First Day of School Sign Free Printable (with Matching Last Day of School Signs) for Preschool through 12th Grade

First Day of School Sign Free Printable (with Matching Last Day of School Signs) for Preschool through 12th Grade | thisgratefulmama.com

Can you believe kids are heading back to school already?

For me, this summer has flown by.

Are you ready? 

One of my favorite things to do on the first day of school is snap a quick picture of each child with a sign telling what grade they are in.

The photos are cute, but it may also be for selfish reasons – the signs in the photo help me keep the photos organized. Each already tells me if it was the first or last day, and what grade it was from.

In the past, I’ve used a small chalkboard for these photos.

Last year, during the busy season of having a newborn, the first and last days of school snuck up on me.

On both mornings, while the kids got ready for school, I ran around like a crazy lady trying to find our chalkboard. And a piece of chalk.

Apparently not an easy task – be prepared mamas!

It made everything feel hectic, not like an exciting day. Definitely not what I was hoping to offer them.

This year, to make it easier for me and all of you, the signs are already made and ready to be printed.

Below are free printable signs for the ‘First Day of School’, along with matching ‘Last Day of School’ signs. You’ll find matching signs for Preschool, Pre-K, and Kindergarten – 12th grade.

First Day of School Sign Free Printable (with Matching Last Day of School Signs) for Preschool through 12th Grade | thisgratefulmama.com

Just in case these signs don’t fit your school situation, there is also a generic ‘First Day of School’ and ‘Last Day of School’ sign for 2017-2018.

Whatever grade your kids are in – we’ve got you covered!

Each sign can be printed on standard 8.5×11 card stock or paper. Just download the PDF and print in color.

Don’t forget to Pin this post to save it so you can print the matching ‘Last Day of School’ signs in the spring!

You can also stay up to date on new free printables and all of my favorite things by following  thisgratefulmama on Pinterest.

First Day of School Sign Free Printable (with Matching Last Day of School Signs) for Preschool through 12th Grade | thisgratefulmama.com

First Day of School and Last Day of School

First Day of Preschool and Last Day of Preschool

First Day of Pre-K and Last Day of Pre-K

First Day of Kindergarten and Last Day of Kindergarten

First Day of School Sign Free Printable (with Matching Last Day of School Signs) for Preschool through 12th Grade | thisgratefulmama.com

First Day of 1st Grade and Last Day of 1st Grade

First Day of 2nd Grade and Last Day of 2nd Grade

First Day of 3rd Grade and Last Day of 3rd Grade

First Day of 4th Grade and Last Day of 4th Grade

First Day of School Sign Free Printable (with Matching Last Day of School Signs) for Preschool through 12th Grade | thisgratefulmama.com

First Day of 5th Grade and Last Day of 5th Grade

First Day of 6th Grade and Last Day of 6th Grade

First Day of 7th Grade and Last Day of 7th Grade

First Day of 8th Grade and Last Day of 8th Grade

First Day of School Sign Free Printable (with Matching Last Day of School Signs) for Preschool through 12th Grade | thisgratefulmama.com

First Day of 9th Grade and Last Day of 9th Grade

First Day of 10th Grade and Last Day of 10th Grade

First Day of 11th Grade and Last Day of 11th Grade

First Day of 12th Grade and Last Day of 12th Grade

Have a great first (and last) day of school!

First Day of School Sign Free Printable (with Matching Last Day of School Signs) for Preschool through 12th Grade | thisgratefulmama.com

A Case For Front Yard Living

A Case For Front Yard Living | thisgratefulmama.com

I know most people spend summer on their deck in the back yard, but I want to share about something different.

Front yard living.

At the end of 2013, we moved into a new construction home. When the brutal subzero winter ended, people emerged and we finally met our neighbors.

One of the greatest benefits about living in a new construction neighborhood is everyone is new – especially the first year. There are no cliques – no long-term established friendships.

Everyone seems friendlier and more eager to meet their neighbors.

Since new houses come with dirt yards and gravel driveways, significant time is spent walking the neighborhood and in the front yard. Few homes have decks right away.

Then driveways go in and sod that can’t be walked on.

The driveway is the yard. Initially, front yard living was necessity.

