Food allergies suck. My family of five has a slew of dietary restrictions ranging from veganism to severe food allergy. Do we enjoy ourselves and our meals daily despite our many food limitations? Of course. Food allergies still suck though.
My eldest child is a dairy intolerant pescatarian. My husband is simply a pescatarian, who probably shouldn’t eat dairy but he does anyway because: cheese! My middle child is dairy allergic and has a severe Epi-pen requiring peanut allergy. I am a dairy allergic and gluten intolerant vegan (who is also allergic to pesticides, weed killers, latex, and raw potato… yep, that’s a thing.) Fortunately, our youngest has outgrown his infant egg allergy and now only has skin sensitivity to many soaps and lotions. We are dietary divas. I never envisioned this as my life. But here we are.
Every nutrition label thoroughly scanned, an Epi-pen in every bag, safe stand-in treats available at school in case of class parties or birthday goodies, sorting through holiday candy before the kids mistakenly ingest foe, navigating social gatherings and invitations with an eye for safety and inclusion without burdening, reviewing menus before entering a restaurant, always bringing snacks and meals when we travel. Life with food allergies requires research, forethought, and planning. It’s not an impulse game.
Due to my middle son’s severe peanut allergy, I perceive peanuts and peanut products as rattlesnakes… they may be benign or they may kill us, but there’s no telling which it’ll be. The general public, though, does not share my perspective.
I can’t read recipes or posts regarding food that mention peanut butter without having a visceral reaction. It is no longer food… it is a lethal substance. To others,, though, peanuts are as wholesomely American as apple pie under 4th of July fireworks. I am, in turn, a bothersome inconvenience. A menace to quick brown bag lunches and trail mix everywhere.
This weekend at the zoo, we were standing watching the sea lions when mama protection mode took over me. A young girl walked up from behind us nibbling a sadwich and siddled herself directly beside my middle son. There they stood watching the graceful animals twirl and glide through the blue water. Her sticky hands beside his on the tank glass, entranced. Cute scene, right?
Then, before I registered what I was smelling, I — on forceful instinct — hurriedly shuffled my children out of the exhibit. My heart raced, my mind and body laser focused on remaining outwardly calm but achieving a quick escape.
Only as we reached the safety of the sidewalk did my mind settle enough so that I could recognize the offending scent: peanut butter.
I just bolted out of a zoo exhibit because I smelled a condiment? In no other life journey is this normal, unless you’re an allergy mom like me.
I don’t ask “why me?” because why NOT me? Why should it be someone else? But I do really dislike food allergies. I loathe having to special order, to carefully research products before buying, fearing a common food item I once enjoyed, and others thinking segregating my child is the ethical move. It’s safer and more convenient, but is it kind?
I also loathe not having a solution that doesn’t irritate/burden others. I loathe having to make requests to keep my child safe or being seen as “that allergy mom.” I feel sad hearing that my child had to sit away from others due to food allergies. I am happy that my children are resilient.
Despite it all, I love my life. I am grateful. I love my children, idiosyncrasies, gifts, allergies, and all. Allergies are just a part of things for us.
This is life as an allergy mom.