Let me start by saying, I understand.
Wait. That’s not exactly true.
I can hypothetically understand.
Because the truth is, I don’t know what it is like to be a parent of a child with allergies.
I don’t know what it is like to be fearful every second of every day when your child is not with you, worrying that someone might bring a jelly sandwich to school made with a knife that had a swipe of peanut butter on it.
I don’t know what it is like to rush your child to the hospital because of an allergic reaction, as you watch them gasp for air or you see the red welts rising on their skin.
I don’t know what it is like to have long and frustrating conversations with restaurant staff about whether the hamburger bun is made from eggs or if the mixed vegetables have peas.
I don’t know how long it must take to fill out school release forms, your hand cramping as your write, while in the back of your head you worry that the form could get lost or misplaced.
I don’t know what it is like to have to choose which purse to wear based on whether it will fit an EpiPen, nor do I know the panic you must feel when, for just a moment, you think that it fell out of your purse until you find it hidden under the Kleenex pack at the bottom.
So, no, I do not know. I do not know what it is like to have a child with a serious allergy.
But I do know what it is like to love your child.
I know what it is like to feel a fierce protectiveness so strong that you want to keep your child under your watchful eye forever, yet at the same time knowing that the purpose of parenting is to help your child be independent of you.
I know what it is like to want your child to be healthy and happy and brave.
I know what it is like to love your child with everything you have to give.
And so, although I don’t know what it is like to be an allergy parent, I promise you this: While I don’t know what it is like to be the parent of a child with allergies, I will make every effort to understand what it must be like. I will you give empathy, solidarity, and compassion.
I will ask what your child can eat instead of focusing on all the things he or she can’t eat.
I will drive to 3, 4, or 10 grocery stores to buy that hard-to-find brand of cookies because they are the only kind that are OK for your daughter to eat.
I will listen with patience as you list all the things your son can’t eat when he comes to play at our house.
I will remember to ask if your child has any allergies.
I will heed my son’s requests to avoid PB&J sandwiches and trail mix in his lunchbox because your son, his classmate, is allergic to peanuts, and we don’t want your son to each lunch alone.
I will remember that you are a parent doing your best to keep your child safe—as we all are.
Because I might not know what it is like to be an allergy parent, but I understand what it is like to love like you do.