You Are Not Responsible for My Child with Food Allergies

I stopped writing about food allergies a long time ago.  Every time I start typing, I honestly feel discouraged.  It feels like everyone has their minds made up and it's not worth speaking up.  But time and time again I've read many stories where food allergic families, mostly those allergic to peanuts show extreme outrage in the wrong way.  There are also so-called studies that come out every once in a while concluding the cause of allergies along with the miracle "fix".  I even heard of companies making a business out of helping you make sure your child doesn't become allergic.  It's all wrong.  It also serves for fuel for comedians time and time again, all with the wrong information.
 I get it, I'm very upset too.  But I also know that no one can help me.  No one has to help me.  And it certainly isn't the fault of other families who don't have allergies.  I don't even ask my own immediate family to accommodate to our allergies.  Whether that is the right decision or not, I really don't know.  I just didn't like the feeling I would get in inconveniencing someone else.  I hope one day we are able to make close friends with those willing to understand and accommodate.
When a person is sick in the hospital or ill in bed, you send food, you cook food for them when you can.  With food allergies, you can't even bring over a hot plate of something after they've given birth. I found that people don't know how to have fun, or show love without food.  I've had to learn myself.

A quick background in our allergy journey, or at least how it started...  I have 3 children with life threatening food allergies.  I grew up knowing nothing about allergies, not even dealing with a sneeze.  Same thing with my husband, we ate everything, and we never read ingredients etc.

When my first born had one of his first solid foods at 6 months old, he had an anaphylactic reaction.  By the time I could figure out what was happening to my baby who was happily eating, it was almost too late.  My husband was able to spot the hives all over as an allergic reaction of some sort and we rushed to the hospital.  My son was crying nonstop and fussing, unable to tell me what was happening.  Within 15 minutes, he was becoming unrecognizable.  His eyes were swelling shut, his tiny little body was swelling up, all the way to the tips of his toes and fingers.  We were lucky to have lived close to a hospital ER.  Our lives changed that day.  Everyday I have that moment and many moments after like it that haunt me and keep me on my toes, always in fear, always aware.

Living with food allergies is not being able to enjoy the everyday like everyone else does, holidays with your family will never be the same.
  • It means not being able to enjoy any parties or events the way everyone else does.
  • It means not being able to throw a party like everyone else does.
  • It means not being able to let your guard down, ever. 
  • It means being aware all the time.
  • It means making friends are that much harder.
  • It means not being able to share snacks with friends.
  • It means asking your friend not to lick their fingers when they eat, or being careful not to touch them. 
  • It means you might get a reaction if you walk into a Starbucks. 
  • It means not being able to shop like everyone else does.
  • It means many calls to companies to ask about their ingredients and handling procedures is a common thing. 
  • It means cooking everything you eat at home.
  • It means you don't travel for food, you travel with food.
  • It means carrying pots, pans, utensils with you.
  • It means flying can be scary for different reasons, but the same as sitting in the movie theatre.
  • It means learning to cook while on vacation.
  • It means learning to make the best out of it all. 
  • It means being grateful that you know everything that you've consumed in your life.
  • It means learning to not put your fingers in your mouth to pick something out of your teeth or to taste anything, ever - unless home.
  • It means learning to never put your hands on your face. 
  • It means you might not go to school because it just isn't safe enough for you.
  • It means worrying about your life as an adult, navigating a life with food everywhere.
  • It means not letting your food allergies stop you from living and experiencing life. 
  • It means having food allergies but still not making that the major thing about you.
  • It means hoping that people will be more accommodating and understanding in the future but never holding people accountable. 
  • It means being aware, never being able to let your guard down.
If you just skimmed through the long list, I understand - I rambled.  The point is, it's a long never-ending list reminding us life is never the same again with food allergies.  It's a dangerous world out there for those with food allergies.

Now to address parents of children with peanut allergies being outraged that someone else is eating peanuts at a park, a shopping cart or anywhere else for that matter.  First of all, I get it.  We have allergies to wheat, dairy, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, oats and so much more, it's a ridiculously long list that is all life threatening.  So I get it, it's our whole life knowing no where is safe.  But the last thing I would do is confront any other parent for feeding their child.  It would be a reminder for me to check all surfaces before touching, or allowing my child to touch.  It would be a reminder for me, although I don't need any, that no where is safe.  Food can't be banned, and sadly many are deathly allergic to many foods.  When you've walked a day in the life of a multiple food allergy mom you'd know not to address every issue with food, and the peanut allergy moms would be thrilled with their circumstances in comparison.

I wish that every time a peanut allergy mom spoke up it was for those with multiple food allergies as well.  They'll complain about the peanut butter while their child is eating a cracker with wheat and dairy, crumbling all over.  Should I stop you while your daughter's only snack that she can eat is being enjoyed because my child is allergic to it?  I'd be walking around everywhere tapping shoulders if that was the case.  Stop making that scene.  Can we all just be courteous to one another, clean up after ourselves.  Crumbs or smudges of a food is life threatening to a child someone with food allergies, and while it's easy to say "stay home and live in a bubble," that's not realistic, necessary or very nice to say to someone with a health issue.  The sad truth is that the numbers are rising, and while there are many theories out there about why these allergies exist - they are all theories and fake reports based on a few people.  The one thing with food allergies is that it is completely different from one person to another.
Those of you that don't deal with food allergies, you don't have to understand or completely get it.  You don't have to stop eating or feeding your child the foods you like.  In fact enjoy it even more because so many can't.

However, we only *ask* wherever you might be, clean up after yourself as much as you can.  Just be courteous and know that there are sadly a great number of people with life threatening food allergies out there.  A child walking in the store, just like you and your child were a few moments ago.  But this time if he acts like a child for one moment, he could potentially die.  He doesn't need reminders from you or anyone else, he is always aware and unable to be a careless child because his mom said it to him every few minutes since he started crawling.  Everything is already tough, sometimes a walk in the store is nice if it doesn't have to be life-threatening.

Maybe stores can clean the carts better, the seats and aisles in the movie theaters..there has to be a better way to keep everyone happy and safe.  But to these peanut allergy parents, stop causing stir over every little thing that isn't necessary.  

Just clean up as much as you can after, wherever you are.  That's all we can ask for, that's all any of us can really hope for.  We all have our plate full of problems and while you don't have to understand or even help us with ours, just don't make it worse - I'll do the same.