I thank my lucky stars each and every day that my son hasn’t had an anaphylactic reaction. That being said, he has gotten really, really sick, and it’s important he stays away from the foods he’s allergic to. It may sound easy from an outsider’s perspective, but there isn’t a moment that goes by when I’m not thinking about what’s in something, what’s in something a friend has, or what my kid may get ahold of in the 0.2 seconds I’m not looking. To say the least, having a child with a severe food allergy — or any allergy — can be exhausting. Here are just a few of the many, many things that run through my head as a food allergy parent:
1. Are there crumbs in this grocery cart my son can get ahold of?
I’m constantly worrying about what another kid was eating while strapped into a grocery cart that my son just sat down in. I’m no germaphobe, but if there are chunks of food left somewhere in the cart, that’s no bueno.
2. Did I pack an extra snack for school?
At my son’s age, parents rotate bringing in store-bought snacks for the entire class to help the kids learn to try new things and to make it easier on the parents by only having to pack a lunch each day. It’s not so much easier for the food allergy parents, though. Instead, I have to make sure there’s always an extra snack waiting for him in the classroom in case he can’t have that day’s class snack. On top of that, I have to remember how much I brought the last time and wonder if there’s enough left, how many times he’s eaten the same snack in the past week, and whether his teachers will remind me when he’s getting low.
3. Speaking of snacks, forget school. Did I pack a snack … period?
Kids snack everywhere, all the time. That means even if we’re just going over to a friend’s house where there’s bound to be food in the pantry, I have to come prepared with a snack in case they don’t have anything that fits our needs. Plus, I would never ask someone else to serve my son something different than they’re serving their own kids. I can’t tell you how many reusable snack baggies and cups I own and how many are in my car, purse, or bag at any given moment for “just in case.”
4. What do I think they’ll serve at this birthday party or cookout we’re headed to?
I’m often trying to be a mind reader so I can bring something similar for my son so he doesn’t feel quite as left out when eating at parties. Then there’s the question of whether to bring a “special treat” since the other kids will likely be chowing down on cupcakes or cookies. It’s not always easy being prepared with just one treat, and just because the other kids are getting treats doesn’t necessarily mean I’d want my son to have one, too. But then I don’t want it to be just another thing he can’t have because of an allergy.
5. Did my son steal a bite from his friend’s plate?
This is the biggest fear for me. And on top of stealing bites, I’m also worried he’ll accept the oh-so-sweet “Do you want some?” offer from a friend who’s finally learning to share. I’ve had my son turn towards me with an animal cracker on the way to his mouth, his eyes silently asking me if it’s OK for him to eat what’s in his hand. And before I knew what hit me, I’m jumping up at him, screaming “No!” and totally overreacting. It’s a lot of fun.