How I miss the days when all I had to do was ask what I could bring to a get-together and not have to know what was being served…
Or when someone could bring anything they like best to our house.
Any dessert. Any bread. Any salad topping.
Now I’m constantly MEDDLING.
I’m calling ahead, asking friends to read food labels over the phone, and explaining that the phrase “processed on equipment with nuts” is just as bad for us as something containing an actual peanut.
I’m asking what dessert they are serving, where it came from, and usually planning to bring something similar and safe for my son to eat.
And YES, I often request foods containing nuts aren’t served while we’re there and that nuts are never brought into our home. This is my son’s SAFE zone (and ours). He should never have to question his safety here.
I DO realize it may feel like we ask or expect too much.
Now I’m hanging out in the kitchen, asking questions about where food came from, and if I can read the food labels myself. If something was made from scratch, I’m asking to if the chocolate chips had a nut allergen warning, and if any pre-made mixes were used.
I KNOW I’m a control freak, and that some of these questions seem silly. I also know that there are plenty of foods that are SAFE and that most of the answers confirm the food IS safe.
BUT, once in a while…we catch something…so I HAVE to ask.
I am THAT allergy mama.
I know sometimes, I’m really annoying with all these questions. I appreciate your patience with me, and for answering me to the best of your ability.
I have REAL and POWERFUL fears (although sometimes they may be blown out of proportion):
- I AM afraid if there are nuts on the premises, especially when other children are present. Children are messy eaters, they drop things on the floor, they get food on their clothes, hands, hair and face. A quick wipe down with a paper towel and water does NOT safely remove allergen, and my son could have a reaction from coming in contact with it.
- I DO have sometimes overwhelming fear when the food is generally unknown before we arrive. I usually pack an extra meal for my son, in case he can’t eat what is there. I’m on hyper-alert and may not be able to relax until we sort it all out. I will be distracted until we do. I AM overwhelmed when we arrive to an unexpected baked goods surprise. Donuts sound friendly until you look around and see almonds falling off pastries and chocolate frosted donuts covered in chopped peanuts in the hands of children. Sometimes the fear can be so overwhelming that we just have to go outside; for his safety and my own sanity.
- I AM afraid that when someone who ate something with nuts kisses my child goodbye that my son will get hives on his face. Or worse.
- I pray EVERY day and trust that the Lord has what I CAN’T control under HIS all-knowing control. I need to trust Him, or I wouldn’t let us go anywhere.
It may sound selfish, but I DO think my son’s health is more important than your (or your child’s) desire to eat a peanut butter sandwich, pecan pie or peanut butter rice crispy treats. I’m sorry it makes things harder for you. But I think it is OK to ask that you eat them later, when we aren’t around. AND if your child has a food need, I welcome your requests and needs; We will joyfully accommodate them.
I DO trust your efforts are sincere and thorough. However, even with several years of label reading, my husband and I occasionally still catch something on a box that the other missed. Two sets of eyes is ALWAYS better than one. And I’m sorry, but If we don’t have the label or a clear understanding a food’s safety, we can’t eat it. Even if you took a lot of time making it.
I KNOW that nuts show up in the strangest of places and my questions may sound weird: Pretzels, animal crackers, bread, ice cream, ANY dessert, fried foods, italian and asian sauces, salad mixes, seeds, cream cheese, any bulk foods, cereals, crackers, frozen foods, salad dressings, flour, rice, and more have nut allergen warnings. Keeping your child safe from food is more of a LIFESTYLE than anything; it requires a constant AWARENESS.
I AM not sure what type of reaction my son will have from any of these scenarios, but I don’t think ANY reaction is acceptable. I recently heard someone in a grocery store venting about someone with a child with a nut allergy and their ‘over reaction’ to the potential of an allergic reaction. Her reason was, and I quote, “that’s what an Epi-Pen is for”. This is NOT the first time I’ve heard this statement, nor will it be the last time. Guess what? An Epi-Pen is for when you’ve done EVERYTHING YOU CAN DO to be safe and a reaction happens anyway. I hope to NEVER use ours. I want them to expire, time after time.
The truth is, sometimes an Epi-Pen and quick responses by parents and medical personnel are NOT ENOUGH. Sometimes a child DIES. It is NOT usually because someone neglected to be careful. It was a terrible mistake, or due to an unknown allergy. A heartbreaking event that can’t be undone.
I will NEVER assume a reaction won’t be deadly or cause long-term damage. YES, I pray he won’t ever HAVE a reaction, and that if he does, it will be minor. YES, I believe in God’s protection. But that does NOT mean I have a license to be careless, or that my fears are not valid or real. This is a serious business. It is my child’s LIFE. Having his face swell up, hives all over his body, terrible upset stomach, or his throat close so tightly he cannot breathe are ALL unacceptable to me. Think about how that would FEEL if it happened to your body, or to your child’s body. In our position, I think you’d agree.
I appreciate your honesty and willingness to say when I need to SLOW down, or BACK down. I know that you CARE if my child gets hurt. I know that you are trying your best. If I’m hyped up and making unfair assumptions or requiring too much of you…SAY SO! It may sting, but I promise to listen and to find another way that works better for both of us.
Words can’t express how grateful we are for you who help keep our son safe:
- Many of you go out of your way to help us; you purchase nut-free candy, make a cake instead of buying one, or call ahead to ask what is best to have for snack when we come over.
- OR when you do your own research, educate yourself, and find a bakery that will sterilize equipment and make a nut-free dessert that our son can eat. You, your thoughtfulness, initiative, and kindess amaze me.
- I appreciate when you serve a ham sandwich to your child before you come and play at our house, or when you have your child wash their hands with soap and water before coming over if they’ve had nuts that day.
- To the parents and staff at the nut-free preschool our son attends: Thank you for following the hand-washing and food policy so my son is safe when he learns alongside your child.
- It brings tears to my eyes when I think of how many people who are family, friends, church family, neighbors, school staff, and even acquaintances who go the extra mile. EVERY TIME.
- It matters when people ask me to teach them to read a food label, or call me from the store if they aren’t sure about something.
- It is a relief when a host intentionally saves the food labels for me to read and points them out before I even have to ask.
- I am amazed by the people who make me DAILY feel like my questions are not a burden, and are gracious to me when I’m obviously operating from a place of fear (when I’m surely not at my best).
- And to those who regularly pray for my son’s safety and that he will NEVER have a reaction; you make it so the fear doesn’t take over, so the label reading isn’t so hard, and so we can leave the house trusting in the Lord’s protection. We FEEL it.
- All of you make us feel accepted, blessed beyond measure, and loved. We know you are in this with us, keeping our son safe. We appreciate your advice, kindness, questions and efforts.
Thank you for agreeing that this child is worth the effort, and thank you for answering my food allergy “20 questions”.