On the Bright Side. . .
Source: Photo By: Homa Woodrum
I have been feeling a creeping dread about the internet lately, specifically on the food allergy front. Invariably there will be a horror story (which will be true but nonetheless hard to read) about a child being bullied about or dying from food allergies. "That could be my baby girl or boy," I think. And then I hold my children tighter, hover just a little more, and fret over whether homeschool is the only option.
With that cheery beginning, I finally am about to reach my point (especially considering I've titled this post "On the Bright Side")...where are the happy stories? How about some of those? I actually have a few, so for once I will stop replaying the scary moments in my mind and convey that a difference is being made in accepting and supporting this growing generation of food allergic children.
Did you know family can be awesome? I kid you not! When we got the full diagnosis of my daughter's extensive allergies I did the only thing I could think of: I took every single allergen out of the house that I could. Food, makeup, lotion, you name it. I was not left with much but my mother in law was in the trenches with me, combing store shelves for "safe" food. Then she started pulling out our bowls and combined sugar, quinoa flour, and some other odds and ends. I was not sure what to make of it but when the quinoa cookies came out of the oven I ate six. She spent three days making "tohu" (tofu out of garbanzo beans) & then adapted a vegan cheesecake for me. She perfected a pancake recipe, a tortilla recipe, a biscuit recipe. I'd say I missed baked beans and suddenly she was at work. So next time you read of family acting like allergies are made up, think of Ma Liz (as my daughter calls her) being a chemist in the kitchen and a sleuth in the stores for her granddaughter and for the mom breastfeeding her.
I always RSVP to things and indicate we'll bring our own food. "We'll be fine," I say. Here's where the awesome kicks in. "What can we have that is safe?" I'm asked. One friend bought fruit, another bought applesauce, still another told me they could keep all food out of the way so my daughter could play for an hour with the other kids. Allergy parents: when you get these offers you want to say "oh, you shouldn't have," but what you should say is "Thank you, yes please!" Your friends care and want you there.
I am not a fundraiser. Asking for money is not my strong point even in the workplace, so when we signed up for a food allergy walk I was fairly subtle in asking for donations. The people that came through were so varied - inlaws, friends, family...one friend I've never met in real life, even. I made thank you photo cards for each of them and we walked proud that we had contributed.
We can't eat out, I don't eat food allergenic to my kids and I am a primary caregiver so I don't go places without them. This means I have lost friends but I have seen others shine. One friend came to see us at home during her lunch break. She ate the lunch I made and chatted with me a while. I felt normal and appreciated. Another friend is a fellow mom and she and her daughter happily eat lunch with us when they come over. Having people eat and enjoy food with us, even really restricted food makes me feel like my children won't miss out on the cultural and social components of having meals with others.
Twitter & Blogs & The Internet
Twitter's premise sounds goofy - 140 character limits, "following," "tweets"...the list goes on. You sign up and say "hello world" and give up. When you start engaging other people, however, you make new friends, or at least I have. The food allergy community on twitter is friendly and strong, and food allergy bloggers are always ready to share a recipe or swap ideas about "safe" products. I especially have been so lucky to discover Cybele Pascal (http://www.cybelepascal.com), she really has a positive outlook on food and allergies, plus you can trust that her recipes will turn out great. She hosts a weekly recipe linkup and brings people together. Also, how awesome is it to ask a cookbook author a question about a substitution and have her respond? Gosh, I love the internet. Even the cautionary tales are a means of support, I just wanted there to be some happy thoughts floating out there in the ether as well.
Reach out, you won't regret it. Feel free to vent but don't forget to share the good with the bad. It is a good exercise in perspective. Hang in there.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Circle of Moms.
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