A dear friend and parent of a non-allergic child recently asked me a great question:
"What would I want from other parents in my angel's class?"
I don't expect much more than the same respect for her individual circumstances and needs as I would give to theirs [whether physical, mental or emotional]. But, having said that, I have had many parents go beyond that and it is always sincerely appreciated. Here are some of the things that parents have done for us:
- Asked what H is allergic to and helped avoid it.
- Told me what foods they were having for parties so that I could bring something similar for H.
- Asked for a list of "safe foods" that they could use at celebrations.
- Put non-food items in gift bags for holidays so that H could feel part of the event.
- Included us in playdates "even though H can't eat the food".
- Willingly avoided allergens in the lunches when we had field trips.
- Helped their children understand food allergies and how they could keep H safe.
- Washed hands after eating and when entering the classroom.
- Notified me if their children might have touched or eaten something in question.
- Let me know if they saw something "unsafe", i.e. someone touching H while eating, a hive or rash developing, use of an unsafe product around H
- Always took food allergies seriously and never doubted or questioned their validity.
- Asked questions.
- Listened patiently [because some days I really don't know which end is up].
My dear friend, thank you for your awareness and support of my angel and other children with allergies. Allergies are confusing and hard for [most of us] to understand and accept. Food is so ingrained in who we are and what we do that when we must deviate from our comfort zones, it is not easy, especially when doing it for others.
On a separate note, I wanted to commend you for "standing ground" when a friend of yours complained about the "no peanut" rule in her childs school. I thought you were kind and articulate in defense of the allergic child. For those of us close to this issue, it is not always easy to do that. Sometimes, we choose not to speak for fear that our emotions will prevent us from speaking kind and articulate. Thank you, [from all of us].
As the parent of an allergic child, I try not to place expectations on the other parents around us. I know that others can't eat like my child; I know that there will be dangers. I try to educate my child, and not others, on how to live safely in the allergic world around us because I want my child to live a fully. I try to make allergies a part of our life rather than the controlling factor. I try to open the world up to my angel's curious eyes and those who make it so special rather than shutting people out.
But, I know the reality and I know that those close to us will be impacted. For some, it may mean that they must wash their hands more or they can't eat their favorite snacks when visiting us. For family, it may mean no kissing or hugging until they've been examined by the "allergy police", aka "Mommy". And, for those who are willing to go the extra mile, it may mean avoiding anaphalactic foods while we are together. Food allergies are not like other special needs; they will impact those around you. For this I am sorry and for this I thank those who go the extra mile.