Food allergies… well, simply stated, they stink. It stinks to be the kid who can’t have what other kids are eating (and talking about eating). It is not fun to be the parent who has to say no, read every ingredient label, have conversations at every restaurant, or continuously go through “the list” with family members when you vacation or the kids are sleeping over. It is not fun to be the person throwing a dinner party, only to find out you have to change your entire menu because of an allergy issue that can’t be resolved by simply having a separate dish.
It isn’t fun for the family members who have to give up their favorite food because the newest family member has a severe allergy. It isn’t fun to know that you are the kid responsible for making the class “allergen free”, which is why you’re class can’t have cupcakes delivered for their birthday or peanut butter and jelly in their lunch box. It isn’t fun to be the kid sent to sit at a separate table in the lunchroom, to sit by yourself… when your classmates are seated together. It isn’t fun when you don’t get to eat your candy while out trick or treating, because mom has to check it first. Or, that all of the candy you collected was for “fun” and will be thrown out… as mom pulls out the bag of candy that she prepared just for you.
It is not fun. Not for anyone.
I have a friend who loves seafood, but her husband is allergic. We went out for seafood on day. When she was done, she promptly headed to the restroom where she washed her hands, faced, brushed her teeth several times, and removed the top layer of the two shirts she wore. When she got home, that top shirt went right to the wash, her hands would be washed again, and then she could greet her husband with a hug/kiss.
I have another friend, she has a gluten allergy. I’ve sat next to her in a restaurant when the waiter asked her “is this a preference, or an actual allergy” when she shared her allergy and questioned items on the menu.
A mother I know constantly shares accounts of the attitudes she gets about her son’s potentially deadly peanut allergy. These attitudes include family members, immediate family members. People who are unwilling to read labels, because they don’t understand that just because it doesn’t have peanuts IN IT … doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been exposed to peanuts in the factory. They don’t understand (or choose not t0) what a “peanut free kitchen” is and why it is important.
I was speaking with a woman who was planning a dinner party, and she mentioned in a huff that she had to make sure everything was gluten free because a certain person was attending… as she rolled her eyes. Following her statement with a verbal tirade about how there is no such thing.
I can’t wrap my head around the attitudes that people have toward those with food allergies. The allergy itself is not day at the park, going out to eat is a hassle, it really is an inconvenience for everyone. The people who have the allergy are fully aware this, they don’t need attitude thrown at them. At the same time, these are still people who want to be social. So the question is… do you really want that person at your dinner party, or do you want the tai chicken with peanut sauce? Which is more important to you?
Do you want your child to have is best friend at his birthday party sleepover, or is it more important to have eggs the next morning for breakfast?
For me? I’d rather have the people. I can eat what ever I want, whenever I want. I’m happy to skip the allergy laden food, if it means I can include more people in my life. I’d rather know that a child is safe in my care, even if it means taking out all the peanut butter and cleaning down my kitchen a few times before the birthday party commences. I’d rather spend the extra time or money selecting a treat the whole class can enjoy together versus singling out one student who can’t partake.
When we take the food allergies of another person seriously, and put the effort to ensuring we do not put them in harms way… we are saying I LOVE YOU. I CARE ABOUT YOU. YOU ARE IMPORTANT TO ME. YOUR SAFETY IS MY PRIORITY.
As a parent, when you go above and beyond to accommodate my child’s needs… that is love. If you love my child well, I am going to love you. You will have stolen my heart.
As a person, when you accommodate the needs of one of my family members or friends, that is love. Even if you don’t know them well, you are saying I love you enough to care about those who are important to you.