe you will fail. This is not a personal theory. It is a personal experience that led to a personal failure. Your success does not depend on your muscles in this place, or the fact that you can no longer go to a birthday party and eat what is provided. That potential paradigm vanished the moment the red pill of a positive blood test confirmed your fear. It also vanished the moment another doctor told another parent that their child needed glasses,or that a divorce was looming, or that not every kid gets picked first for the baseball team.

I believe that one of the most important gifts we can give our children is to surround them with comfort and support as they deal with whatever lessons their own lives will teach them. We cannot wrap them in bubble tape or shield them from the occasional strike-out or embarrassment. Alas, we often learn more from our failures than our successes. But until our children reach a level of maturity where they can pause for their own reflection on their own initiative, I believe they need to know there is a safe place in life where they can struggle with their confusion, anger, and resentment.

That place, dear friends, is your home. Your home must be the impregnable EMP-armed fortress of emotional and food security, a place the devouring Sentinels of conformity are not allowed. Through all of the struggles your child will face out in the world of The Matrix, they need a place to call home, a ship to set sail upon, a rock on which to plant their feet. They need not feel different at home while they eat their “special” food after spending a day at school (or being excluded) eating their “special” food. They need to feel, on some level, that you believe their food is normal, that this is simply how our family eats, and that we are all healthier for it. As the hormones rage and adolescence makes all seem lost, this beacon of normality may be all they have. Say it with me: it may be all they have.

There were two archetypal characters developed in the first Matrix movie. One was Cypher, the traitor who believed he could return to the dreamland and use the system to improve the “reality” of his dream, knowing full well that it was just a dream, choosing ignorance. The other was Neo, who after initial confusion and struggle, learned that he could become stronger by acknowledging that he lived outside of The Matrix, and the power he gained from his awareness could actually expand his ability to empower others.

We must endeavor to raise Neos. And they need a ship to call home.

“I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid. You’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin.”

Written by Heidi Kelly.

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