Let’s take a break from my usual E shenanigans to get real.
Food Allergy Awareness Week is May 14-20. Before I had a child with food allergies, I never understood just how serious food allergies can be or how difficult they are to accommodate.
Part of spreading awareness of food allergies is to help people who don’t deal with them, to learn about the seriousness and the risks involved. The other part of it is something different and a little harder to explain.
Yesterday at work I was discussing an upcoming company picnic with some colleagues. After asking if I can bring my own food for the cooks to grill for my daughter, a few people asked about E’s allergies. I explained and one of them scoffed and said, “Oh my god, she is going to HATE life!”
Wait, what? Is that the stigma attached to food allergies? That the people who have them are suffering not from the effects of the allergens but from the fact that they can’t have cheese or peanut butter or wheat?
E is one of the happiest babies I know. She loves food. More importantly, she loves the food she can have. She’s never had cheese or eggs or peanut butter. She doesn’t know she’s “missing out” on any of these things. But she does know that her almond milk yogurt and her pea protein milk and her Daiya “cheese” and her cashew butter are all delicious. My husband and I don’t often snack on things she can’t have, but when we do and she wants to try some, we walk her to the pantry and find one of her snacks and she’s totally satisfied with it. She doesn’t dwell on that food she didn’t get to try.
I know it won’t always be this way. One day she’ll be old enough that we’ll have to explain to her why she can’t have things that other people are having. We’ll have to make sure she is aware, just like I’m hoping to make others more aware. But by the time that day comes, I’m hoping I’ve done a good enough job as a mother to ensure that she doesn’t hate her life because of food she doesn’t get to eat.
If you don’t know anyone with food allergies now, chances are you will meet one soon enough. Today, one in 13 children is affected by a food allergy, and 15 million Americans have a food allergy (source: FARE). If there is anything you take away from this post, please let it be that people with food allergies are not miserable because of the foods they can’t eat. It’s actually just the opposite: they’re NOT miserable because they steer clear of the foods they can’t eat. Every three minutes, a food allergy sends someone to the ER. Would that be worth it for a bite of ice cream or a PB&J sandwich? No. Definitely not.