To Allergy Moms,
I have no idea what it’s like to be in your shoes. I don’t get it. I want to understand, I’ve tried really hard to understand it, but I don’t… not completely. Being a parent of child with life threatening allergies is one of those things you just cannot fully understand, unless you have lived it.
I have a little experience dealing with childhood allergies. I have family members with severe peanut and tree nut allergies. My daughter’s best friend has a life threatening peanut allergy. With the help of their parents, I have learned how to read labels and prepare food that is safe for them.
For every extended family dinner, I work very hard to make sure the dinner is safe, because I don’t want my relatives to be left out at family dinners because of their allergy. I also make sure that there is something my daughter’s friend can eat at my daughter’s birthday parties, because I don’t want her left out either.
Every time I do this, the process of reading labels feels exhausting and stressful, because I have to read every label thoroughly from top to bottom. I know that you can’t trust the allergy statement at the bottom of the list of ingredients; I have to read the entire list. I need to check that the product is manufactured in a facility safe from cross contamination, check every single ingredient in my cooking (including things like baking soda and spices), and make sure that my kitchen is safe. It’s a lot of extra work, but I do it because I love those kids.
I am not telling you this, so that you think I am some sort of allergy aware saint. I am telling you this, because every time I do this, I become so aware that you have deal with this EVERY day, and EVERY meal. I think YOU are the hero. Seriously, how do you do this every single day!?
When I prepare an allergy friendly meal, I start to think for a split second that I know what you are going through, but I don’t. I don’t live with this every day.
There was a time that my kids had to complete an elimination diet, and I did have to do this every day, but it wasn’t the same. We did the elimination diet (dairy, wheat, soy, eggs), and it was super stressful… for a while. But, then we found that we didn’t have any intolerances, and we went back to eating what we wanted without checking labels, without avoiding certain restaurants, and without worry.
I have no idea what you are going through and I don’t have to live with the fear.
Fear that your child could pick up a piece of food and die. Or that they could sit next to someone eating that food and die. Or come into contact with some residue from that food on a playground, or a park bench, or in their class room… and DIE.
I can imagine that the fear is horrible, but I don’t know what it’s like. I can imagine that it’s hard just to send your child into a world everyday where they could potentially come into contact with poison at any moment, but you do it every day.
And, I don’t have to add to my child’s disappointment. I don’t have to tell them that they can’t eat that treat at a birthday party. That they can’t go celebrate with their sports team at the restaurant that’s not safe, or eat their Halloween candy. I know many parents of kids with allergies are very resourceful, and will find ways to make sure their kids are still included, but disappointment still exists.
I have no idea what you are going through, but I want you to know is this:
I am on your side.
We should all be on your side. We should all do all we can to keep your kids safe. We should ask, ask, and ASK about allergies. We should keep top allergy foods away from schools, if a child with that allergy attends. We should not offer food without asking if it is safe first. We should wash our hands after eating an allergy food and before going out in public. We should teach our kids to do these things, too.
Please know that I want to keep your kids safe, but I know that as much as I have tried to educate myself about allergies there will still always be things I do not know. If I ever do something that is unsafe for your child, please tell me. I will not be offended; I care more about keeping your kids safe. If there is anything I can do to help your child be included (instead of being excluded by something that involves their allergy), please tell me.
I would love to live in a world where we did not have to worry about allergies, but for now, that world doesn’t exist. So let’s live in a world where we are all on a team as a community to keep kids with allergies safe. You can be a team captain, and I’ll be a team player. I know that there are many people who won’t want to join this team, and I am sorry for that, but the more of us that do, the safer all of our kids will be. I want to join your team.