During a recent grocery store trip, I overheard a fellow mom on her cell phone. She was asking what on earth to buy in the bakery section for her child’s class room birthday treat. It needed to be peanut free.
She went on to say she didn’t understand why, if peanut wasn’t on the label, she couldn’t buy it. Then she mumbled something about the equipment.
I could tell she was in a hurry. Intending to point her in the right direction, I made my way to the display of Lofthouse Nut-Free frosted cookies. I planned to hold them up and just point to the ‘Nut-Free’ label. I didn’t want to interrupt her conversation but knew it can be hard to find a peanut-safe option in the bakery section – especially if you aren’t sure what to look for on the label. It would be easy to unknowingly buy a treat that isn’t safe.
Or maybe just give up.
As I walked up, she released a loud sigh of frustration and exclaimed into the phone, “Why can’t those kids just be normal so I can buy a box of cupcakes“.
Sigh. Normal? Ugh.
I felt my face flush. What ran through my head was to educate her – you know, with strong, emotion-filled, angry words.
But I could see that type of ‘education’ would not do either of us much good. She was already frustrated, and heaping my anger on top of her anger isn’t likely to produce much understanding.
I’m also not real keen on starting an argument in the bakery section of the grocery store. With my kids.
Plus, here she was, trying to read the labels, and trying to pick something all the kids could enjoy. Despite what she said, her actions were those of someone trying to do the right thing.
She just didn’t understand why.
She didn’t need anger, she needed grace. So instead of marching up with a lengthy defense of children with food allergies, I walked up, smiled, and pointed at the Nut-Free label. She looked, paused and looked up at me.
She told her friend ‘just a minute’ and put her hand over the phone. She whispered ‘Thank you. I have no idea how to make sure what I buy is right or not. Last time it wasn’t. They wouldn’t serve it in class and my daughter didn’t have a treat for her birthday‘.
As a food allergy mom, I know all-too-well the disappointment when my child can’t have a treat. This might be the first time I realized it also happens to children without food allergies.
I see how this could cause frustration in parents whose children don’t have an allergy.
Sometimes, as an allergy mom, I just wish other parents could put themselves in my shoes – maybe they’d finally understand what its like.
This time, I put myself in her shoes. There was a time when I knew very little about food allergies and food allergy labeling – before I became an Epi-Pen carrying mom and had to take a crash course in keeping our own child safe. If I had gone to the store with good intentions, it would frustrate me if I still bought the wrong thing. Food labeling even confuses food allergy parents sometimes. If I tried to buy something safe for all the children, I’d be so hurt to hear they didn’t serve it because it still wasn’t safe.
Yeah, that would make me pretty upset. And it would make me easily frustrated the next time I’m in a store, again, trying to do the right thing. Especially if I’m still not sure what to actually buy.
And then I said, “Thank you for doing your best to keep children like mine safe.“
She smiled back, and then looked slightly embarrassed, probably realizing I overheard her comment. But I chose to give her an encouraging smile, a little wave, and move on.
This encounter wasn’t about me. Or my child. It was about simply doing something small to educate another mom who was actively seeking a way to keep other children safe while giving her child a special birthday. Now she knows a safe option for the future. And she has been thanked by one allergy mom for her efforts.
Are you one of the parents out there who try their best to keep all the kids safe?
To each of you who don’t understand food allergies, but try to buy safe options anyway. Thank you.
Thank you for trying to learn about food labeling, and for asking questions about what to buy. If you ever have questions about what to buy (or why it matters), I’m happy to help.
Thank you for taking time out of your day to make your best effort with good intentions.
I’m sorry when those good intentions have not been rewarded. Please know they are appreciated nonetheless.
Thank you for doing your best to keep all of our kids safe. We will happily do the same for you in whatever challenge your child or family may face now and in the future.
As I’ve shared before, it truly does take a village to raise a child with food allergies.
Thank you for doing your best – from this grateful mama to you.