For all parents, keeping a child alive and well and safe can be a challenge. It takes attention to detail and a lot of work to remind our children of the simple dangers that lurk all around, even in innocent places. We turn our backs for three seconds, and our toddler decides to see just how hot the stove is. Our 11-year-old boy decides the roof seems like the perfect diving board into the pool.
We live much of our lives looking out for these babies that become preschoolers that become teenagers that eventually become real, live, moving parts of our human society. Our worry for their safety as parents is never fully done.
But then there is YOU: Mom and dad of the child with the life-threatening food allergy. While the rest of us are able to protect our children from dangers by mostly controlling the environment in which they live, you are often placed in every day situations that could trigger dangerous reactions in your children.
Whether it’s a mild or severe case, food allergy parent, there you are standing in grocery aisle four, with three beyond restless children at your side as you read the label of everything you buy, trying to figure out where the cereal with dinosaur shaped marshmallows was made. This time, not for your food allergy child, but for the one who doesn’t have the allergy. He is left in the balance all too often. You are often the first mom to the school’s Thanksgiving Feast, eyeing the food table. In the corner, you see the same moms that roll their eyes every time you come around, suspecting they are upset that their Pinterest-crafted, nutter-butter, candy-corned turkey creations all had to be thrown away because of the one kid in the class who is allergic to nuts. Can’t that kid just go sit somewhere else? Again.
Your journey to keep your child well surpasses the difficulties that average parents have. Some of you lie awake at night in tears thinking about your first grader being isolated at her nut-free table, away from her friends, even though you understand that it’s a better alternative than every child in the school not being allowed to have peanut butter. It still hurts. Or maybe you find yourself replaying what you told the waitress at lunch today: Please, please make sure to avoid all eggs in her meal, yet, she broke out in hives anyway. There you lie, blaming yourself. As your child ages and enters new seasons, the struggle may be in wondering if the group of middle school boys that your son is dying to fit in with are going to drop a peanut in his bag of chips “just to see what happens.” Most days are better than others, but you still feel so misunderstood.
It may seem like no one is ever on your side, but you are seen. I don’t fully know what it’s like to walk in your shoes, but I see you at the playdate, hugging your sweet, crying toddler who doesn’t understand why he can’t have the fruit snacks like the other kids. I see your heart break as you hang your head low when the other parents chastise those parents of food allergy children for being overprotective, when, really, you are doing your best just to keep your child healthy. While some may be annoyed, I see you doing everything you can to protect your child’s health at all costs, battling an unknown that not many researchers even fully understand. I also see your faith as you send your child into an unknown situation, trusting everything will be fine, positively making the best out of the struggles that being a food allergy parent brings. It’s not all about fear; it’s about countless successes and conquering obstacles too.
While there could always be more “we’s,” we are out there. Parents like me, and many others, admire what can be such exhausting work. We are willing to stand in the trenches at those school parties, playdates, middle school dances, and high school football team dinners with you to help keep them safe. We are standing in the bakery section for far too long trying to make sure the store bought treat is acceptable in our children’s classroom. We yearn for knowledge about how we can help you as we are teach our children the dangers of certain foods for certain kids.
We are willing to do whatever it takes to raise awareness of the struggles that food allergy parents face, and we want you to know that we support you. You are not alone. You are seen, and you are admired.
If you are a parent of child with a food allergy, check out our Fort Worth Food Allergy Moms Neighbor Group.