Before we knew that Penny had food allergies, I would say that I didn’t understand what the term meant. I used to wonder why some foods were being banned in schools, and quite frankly, I thought that some parents were overreacting when their children were close to an allergen. Of course, I had no awareness, and as a consequence, I couldn’t understand. Now, the story is very different.
Last month, while dropping Paulo at his ballet class, some mothers were talking with the teacher about Valentine’s Day. All of a sudden I overheard someone saying that they hate how now everything has to be store bought and how we can’t have a good old Valentine’s Day with homemade cupcakes and treats. I couldn’t help myself and had to say something. I told them that I completely understood where they were coming from, for I, once, thought the same way. But I also explained to them that I have a child with food allergies and I am THAT mom- the one that is restricting their children’s diet in school.
It was the first time I openly talked to strangers about my child’s food allergies out of the context of her immediate safety and more about the real-life consequences of ordinary things. It’s not that I want to restrict your child’s diet or make your life more difficult than it already is. It’s about caring for others, understanding that the simple act of eating something with an allergen can make my child have a reaction and potentially an anaphylactic shock. It’s about understanding that a craving or a minor inconvenience is not more important than a person’s life.
On a separate experience, two weeks ago, we took our children to a Wildlife Park. There, we got on a tram and took a tour. By my side was this young couple with a toddler. The toddler was tired and hungry, and as a consequence was having a tantrum. A nice lady sitting in front of them offered them a snack and Juan noticed that it contained a peanut butter cup. For the first time, I saw him freak out about Penny’s allergies. Scared, he looked at me and told me about the PB cup. I took a deep breath, it was time to be THAT mom again. I reached out to the lady explaining Penny’s allergies and asked her if it was possible not to open the treat. Another first- asking a total stranger not to eat something with an allergen close to us. Instead, they asked me if it would be OK if they moved away. Of course, it was OK! They understood that all I wanted was my daughter to be as far away from that PB cup as she could. I thanked them a million times, and with a smile on his face the young dad said, “Of course, food allergies are a serious thing!” Honestly, this wasn’t the reaction I was expecting. I was prepared to listen to someone tell me to move away, or to “suck it up”. Instead, I found kindhearted people. This made our day. 🙂
Help me advocate for people with food allergies so we can have more positive experiences like this one.