I have this big idea to have other people in our lives write some perspective blogs, telling about their experiences with food allergies, either through their interactions with us or with others. When I was thinking about these perspectives, I kept hoping our guest bloggers will be edgy and raw. I want them to tell what they really think and how they really feel. I want them to put aside all of the right answers and supportive things to say, and just tell it like it is. The more I thought about this, the more I realized I haven’t done that myself.
I have touched on some of our struggles and many of our accomplishments with living with food allergies, but I haven’t really written a dirty, honest blog about what it feels like to be on this side of it all. Here goes…
There are a lot of things I HAVE to do because I have a daughter who could die if she is exposed to certain foods. I HAVE to keep her safe and I HAVE to help her live a normal life. These aren’t fun undertakings that I have taken upon myself because I am an exceptional mother. These are requirements. I’m not going above and beyond when I send her to a party with a safe cupcake. I’m just trying to meet the requirements of being a food allergy mom. Is it fun? Hell no. Is it going to make her the happiest kid on the block? Let’s just say, it’s a good day when she doesn’t break down because her cupcake was too different from the others. Luckily, this usually happens after the fact when she is reflecting on her day. At four years old, she already knows not to draw too much attention to the differences in front of others. Is this something I have done to her?
I find it interesting when people say things like, “you’re so good at this” or “you were made for this” or even “I don’t know if I could do it”. Really? Was I? Was this somehow meant for me? Was my child supposed to have this horrible life threatening allergy to something she can’t get away from because I have a knack for it? If not, then it must be by chance. Did we just get lucky that I happen to have a skill set that enables me to keep my daughter alive? It’s strange to be told you are good at something that you don’t want to be doing and that you have no choice other than to succeed in. If I don’t do it, she could die. Trust me, you could do it and you would be good at it too. It’s not a gift. It’s just enduring a curse.
I’m not going to say too much about the “theorists”. You wouldn’t believe the conversations in which people tell me her food allergies were probably caused by something I ate when I was pregnant or something I didn’t eat or being too clean when she was a baby or not clean enough. The theories go on and on and usually place the blame on the mother. All I can really say about this is…DON’T DO THAT!!!
Here comes the part where I shatter your theories about me being made for this. I hope the people my daughter encounters in the world are nothing like me. I had so many ideas about what a “food allergy kid” is like. There was a time when the mention of food allergies would have evoked a very specific image for me. Food allergy kids are nerdy and sickly. They probably don’t have the best social skills and they’re afraid of everything. They’re like the snot bubble kid from the movie Little Giants or [insert your own generational reference]. Don’t even get me started on the kids with Asthma. What kind of word is that anyway? Shouldn’t there be some vowels in the middle?
Now that I have a child with anaphylactic food allergies to egg, dairy, peanuts, and tree nuts, as well as asthma, I no longer think this way…is what a better person than I would say. I just can’t seem to get away from the social stigmas that I have attached to these things. When we found out about her asthma, I was pretty terrified. I had read so many stories about split second decisions where an allergic reaction was mistaken for an asthma attack and an inhaler was used rather than the Epipen. The outcome is usually very bleak. As bad as that was, I still held on to my social concerns. Now she’s going to be carrying around an Epipen AND and inhaler. We might as well just tattoo, “bully me” on her forehead. This is really only a valid concern if she encounters people who think like……me. Is this a good time to suggest the media is to blame?
I need to clarify that my daughter in no way fits the profile of a “food allergy kid” that I held for so long. I have met many other children with food allergies since she was diagnosed, and they don’t seem to fit it either. I’m ashamed that it took being her mother to make me see how ridiculous it was to assign all of these personality traits to this medical condition. How closed minded of me. This is where the “theorists” would say, “Maybe God knew you needed this experience to change your perspective.” Seriously, don’t do it.
My fear is that others like me will never have a change of heart. Most people will never have a child with severe food allergies. If that’s what it took for me to break a stereotype I didn’t even know I had, what hope is there for her? My hope is that she encounters people in her life who are better than I am. So far, I think she has.
You not only hold my heart, you have also changed it.