We spent the first three summers in the front. This is our fourth summer and this summer we built a deck.

This spring, when the deck materials were delivered, a neighbor commented in passing – now we’ll never see you guys anymore. Her comment has stuck with me.

With the excitement of having a new deck – we have been spending a lot of time in the back yard. Backyard living has some great benefits –  convenience, privacy, more space, and in our case, a view. But more time in back means less in the front. 

I love our deck, but there is a great case to be made for front-yard living and it has to do with relationships.

A Case For Front Yard Living | thisgratefulmama.com

Simply put, front yard living creates opportunities to build relationships with neighbors. 

A Case For Front Yard Living

Meet Neighbors – As people pass by, on the way to the mail box or on a walk, simply being in the front yard creates an opportunity to greet and meet neighbors in a natural way. Even the most reserved or shy people are usually open to a friendly wave and smile followed by an introduction. Some may move on quickly, but others will surprise you and stay to chat. Many of these chance introductions have turned into hours of conversations and cherished friendships. 

Kids – This neighborhood is crawling with kids. They walk, bike and scooter by on a regular basis. Regular friendly waves and hellos or meeting them briefly when they walk by with their parents let them know we’re safe adults if they need something. We’ve helped with minor scrapes, calling parents, and bike chains.  Front yard living has also helped us build relationships with kids who play with our kids on a regular basis. It is amazing how long a child will stand and talk to us while all the other kids are playing – they tell us stories, about their weekend or school day, and what activities they’re involved in. Relationships with neighborhood kids are important to us – these kids are precious family friends.

Fun – In back, kids are usually in the yard and adults are up on the deck. Separate. (Don’t get me wrong – separate can be lovely). In the front, we’re in close-proximity. Our kids are more likely to invite us to join their fun, or join us if we’re all in the yard. More spontaneous water fights, and games of catch, 4-square, and soccer happen in the front yard with our kids and whoever else joins in. A water table, bubbles, and sidewalk chalk are magnets for other kids and their imaginations.

Regular connections – Being in the front means we see neighbors coming, going and passing by. These brief interactions allow for regular, natural connections. We have the chance to enter into real-life with our neighbors. We learn what is on their minds and what is going on in their lives – the good, bad, sad, stressful, joyful and real happenings of daily life. I am always grateful to learn these things from a face-to-face conversation than on Facebook, Instagram, or text. 

Lend a hand – Being out front means we get to see when others need help – unloading or loading something heavy, watching a small child so they can run into the house for something quick, changing a tire, lending a tool or holding a ladder, or providing a missing ingredient. These chances to help are invaluable gifts – relationships are often forged in these types of experiences. We are blessed to be able to step in and help when we can.

We ARE enjoying our deck and the benefits of back yard living. But, front yard living still holds significant value.

Front yard living has allowed us to join our neighbors in real-life. We have been blessed as so many have stepped into the messiness of life with us through the conversations of front-yard living.

We plan to continue making time to be out front, experiencing and building community in our neighborhood.

The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31 (ESV)

To love your neighbor as yourself, you have to first get to know them.

A Case For Front Yard Living | thisgratefulmama.com

When the Fun Is Over – Strategies For Day-After-Fun Blues

Day After Fun Blues

The fourth of July this year was SO. Much. Fun!

Our neighbors rented a bounce house and we had a large neighborhood gathering with water, fun and food. Kids in swim suits were running freely between backyards.

It was a day of giggles, sun, water and all. the. FUN.

An amazing day ended with bug spray, glow bracelets and fireworks.

Our kids were exhausted at 10:30 and fell asleep quickly despite more fireworks just outside their windows.

I’m telling you – NOTHING could wake them. 

A fun-filled day is a wonderful thing, but some times it leaves its mark on the next day – in a not-so-wonderful way.

The morning went fine, but as the day continues…it becomes very evident that everyone is still very tired.

Even this mama.

The next day melt-downs, pouting faces and complaining make one thing very clear – the fun is over.

We knew it was going to be this way. We chose to have a non-stop fun day and make all the memories we could. We chose to encourage and celebrate the joy of being a kid in the summer in a neighborhood filled with kids.

You know what? It was worth it. No matter how hard today becomes.

