First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.
The other day I was trolling Facebook, as one might do when a child isn’t climbing on them or demanding their attention. I came across a post on a local community mom’s group I’m a part of; it was allergy related, which always catches my attention. The parent was upset that she had received an e-mail saying that she was not allowed to send tree nuts or eggs in her daughter’s lunches. Her daughter was entering junior kindergarten, so the rules were new to her, and the e-mail came the Friday before school started. Not an ideal time to receive the notification, so I understand her frustration. She asked if she really had to cater to the child with severe allergies, and whether or not she could switch her daughter out of the class.
As you can imagine, that post got a whole lot of comments. A whack load. Most were extremely supportive and empathetic toward the child with the allergies and their families – and it really made me feel appreciative.
Schools, daycares, sports teams and camps often keep hidden the identities of children with a life-threatening food allergy. I think the anonymity is meant to allow them to feel “normal.” But that means school parents don’t always know whose kid is allergic, or even if there is a child with a severe allergy in their child’s classroom. It can’t be fun or easy being a non-allergy parent, making lunches, reading labels for someone else’s mysterious child. Gone are the days where parents could just send in baked goods to school during the holidays or a child’s birthday. Either parents have to get permission and adhere to food allergies in the school or classroom, or they aren’t allowed to bring in special food treats at all. It is unfortunate for everyone involved. Whether you have a child with food allergies or not, times have changed.
I am the mother of the allergy child, the one hidden in the shadow, and I just wanted to say: “Thank you!”
I want you to know how much your actions and precautions are truly appreciated, and have not gone unnoticed. Thank you to every parent making accommodations in their kids' lunches to keep my child (and all the other allergy kids) safe. Thank you for teaching your children about the dangers of food allergies and raising awareness even if you don’t have a child at risk. Raising kids to understand and accept other people’s differences is such a parenting success.
Thank you for getting your kids to wash their hands and brush their teeth really well before coming to school after eating a peanut butter or tree nut butter sandwich. The extra effort to keep my child safe does not go unnoticed. Every day that he comes home safely is a win in my books.
Thank you to every teacher that checks kids' lunches, and makes sure they aren’t sharing anything with my child. Thank you for making the school day a little less daunting for allergy parents such as myself. Thank you for keeping my child and every child safe when they are in your care.
Thank you for asking before feeding my child anything at all. I am grateful for your understanding that his allergies are serious and you might not know everything about them. I truly love the extra caution. Thank you to every parent who has ever asked if there is something special they can make my child or bring him at a birthday party or barbecue. The fact that you are thinking ahead and care enough to ask makes my heart feel warm and fuzzy and brings tears to my eyes.
Thank you to anybody who goes out of their way to get alternative treats for Halloween that my child might be able to enjoy. That you are thinking about including all kids, is such a special and wonderful thing. Allergy parents don’t expect this, but when it happens it makes our souls smile (and our kids happy).
Thank you to the daycare mom who brought in special decorations that I could add to my son’s milk-, egg- and gluten-free cupcakes for her daughter’s birthday celebration. I love that you wanted him to feel included with the other kids. What a giant heart you have. This gesture seriously still brings me to tears even three years later.
Thank you to our former daycare staff for always enforcing the “no outside food or drinks” policy without prior permission. I know it didn’t always sit well with other parents, but I appreciate your strictness in this matter.
Thank you to my allergist, who I see so often that she is now a friend. Thank you for never thinking I'm crazy when I suspect a new trigger. Thank you for always listening and showing empathy.
Thank you to the nurse at the hospital who found a teddy bear for my son to snuggle with after having another allergic reaction. You made him feel more comfortable in an uncomfortable situation; I’m so glad nurses such as yourself exist.
Thank you to my mom who always makes dinner modifications to make sure my kids are safe. I know it isn't easy having to cook for such a large family, let alone kids with allergies. For every alternative dinner dish and dessert you've made, it is lovingly regarded and quickly gobbled up.
Thank you to everyone for believing that every child's life matters, even if it can be inconvenient to adjust lunches and snacks. I totally understand that feeding your child is not always easy, that some kids are picky and it can be a huge adjustment. Your child might have meltdowns or go on a hunger strike. I truly respect the sacrifice you are making and how difficult it can be.
Thank you to everyone for understanding that this is part of our everyday life, that it is not a choice and that it is really serious and life threatening. Thank you for your compassion.
Robin Forsyth lives in Burlington, Ont.