My ten-year-old daughter Alex has severe food allergies to eggs and peanuts.
When she was first diagnosed, I cried on and off for weeks. And, frankly, if you’re in a self-pitying mood, there’s a lot to cry about when your child has severe food allergies. Reactions can be life-threatening, and avoiding your child’s allergens is definitely life-altering.
There won’t be carefree jaunts to ice cream parlors or Sunday morning doughnut runs.
Your child won’t be able to load up on cupcakes and candy at the seemingly weekly birthday parties of early childhood.
Even a trip to sit on Santa’s lap can be fraught, as that candy he hands out often doesn’t have a label.
So sometimes I feel justified in sobbing into my pillow when I think about how difficult our lives can be dealing with Alex’s food allergies.
But I’ll let you in on a secret – it’s not all bad. There is a silver lining. Alex’s food allergies actually make our lives easier in a lot of ways. Here’s how:
1. We’re allowed to carry in food. Movie theaters, amusement parks, sporting events. There are lots of places the food is super expensive; we’ve all thought it would be so much easier and cost-effective if we could bring our own food in. Well, when your kid has severe food allergies, you can. It’s kind of nice to have a free pass to feed the family in a fun environment while avoiding a hefty price tag. Plus in a lot of cases our own food is more delicious.
2. It’s easy to avoid the temptation of bakeries and ice cream shops. The local doughnut shop is a no-go for us. As is the custard stand down the street. Not only do most baked goods and lots of ice cream have eggs in them, but a lot of places that serve nuts as toppings are just too risky for a child with a severe peanut allergy. It is a little sad that we have to avoid these places, but the silver lining for the parents is that we get to avoid the fat and calories too!
3. Those salmonella outbreaks and consequent recalls of peanut butter and eggs over the past few years? Haven’t had to worry about that at all!
4. I have an excuse to be a lazy parent once in awhile. Parents need to teach their children how to behave in public. So we’re expected to teach our kids to try new foods and be polite about eating things they may not like when offered. And parents of picky eaters all know this can be an uphill battle. Well, when I don’t feel like fighting the battle, I have a built-in excuse; nobody judges my daughter or my parenting when she doesn’t want to try something new – it must be her allergies!
5. I also have an excuse to be a helicopter parent. Okay, I’m going to admit it; my natural tendency is to be a bit of a helicopter parent. I love being involved in my children’s lives. As they get older, I am definitely giving them more space to develop their independence, but I’m probably going at a slower pace than a lot of judgmental people would deem acceptable. Well, again, food allergies are a built-in excuse. I’m given a bit of slack for being a little over-involved because I have a legitimate reason to be.
Now, all you parents of kids without food allergies – don’t be jealous of me! It is definitely difficult raising a child with food allergies, and I would cure Alex of them in a second if I could. But it is nice to know that there are some perks too.