We expected that today might hold challenges. And it has.

We established a game-plan to make the most of the Day-After-Fun Blues.

When the Fun Is Over – Strategies For Day-After-Fun Blues

1. Sleep As Long As Possible

This is a no-brainer for older kids who love to sleep in. But for those of us with younger kids and babies…a late bedtime does NOT mean small children will sleep in. You can’t guarantee they will recoup any missed sleep but you can try.

Older Kids – If your child can read the clock, tell them they need to go back to sleep until a time of your choosing. Our son is always awake early but stays in bed until 7.  Last night we told him to stay in bed until 8:30. I had no idea if he would go back to sleep or not but HE DID! He slept until 8:45.

Preschoolers and Toddlers – tell them they need to try to sleep until you come get them. Our middle child stayed in bed so they both slept 2 hours later than their normal wake up time. This doesn’t always work but if they are tired enough, it just might.

Baby – No plan will make the baby sleep longer, but you can do your best to set conditions conducive for sleep. Blackout curtains, noise machine and plenty of food/water before bed. Pray they sleep as long as possible and don’t wake the big kids up.

2. Get Out Of The House

Tired siblings seem to get on each other’s nerves and seem prone to boredom. If possible, plan a low-key activity to get out of the house. This morning we got up and went to the Minnesota Zoo using our zoo pass. I know, this might not sound relaxing, but for us it is. We’re there often so are comfortable leaving as soon as the kids seem tired or uninterested. Not up for the Zoo? Head to the park, a walk, the library or even just out to lunch or dinner.

3. REST Time

Older kids may not nap, but ALL kids can take a rest. All of the kids lay down and try to sleep – sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Older kids can get up and play quietly in their rooms – Legos and cars for our son, a doll house and dress up clothes for our daughter. The baby sleeps and this mama takes some time to write.

Practice Gratitude

We may will experience cranky moments. When it happens, if possible, take time to recall the fun. Reflection promotes gratitude, and gratitude promotes an attitude change. Discuss the best parts of the day – fireworks, food or fun. Laugh about the funniest and weirdest things that happened.  Try asking the kids to journal about or draw their favorite memories from the day before. Then praise their creativity and listen to them tell you about it.

Plan A Quiet Evening

No matter how the next day goes, tiredness increases as the day goes on. Plan a low-key evening – an easy meal, movie, puzzle or reading a big stack of library books together can help keep calm until that glorious moment of bedtime.

Grace

When in doubt, remind yourself of how tired you are. Extend grace. Soft words, distraction and prayer will go a long way to overcoming the day-after-fun blues.

Early Bedtime

When the going gets rough, keep looking ahead to today’s early bedtime. Each of our children will hit their pillows at 7pm tonight. Set the time and stick to it!

 

When The Fun Is Over: Strategies For Day-After-Fun Blues | thisgratefulmama.com

How does your family handle the day-after-fun blues? 

6 Ways To Reclaim JOY When Stuck In Mom Guilt

 

Reclaim JOY When Stuck In Mom Guilt | thisgratefulmama.com

Mom guilt is very good at stealing our joy.

Some days do not go as planned. Some days are filled with joy and success but as night falls, I find myself dwelling on my failure – big or small.  

Failure to accomplish everything on my TO DO list
Failure to exercise and eat as healthy as I should
Failure to be patient with the kids or my husband
Failure to love and connect in a meaningful way with my husband
Failure to play and be the fun mom our kids needed
Failure to apologize for my failings

Oh, how the list could go on! I’m sure you get the point. Hopefully I don’t fail in ALL of these ways in one day, but some days it sure feels like it.

Why IS it so easy for moms to focus on failure instead of success? 

Perhaps it is because we just love our kids so much, and we see the effects of our failings in their hurt and in their behavior.

It is good to hold ourselves to a high standard, but we often go too far.

When we focus on just failures, we lose important perspective about what really was accomplished that day – the kids felt loved, fun happened, chores were completed, and relationships were tended to.

The truth is, even the worst parenting day is filled with mostly success.

Instead of focusing on big and small victories, we focus on big and small failures.

Instead of recognizing that we are GREAT moms, we focus on that weak moment when we lost our temper.

