Once upon a time, I looked forward to those tiny bags of honey roasted peanuts served on airplanes. Oh, how so much has changed. Now I pre-board to wipe down my family’s seating area and do the best I can to remove any trace of peanut.
I am a Food Allergy mom. I am still figuring out how to navigate it all, but I’m doing my best one day at a time. Some days I wish I could wish away my son’s allergies, but I know that won’t happen. Other days I just wish that others could understand. Here are five things I wish non-food allergy moms knew:
I didn’t get it before either.
I’ve been the eye roller. I’ve been annoyed at the inconvenience. I can’t be mad at you for not understanding, because I didn’t understand it before either. I didn’t understand the life-changing diagnosis of a peanut allergy until my son ended up in the ER during a family vacation. Instead of sightseeing, we were eating takeout in a hospital room and clueless about when our son would be discharged or how much the medical bills would be.
I’m obsessive because I have to be.
My son can’t eat the food at your house or party unless I can check the ingredient list or ask about the recipe. In addition to peanuts, my son is allergic to cow’s milk. So many packaged foods, like those cute dino shaped chicken nuggets, surprisingly contain milk. And even if a product doesn’t contain peanuts, if it was manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts, our doctor said he shouldn’t eat it. I ask about hand washing because if someone else touches dairy and then touches my son, he will swell up or break out into hives.
It’s my new normal.
Managing food allergies is a daily battle. I pack safe snacks, even if there will be snacks where we’re going. I bring safe treats to birthday parties. I don’t leave the house without Benadryl and EpiPens. I consult online menus before selecting a restaurant. I ask the waitress questions. I try to cook more things from scratch because food labels are incorrect sometimes. I’m always careful. Managing food allergies is a lifestyle.
It’s harder than you think.
Managing food allergies is not just the logistics. It’s the underlying fear of lurking peanut butter and dairy treats in social situations. It’s the tinge of sadness that my son can’t eat the birthday cake like everyone else. It’s the uncertainty of how it will all work out when my now toddler eventually goes to school and won’t have me policing everything for him. It’s the disappointment that food allergy bullying is a thing.
I am thankful.
I am so thankful for those who get it. It’s the little things that fill me with gratitude. It’s the friend who had vegan cupcakes for her daughter’s birthday party. It’s the mom at the playground who put her daughter’s peanut butter sandwich away without me asking. It’s the grandma who took her granddaughter to wash hands after eating string cheese at playgroup. Thank you for your help.
Dear moms, I wish you knew how scary food allergies are. I wish you knew it doesn’t take much to make things a little easier, more inclusive, and most importantly, safe.
If you’re wondering how you can support children you know with food allergies, check out my guide 5 Ways to Make Your Playdate More Food Allergy Friendly. If you are a food allergy parent, this is a helpful reference to share with your preschool community or with friends when they ask how to accommodate your child.