I dropped my son off at preschool last week, and his teacher asked me if he could have some cupcakes and cookies that another parent dropped off earlier that morning to celebrate their son’s birthday. I looked at the list of ingredients and, of course, my son was not going to be able to participate. His teacher apologized and said that she didn’t know the treats were even being brought in that morning. I told her I understood (and I did, because it wasn’t her fault), but I walked out of that school feeling pretty annoyed (okay, fine — I was kind of pissed).
My son is 3, and since he was a tiny little guy we have been managing five different food allergies. At the age of one, we discovered that my son was allergic to milk protein, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and eggs. Now, at age 3, he has completely outgrown his tree nut allergy, and is beginning to outgrow the milk protein allergy. We are thrilled about his progress, but still, an EpiPen Jr. is always within our reach, and he visits his allergist several times a year.
I sleep well at night knowing that we are blessed. He is a healthy weight for his age, he loves fruits and vegetables, and he seems to understand his food restrictions pretty well for a kid his age. My husband and I don’t have any allergies, so we will always wonder how this happened, but we may never get any real answers. I am sure parents everywhere might be wondering the same thing about their child’s allergies.
But, here is my issue. I understand that managing a kid’s food allergies is not part of every parent’s reality. I get that. However, I also know that there is a big sign in my son’s classroom with his picture and a list of his allergies. That said, it would be nice if parents could be a little bit more sensitive about the issue. I am honestly not asking people to go out of their way to accommodate his allergies (although I am so grateful when people do – and some parents have). All I am asking is that parents are considerate enough to give the teacher notice, a few days before bringing the treats in, so she can talk to me about it. That way, if a kid in my son’s class is having cupcakes for his birthday, I can bring him an eggless cupcake so he won’t feel left out.
As parents, I really do think we have a responsibility to not just be sensitive to the needs of our own children, but to be sensitive to needs of other children. So many kids have food allergies these days. Although we may not understand why, it is just a part of our reality. And, food allergies can be deadly. This is why I urge all parents out there to just learn a little bit more about allergies. Be cautious when offering food to small children, and always check with their parents first. Think about your kid’s classmates when it’s time to celebrate a birthday. Watch a video about how to use an EpiPen if your child is close friends with someone who has food allergies.
I think some people are more than willing to do these things, but it just never occurred to them. I completely respect that, and I hope that reading this provides some insight. But, sadly, I also know that some parents are well aware of “the kid with allergies” and they just don’t care because it’s not their kid. It really should not be that way.
Having food allergies is challenging for the parents who are helping their kid manage it, and it is especially challenging for a young child who just wants to do everything with his peers, without ever feeling left out. For the sake of kids everywhere who have food allergies and just want to have fun and enjoy time with their friends, take a moment to consider their needs. You don’t have to break your back to meet their needs but, at the very least, you should care enough to make sure they don’t feel left out. In my opinion, anything less is pretty insensitive.
BMWK Family — What are your thoughts on parenting a child with food allergies?