You guys, that weak moment probably lasted about 5 minutes. In 12 awake hours (we likely have more), that is just 0.69% of the time spent with our kids.

Less than 1%, but we’re fixated on it.

As we reflect on the day, failing areas stick out like a sore thumb while successes are minimized or ignored completely. If this kind of self-critical thinking isn’t actively battled, it can become a painful, self-defeating habit.

While honest self-reflection and evaluation is helpful and necessary for growth and healthy relationships, over-critical thinking benefits no one. 

Did you hear me? Mom-guilt benefits no one and it steals your JOY.

Instead of motivating us to do better or to grow, mom-guilt leaves us discouraged and defeated.

What if we chose to move past mom-guilt and self-judgement and actively sought out a true and right perspective of our days? I believe we’d find motivation and encouragement to do our job better tomorrow. And our families would benefit from a JOYFUL mom.  

Reclaiming JOY when stuck in mom guilt takes concerted effort.

Can we try together?

6 Ways To Reclaim JOY When Stuck In Mom Guilt

Adjust Your Focus

Focusing on failure alone creates a mindset that is all about me – and how I can’t do anything rightThat is exactly what the enemy wants. Satan is the accuser (Rev 12:10) and right now he is prowling around like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8). When we carry mom-guilt, Satan is the only one who wins. 

When we allow it, failures can consume our thoughts. We go way past honest reflection and desire to learn our lesson. We replay failures, think of what we should have done, and it consumes our thoughts. When we continue to beat ourselves up, dredging up past failings to build a case to prove we are failing as moms, we are much too focused on ourselves – we become our own accuser. Our guilt changes the way we parent and we aren’t giving our kids our best. Time to adjust our gaze. Jesus has already died for our failure AND our mom-guilt. 

Turn your eyes upon His face and recognize how He sees youBeloved. Worthy. Forgiven. And exactly the mom your children need.

Battle In Prayer

Do you ever think God’s view of you is wrong? That you are simply a failure He cannot love? When we can’t accept His TRUE assessment of us, our pride says His sacrifice isn’t enough for us. Believing we’re just too far beyond His reach is the worst kind of lie we can carry in our souls. This is a spiritual battle that needs to be fought with spiritual words – not fancy, well spoken words, but honest, raw words spoken from a heart desperate for God’s love and peace. Pray when mom-guilt rises. Even when you don’t have the words – He knows your heart. Lay it all out at His feet. Tell Him your doubtAsk Him to show you His love and help you believe it. 

Accept Grace

As you recognize how God sees you, it is time to accept His grace and give it to yourself. Why is it so easy to tell other moms their failures and mistakes are no big deal? We encourage others to give themselves grace and then give ourselves NONE. Jesus didn’t die so we could live in bondage in our minds. There is NO life in mom-guilt. We need to do the work of forgiving ourselves and then move on.

Practice Gratitude

When we live in the light of forgiveness, we have so much to be thankful for! We see our children as precious gifts, and our motherhood as a calling. We begin to see our successes and are grateful God gave us the patience, skills and ability to achieve them. WHEN we fail, we see with true perspective that we can do better, but are able to apologize, take action to not repeat the failure, and move forward without dwelling in guilt.

Model Authenticity

There is no place for perfection in parenting – there are no perfect moms. Reclaim JOY When Stuck In Mom Guilt | thisgratefulmama.com

Did you get that? None.

We will continue to grow and learn from our mistakes, but we will never, ever be perfect. And it is OK. Showing our kids we are not perfect gives them room to not be perfect too. Kids learn by example – if we beat ourselves up for imperfection, they will have a false and unattainable expectation that they be perfect too. Demonstrating how to handle our own failure starts with forgiving ourselves. Then, and only then, can we help them learn the same lesson when they stand in the shadow of their own failures. 

Hope

What if we viewed our failings as a chance to grow and for our kids to see the transforming power of Jesus in our lives? What if we thanked God for letting us fail so we could learn and help our kids learn lessons of eternal value? We can trust Him to be faithful to use our failings for His glory and to plant truth in the hearts of our kids. Start and end this day holding tight to the promise that His mercy is new every morning. And His faithfulness is greater than our failings.

