So I am that mom who panics every time his face gets red, or he coughs, or sneezes. I get it. That sign on the door that says it’s a peanut-free/dairy-free/strawberry-free/whatever-free room induces eyerolls and “oh great” from some parents. It’s an inconvenience. I do get it.
I promise you, my life is way more complicated than cupcakes on a birthday. There is nothing about this life you want. We don’t want it either, honestly.
These are eight requests and (sort of) expectations from a terrified but hopeful mom (and family):
1. All I ask is for a little patience.
All we really ask is that you put yourselves in our situation. Imagine you almost lost your son or daughter because they ate a bowl of cereal after school or bit into a candy you misread for allergens. Imagine they became anaphylactic to something they have eaten for nine years. It happened to us.
2. If you want to know about labelling, ask me.
I don’t expect you to call companies like I do because the labelling is never a sure thing. You don’t know which companies are known for good labelling and which are known to have problems. I don’t even know. That’s why I call— all the time.
3. An EpiPen is no guarantee, so take the allergy seriously.
I don’t expect you to know that an EpiPen is no guarantee. The commercials are great, but it’s not like you inject and keep swimming or running around the playground. There is a process and a lot of drugs that are needed to keep the reaction from resurfacing. So take it seriously.
4. If a reaction happens, act quickly.
Reactions might resurface after the epinephrine has worn off. This has happened to my son and myself twice, each. If you think it’s scary the first time around, the second within an hour isn’t any less terrifying. Act quickly.
5. We have to be careful about contamination.
Peanuts and nut oils can be in everything from soil (used in May planting for flowers or beans or whatever science project they are working on), to tissues, breads, lunch meats, medicines, crayons, ant traps, lotions, and shampoos. So while your daughter may smell fantastic, she could potentially contaminate my son by giving him a high-five. Please don’t feel bad — just be aware that he may not high-five back.
6. I don’t expect you to know how to use an EpiPen, but I want you to know why it’s important for us.
I was terrified myself when using it for the first and second times. Please understand why it’s important for us to always have two with us. Please understand that we have to be careful where we put it. And it hurts. It scares him. Even though he puts on a brave face, he is only 9 years old. All of this affects him.
7. Please don’t be offended when my child doesn’t eat your allergy-free cupcakes.
He has been taught not to take food unless it comes from home. This is to reduce the risk of anaphylaxis. This is our life. I don’t expect you to know all the ins and outs. But you can respect our hesitation and refusal, and appreciation of your kind intent.
8. I do expect you to try your best to follow the allergen request.
I do expect you to imagine your child going through this. No one wants it to happen. No one wants to be the kid who can’t have the cupcake or has to stay home from the field trip. No one wants their kid to eat alone at the allergy-free table. My son has. My kid is always left out, so please let school be the one place that isn’t dangerous, a place where he belongs. You want your children to learn. I want that, too. But I also want mine to come home alive.