Today, the results of a new study were released: "EAACI: Food allergies in children cause anxiety and loneliness, have dramatic impact on their quality of life". This study, centered in Europe,looked at the lifestyles of 107 food allergic children and their mothers. Two of the results really concerned me - (1) children with food allergies are not getting enough exercise; and, (2) food allergic children are increasingly lonely.
Although these results are not news to most of us with food allergic children, it is news that may surprise others. In this generation flooded with childhood obesity, we need to be aware that children are being left out of activities because they threaten their life. Those who teach and those who specialize in physical fitness need to be vigilant and prepared. What can we do to help these children with limited food resources find exercises that are safe and which help preserve their healthy little bodies? For this, I have no answer. I am fortunate that as of yet, my angel plays healthily and happily just as most of the children you know. But, what would I do if that changed? I know that it could. My angel loves to exercise and a life without it is one that would be hard for us to handle. I don't know what I would do but I do know that I would find a solution. Health is precious and exercise is a part of a healthy life. A child who can not exercise is not a healthy child and, as a society, we can not turn a blind eye when children are left out.
The second result of this research is one that is of growing concern at our house. Although my angel gets invited to birthday parties, we do bring our own snacks. While this may bother my angel a tad, I don't think it is of yet a big problem. My angel likes the food that I send and even likes the fact that others often want to share in that food rather than eat their own. So, in my house parties are not a concern....yet. Our greater concern is that we are not being invited to others homes for dinner or parties which center around food. Despite the fact that we frequently entertain guests in our home, others are not inviting us into theirs. At first, I had the normal concern that perhaps my angel or I just weren't well liked. However, as time has passed and the same people are still thrilled to come to our home for dinner but not inviting us to theirs, I have come to realize that many are concerned for my angel's safety. They are concerned that their homes aren't clean enough or that they can't cook for all of us safely. I have reassured those who told me of their concerns but I have come to realize that our being excluded is the reality of our situation. I don't accept that this is ok nor that my angel must be lonely, but I do realize that this battle is not mine alone. In fact, it is not the battle of allergic parents at all. This battle belongs to those who are unsure, those who do not want to compromise their lifestyles and to those who do not care. As mothers of our allergic angels, we do our best to form a comfortable and safe life that allows us to bless and be blessed by those around us. We are ready to learn from those who know better and educate those who want to know more. But, we can not force change upon others who are not ready to face or embrace our realities. Living with food allergies is difficult and sometimes even lonely. However, I do not know exactly how those of us living this reality are going to change this today or even tomorrow.
This research is a solemn reminder of the social implications that come with food allergies. It is a reminder to cherish those who have called us friend, opening their hearts, homes and minds to us. A sincere, "Thank you," to each of you who call us friend. As for those who are not yet ready to traverse into the sometimes difficult world of food allergies, I understand.....we understand. But, when you are ready, we will still be here learning to live and love one food at a time.