Reclaim JOY When Stuck In Mom Guilt | thisgratefulmama.com    6 Ways to Reclaim JOY When Stuck In Mom Guilt | thisgratefulmama.com

How I Became A Human Vending Machine

How I Became A Human Vending Machine | thisgratefulmama.comOnce upon a time I began giving our kids snacks in the store – a welcome and needed diversion, providing extra time and distraction. And, a more pleasant shopping experience for all.

The goal of the store snack is time.

MORE time.

Now, I’m not saying my kids are unruly or unmanageable without snacks. Most of the time, they are great. I can count on one hand times our kids have melted in the store – with or without snacks. They know how to behave. But when it comes to kids, even with the best laid plans, melt-downs do sometimes happen so we need to be prepared to deal with them with grace and move on.

Every child, even the most pleasant child, has a time limit. That limit may vary but could be caused by boredom, hunger, fatigue or some unexpected issue. Whatever the looming threat may be, we’re always on the melt-down clock when running errands.

For us, snacks keep the peace while warding off the real and serious problem of the hangries.

Tick-tock.

At first, the kids slowly ate and talked while we shopped. It was really quite lovely. Foods that take time to chew are first on the list: carrot sticks, snap peas, apple slices, etc.

These bags of healthy goodness were a win-win – they ate without complaint, and stayed happy longer. Generally, appetites for lunch weren’t ruined, and if they were it was OK – they got the good stuff in first.

For a while – it was almost foolproof.

Gone were the days of running through the store at break-neck speeds tossing things in the cart to get in and out before the melt-down clock ran out.

Our pace was just right. Leisurely, even.

I seemed like a brilliant solution. And maybe it was

But the glory-days of snack shopping was limited to about one year. As the kids grew older, that shiny brilliance has faded.

It isn’t that snacks don’t work anymore. They do. But trips just aren’t leisurely anymore.

Snacks can be a slippery slope. If there’s one snack, why not another, and another?

We’re back on the clock – but now it’s the snack clock. Better get everything done before the snacks run out.

My now older children scarf down even the chewiest snack in 2.2 seconds. They don’t want to chat and eat, they just want the next snack. Fast. So they inhale them – I mean, do they even chew them? At dinner, the same foods would take FOR-EV-ER.

Bottomless pits, I tell you.

I delay the next snack by requiring that we find a garbage to get rid of our trash first. It’s kind of a game, but more so just a tool for getting a few minutes between snacks. You can find us easily, my kids are the ones shouting at the top of their lungs – mom, I see a garbage!

Hooray (note sarcasm)...now you can have more snacks.

It seems that the store snack solution has slowly made me into a real-life human vending machine. For the payment of quiet, happy children, I fork over snacks while I get my workout pushing a cart loaded with 3 children and all our stuff at record speed.

It’s a mad dash, but, generally still a pleasant one.

Now that the kids are older, snacks still include healthy veggies and fruit. To try and slow the bigger kids down, they get beef jerky, raisins, roasted chickpeas or sunflower seeds (no shell), and mini bagels. The chewier, the better.

As you may assume from that list, sometimes snacks become lunch. It isn’t ideal, but does work out well if you need to do a lot of errands in a row. 

Plus, returning home and immediately plopping them in their rooms for a rest still feels somewhat shiny and brilliant. Unloading groceries in peace is a gift.

Don’t tell my kids, but I may also keep a bag Dum-Dums in my purse for emergencies (ahem – when snacks run out). IF the kids were good the whole trip, they just might get one.

I’m not above bribing them.

But one could argue that giving kids snacks in the store is bribery – I prefer to use the word incentives. 

Although snacks no longer provide a luxurious shopping experience, they are still effective in making our errands happier on a regular basis – and for that I’m grateful.

The human vending machine – yep, that’s me. Or perhaps more like the genie from Aladdin – Poof, what do you need?

Either way, I’m OK with it.

How do YOU feel about snacks in the store? 

How I Became A Human Vending Machine | thisgratefulmama.com

‘Hey, You’re Not My Friend’ – Equipping Kids To Cope With Rejection

'Hey, You're Not My Friend' - Equipping Kids To Cope With Rejection | thisgratefulmama.com

A normally joyful girl leaves preschool happy then immediately succumbs to tears in the car when asked how her day was.

