Tag Archives: Allergy Mom

Learning to trust my child around food

“I’m just looking!”

That was yelled at me in a disgusted tone after I tracked down Charlie and reminded him he couldn’t eat a piece of the animal cake served at the party.

I felt awful. I had went around and around with him that he would eat only the cake I brought and he seemed to understand but I still hovered and didn’t trust him to do the right thing. As my good friend pointed out “He’s 4. He can’t be trusted”. It’s true. It didn’t help the guilt that I felt.

Here’s the thing. As a food allergy parent, I HAVE TO TRUST MY CHILD. I need to know that he will make good choices or I will probably go insane. Quickly. I need to know that he is listening and he understands the severity of his condition.

I’ll repeat that….. my four year old needs to be responsible for his life.

Although I have a wonderful community that keeps an eye out for him and does everything in their power to keep him safe, Charlie still needs to be the person that knows what he can and can’t put in his mouth. Or up his nose for that matter. He needs to know to ask about ingredients and he needs to know what ingredients he can’t have.

In some ways we are lucky. Charlie had his first allergic reaction at the ripe old age of 13 months. He doesn’t know what life is without an allergy. The rules and habits we’ve established are all he’s ever known. He doesn’t long for his favorite candy bar or ice cream he can no longer eat. He won’t know what it is like to go somewhere without his epipen. He will always be the kid with the “special snack”. That’s just his life.

At the age of four, he knows he can’t eat peanuts. He knows how to administer an epipen. HE KNOWS HOW TO SAVE HIS LIFE. The amount of responsibility and trust that we put onto that little person is astounding. A four year old needs to have the self control of an adult, and more depending on the adult. (I’m looking at you, Stampy).

I think that is one thing that is majorly overlooked when we talk about these “food allergy kids” and “food allergy parents”. We miss the amount of trust and responsibility that these kids have at such a young age. And the amount of trust that parents put into their kids at such a young age.

It’s not because we want to or even have to. No one is making us trust our children or dole out this responsibility to them, it just comes with the territory. It comes with the epipen. It comes with the allergy.

Need Vs. Want

I was in the minority growing up. I grew up knowing about food allergies. In the 80’s I was aware of them and even though they weren’t mine, I understood that they could be deadly. My brother was plagued with several. None of which were Epi-pen worthy, but they still needed to be addressed. His were pretty easy to navigate around: citrus, melons and tree nuts. My aunt’s allergy to oranges was Epi-pen worthy. Although we only saw her several times a year, we knew that oranges weren’t allowed. At restaurants we requested they weren’t on our plates and we never had them in our house when she came to visit. For our wedding I didn’t need to be reminded about her allergy, I knew to request that oranges be removed from the premises. This was an easy request because it meant my aunt could safely attend my wedding. But did I need to do it or did I want to do it? I guess you could say both. I wanted to do it because I wanted her to attend our wedding and I needed to do it in order for her to be there.

Skip ahead 5 years and we are plagued with another familial food allergy. Only this time it is my son. I watched his face go from 1 one hive to twice it’s size in less than 10 minutes and I pinned him down in the ER while they put an IV in him. I watched the staff buzz around him and even move his room to in front of the nurses station and the entire time I was in denial. I didn’t want to believe that we were facing a food allergy. Over the next 4 months I read, talked to other moms dealing with food allergies, and called manufacturers to discuss allergy policies and contamination concerns. Did I need to do this or did I want to? I guess both. I wanted to be proactive and I needed to keep my child safe.

At this point, we have lived through 2 allergic reactions and in both cases Charlie has ingested less than 1/8 tsp of peanut butter. In fact he probably ate the tiniest little smear of the stuff. His second reaction happened at one of my friend’s home that is very allergy aware. She calls to find out about food she could get to serve Charlie, she asks about allergy friendly eating in public places so her children don’t possibly harm other children and makes sure that she scrubs down her kids before playing with mine and Charlie had his second reaction in her house. It didn’t happen because someone was being malicious or uncaring, but because sometimes accidents happen when you venture into a peanut filled world. That being said, does she need or want to be this conscience about a diagnosis that does not directly impact her. I guess both. She wants to have her Godson in her life (technically both her Godsons have food allergies) so she understands the needs that go with that.

We’ve only gone peanut free for a little over a year now and in that time I’ve been told that I was being ridiculous, I’ve had people act like I was hurting their feelings because I brought food to their house for Charlie to eat, and people that have told me that I want to pack his food wherever we go. Maybe all of these things are true, but maybe it’s because I need to value Charlie’s health over their feelings. Imagine you go to eat at a restaurant and your server tells you that the food being served has a 10% chance of making you terribly ill and/or killing you. What do you do? Do you throw caution to the wind and eat it anyway? Or do you go home and eat food that is 100% safe? Now imagine you have to feed that food to your child, do you give it to him? Remember, one bite could kill him and you know this giving it to him. If I had to guess, you would probably return home and eat the safe food. You would probably also start packing a lot of your own food when you went to places and you may even sneak food into places that say they don’t allow outside food. Theoretically you don’t need to. So are you needing or wanting to bring your own food?

Here’s my answer: I need to bring food. I need to bring my own food because I love my son and I want to keep him around for awhile. I need to call ahead to your birthday party and ask about the menu and I need to read food labels. Believe me, I don’t want to do any of these things. My life would be 1,000 times easier and grocery shopping would be much faster if I didn’t have to do these things. I don’t want to call Betty Crocker from the baking aisle of the grocery store and talk about cookie mix ingredients and then ultimately decide to bake them from scratch. I don’t want to ask to speak to managers or chefs at restaurants and then trust them to not kill my son. I don’t want to worry when he goes to preschool and I don’t want to sit and discuss emergency action plans with his teachers. These are things I need to do. I need to do them because I don’t want to go to the ER today, I don’t want to jab my son in the thigh with his Epi-pen and I sure as hell don’t want him to die.

As a mom to a child with food allergies, I don’t expect you to really understand the difference between need vs. want. It’s really something you can’t empathize with unless you have been there and have made the choice, do I NEED to do this or do I WANT to do this? I do ask though that you don’t question my judgement of my needs vs. wants or take it personally if I don’t 100% trust you to meet my child’s allergic needs because his diet is not a choice that I wanted to make.