Maybe you just received that life-changing diagnosis from the doctor’s office. Maybe it was a phone call, or maybe it was an email confirming what you, in your heart where parental instincts lie, already knew.
Maybe you’re feeling a bit in shock or maybe you’re feeling a teensy bit relieved to finally have answers after seeing your child suffer and hearing people brush it off with a wave and a “No one was allergic to peanuts when I was a kid!” or a “She’ll probably grow out of it.”
But no matter what you’re feeling — or if you’re not ready to feel anything at all just yet — there are a few things I want you to know.
I want you to know that it’s OK to feel the loss of what you dreamed would be a “normal” life for your child — birthday parties spent running around on a sugar buzz, playdates that didn’t involve strategic planning, a parent who doesn’t constantly see the world as one giant enemy against his or her child’s life.
I want you to know that it’s OK to grieve what your child may never know she is missing, looking up at you with those big, quizzical eyes, you feeling a loss that will never be a part of her new normal. I want you to know that it’s not — and never will be — your fault. It doesn’t matter what you ate, what you didn’t eat, what you did or what you didn’t do. Allergies do not discriminate.
I want you to know that it’s OK to feel honest-to-goodness relief to finally have a solid foundation of answers to stand on, after weeks or months or years of questions.
I want you to know it’s OK to wish desperately that everyone else could see the world as you do, divided between this moment and before, when the veil came off and you became one of the “others,” the parent who will forever live in vigilance.
I want you to know that it will get better. That your child will surprise you with her resilience, with her adaptation, with her firm, “No, I can’t have that, but thank you,” not missing a beat and skipping off happily.
I want you to know that you and your child will never, ever be an inconvenience. In a world full of convenience and fast food, there is nothing wrong with needing a little extra accommodation.
I want you to know that coolers and lunch boxes are about to become your new best friend, and BYO just became your new motto for life.
I want you to know that kids will surprise you. That instead of teasing or name-calling, you might just see consideration and cooperation, and you might wonder what this new generation of children we are raising will accomplish if they already put so much thought into keeping each other safe.
I want you to know that sending your child out into the world, whether that be the house next door or off to college, will never be easy as an allergy parent. When your child’s own body is the source of danger, it can be hard to trust that life will ever be the same again.
But I want you to know that you will never be able to put into words how thankful you are to the teachers, friends, parents, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, assistants, restaurant staff, and strangers who will make your child feel accepted and safe.
I want you to know that you are not alone, and that allergy parents are part of a tribe you might not wish you were signed up for, but will change your life forever. You think Mama Bears are fierce? Try crossing a Mama Bear with an Allergy Cub.
I want you to know that you are not part of a problem, but a solution in moving towards a future that acknowledges that we are not all the same, that different people have different needs, and lunches, and families, and snacks.
A future that has room for all of us at the (allergy-friendly) table.More On