‘Today the kids were laughing at me, but I WASN’T being funny!’

Hugs, encouragement and more questions reveal that several children laughed while pointing at her in line.

Her feelings were hurt. My heart hurt.

I told her how sorry I was. We talked about possible reasons they laughed – maybe they weren’t laughing at her.

We discussed what to do if it happened again – ask them why they are laughing, and if needed, tell them she doesn’t like what they are doing and to please stop. Then if needed, find an adult to help.

She calmed down and didn’t bring it up again until dinner. This time she told the story differently. She decided someone else must have been funny. We may never know for sure, but for now, she’s not hanging onto it.

Phew. Crisis averted.

But maybe not?

The thing is, this is not the first time she’s been upset after school. Several other afternoons she sadly told me no one would let her play with them. Further questioning revealed that in those instances she did play with one or two other kids, but not in the group.

Initially, my husband and I figured it was the result of little misunderstandings. But the repetition and escalation of hurt feelings made us decide to ask her teacher about it.

The next class day, I spoke to her teacher. Our concern was well received. Apparently the kids often play in groups with one or two ‘leaders’ who like to direct play during free time. She explained our daughter is easy-going and often bounces between groups. She does often play one-on-one outside of the group. They had not observed her being upset or any direct exclusion but agreed to be watchful going forward.

I felt heard, and we had a plan – I felt relieved. 

Then, a child still in the hallway looked directly at our daughter and declared,

‘Hey! You’re NOT my friend!’

Thankfully, our daughter was not paying attention. She was busy entertaining her baby sister, so we quickly left. I was so grateful to hear the child’s shocked mom intervene behind us. I am certain she addressed it well.

Now I was the one choking back tears in the car. All those other sad moments were validated with five powerful words.

I feel deep sadness that at the age of just three, we need to teach our child how to deal with rejection.

Truthfully, I’m not sure why the age surprises me so much – I’ve heard our kids say things like ‘you can’t play with me’ to each other and to other kids before. No age is too young for other kids to try to exclude another – they are testing boundaries. We address it and move on. I think what saddens me most is that it seems to be happening to our daughter repeatedly and is causing increasing hurt.

Rejection is a feeling most adults can identify with – we’ve all felt rejected to a varying degree. We have adjusted our behaviors and internalized feelings in positive or negative ways after feeling rejected – whether deserved or not.

Regardless of the cause, rejection leaves a stinging wound – one I am sad our children will experience.

We can’t prevent it, but we can proactively EQUIP our kids to cope with rejection.

'Hey, You're Not My Friend' - Equipping Kids To Cope With Rejection | thisgratefulmama.com

Over the past week, I’ve been pondering and praying about how to do that. Another day I’ll flush these ideas out – for now they are best summed up by these three main points:

  1. Encourage kids to share their feelings about circumstances and relationships with us – whether those moments were joyful, hurtful, concerning, confusing, or exciting. We WANT to listen, validate, comfort, encourage and help.
  2. Our words and actions matter. Knowing what it feels like to be hurt helps us remember not to treat others that way. Teach our kids to be kind, defend others if they can, and be quick to apologize. Also, to change their behavior if they cause another to be hurt.
  3. Instill and confirm who they really are to us, and to God.  This experience confirms that no age is too young to start. They need to know these truths about WHO they are deep in their hearts:
    • WHO made them – and who HE is
    • HOW loved they are – by us and by God
    • No person determines your value – only God
    • Jesus knows about rejection and offers comfort and understanding

'Hey, You're Not My Friend' - Equipping Kids To Cope With Rejection | thisgratefulmama.com

 

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child With Food Allergies – Thank You For Keeping Our Kids Safe Even When You Don’t Understand Allergies

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child With Food Allergies - Thank You For Keeping Our Kids Safe Even When You Don't Understand Allergies

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.

Now what?

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.

Relief. Gratitude.

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‘.

Wow.

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.

So, as she looked up at me, I smiled back and nodded. I whispered that the frosted Lofthouse cookies that say Nut-Free are always a safe option.

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?

Thank you, to each of you, who don’t understand food allergies, but try to buy safe options anyway.

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.