I could start this with: Dear Sister, Dear friend, Dear Me-four-years-ago,
I know what’s it like to be on both sides of the food allergy coin. I lived as a mom oblivious to other children with allergies. I had three glorious years of motherhood without a fear of food. My son could and would eat just about anything! Then I was thrust into the world of food allergies almost overnight. I’ve heard it compared to letting your child play near the edge of a canyon – constantly anxious that she might fall off the edge. You never know when danger will catch you off guard. It’s scary. Manageable, but scary.
I wish I had known better about how to deal with food when I was around friends and family with food allergies. I didn’t know I was being careless. But, honestly, I had no idea how to be better about it. So, I thought I’d offer some advice. Here are a few practical ways you can serve and love moms and their food allergy kids:
1. If you aren’t sure about a child’s allergies and you’re planning a party or playdate, just ask. (They’ll probably beat you to it anyway, but it’s nice to know you care.)
2. Don’t be offended if I’m at your house and I ask to check labels. Even if you think it’s safe, it helps me be completely sure! It’s not that I don’t trust you. Well, yeah, it is. But I barely even trust myself when it comes to my child’s safety.
3. If I ask your child to wash his hands or face, it’s not because I think your kid is dirty. I’m worried about what they just ate and if it will end up on my child. I probably have a pack of wipes available if you need one!
4. Don’t think I’m a creeper if I follow your child around picking up their crumbs.
5. Don’t assume I think you’re a bad parent if I ask you to have your child eat at the table and not in my playroom. I don’t care what your kid does at home, but I need to protect my daughter’s space.
6. If you’re serving snacks, keep the bags and put each item in its own bowl. Cross-contamination can make even the most basic snack unsafe. This is HUGE and it’s so EASY.
7. Don’t be offended if I show up with snacks for my own kid. And don’t feel like you have to always provide safe things, although the gesture is appreciated.
8. Sometimes I pick up kids’ cups and put them up high to protect my child. Teaching my child to be careful takes time and spills happen.
9. Don’t feel bad if my child has a reaction at your house. It happens more often than you think and I come prepared. It’s not your fault. But the follow up calls later are a sweet gesture to remind me that you care.
10. I’m more comfortable having play dates at my house or outside, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like your home. Bonus: this gets you out of clean up duty, too.
11. If you see my kid with food or drink that you aren’t sure is hers, feel free to take it and ask me. I’m happy when I see others protecting her, even if it was a safe food.
12. If I hurl myself across a room yelling “No!” please don’t assume I’m a crazy mom. Remember, my child’s safety is my first priority.
13. When planning events that involve food, please call me ahead of time so I can help keep it safe and still be able to attend. I feel bad for my daughter when everyone else gets cupcakes and cookies and I only brought her fruit.
14. Impromptu lunch and dinners out are almost impossible. If you want to invite us, lets make it a plan before we head out.
15. You can (almost) always be safe with fresh fruit.
16. If you send in treats to school for holidays, ask the teacher if there are any allergies. I throw out more than half of the things she brings home from friends. It means a lot when there are a few things she can enjoy.
17. If your child makes friends with a child with food allergies at school, try to send in snacks and lunch items that are safe so they can always sit together.
18. If you spend a lot of time with a kid with food allergies, ask about their allergy action plan and how to use an epinephrine injector. You never know if you might have to use one someday.
Thanks for helping protect other kids. It means the world to allergy moms and their children.
*My child has milk, egg, and peanut allergies. This is my perspective only! Other moms might have stronger opinions on what they will allow near their child so always check with each mom individually.