Helicopter Mothers and "The Opposite of Loneliness"
When I started reading Marina Keegan's "The Opposite of Loneliness," I was beyond envious at how brilliant and gutsy a writer she is, and wishing I could be more like her. Until I came to her piece entitled, "Against the Grain," and I realized we are practically the same person. For those of you who don't know who Marina Keegan was, she was best known for her piece in the Yale Daily News, titled "The Opposite of Loneliness," about her graduation from Yale University. She died tragically five days after her graduation, just as her essay was gaining celebrity status online. Her friends, family, teachers and fellow writers helped compile a work of her essays and published as a book titled, "The Opposite of Loneliness."
And it is good. Really good.
When I read, "Against the Grain," I had tears welling up in my eyes as I realized: She had basically the same childhood as me.
The people and the places are much different, but the underlying narrative is too similar to ignore. When Keegan was a baby, she was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and she was pretty darn sick.
She opened with:
"On my deathbed, I will instruct a nurse to bring me the following: a box or Oreos, a bag of Goldfish, a McDonald's hamburger, an assortment of Dunkin' Donuts, a chicken pot pie, a Hot Pocket, a large pepperoni pizza, a French crepe, and an ice-cold beer."
I myself have constructed the same list. The list of things I have always wanted to eat in my life but never will be able to, yet, when I am 95 years old in a hospital bed I will say, "sod it," and eat the deliciously poisonous food. My list includes a piece of Costco sheet cake, Fettuccine Alfredo and Reese's peanut butter cups.
It was the description of the way her mother would give the teacher a gluten-free ice cream cone for a field trip to the beach, or bringing her own cake to a birthday party. The way she was embarrassed by her mother, who made a fuss from restaurants to friends houses, making sure there was something Keegan could eat.
THIS WAS LITERALLY MY LIFE. ALL THE TIME.
The embarrassment at being so totally different was something of a burden and the excess attention from my mother, and the rest of the world, felt unnecessary, but also guilt-inducing as my mother spent so much of her time worrying about the food that went into my mouth. And baking a lot of homemade birthday cake.
Keegan then mentioned how she read an article about pregnant mother's with Celiac Disease doing harm to their unborn child if they eat even the teensiest bit of gluten. Right then, she vowed she would only eat brown rice she cooked at home for her entire pregnancy.
That's when it clicked for me.
The epiphany that Keegan so eloquently forced into my head.
I had felt embarrassed and guilty for a good portion of my life because of all the extra attention paid to me, especially by my mother, because of my food allergies. But as a parent, that's what you sign up for. That's why there are so many amazing food allergy blogs run by mother's of children with food allergies. If blogging had existed when I was born, I'm sure my mom would have a highly successful one now.
This need to protect your children is something every parent wants, and I'm sure I will be packing my future child off to a birthday party with a container of homemade birthday cake just like my mother did for me.
I'm sure this future child will be just as embarrassed as I was. And when they turn into their own self-providing, functioning adult I will give them Keegan's story to read. And they will, most likely, have the same epiphany.
For anyone with food allergies or for parent's of a child with food allergies, I cannot sing the praises of this essay enough, and I highly recommend giving it a read.
Thanks for doing what you do moms.