I have had this question waiting in my inbox for awhile. Considering the focus that has been on this issue for the last week or so, I thought it was a good time to share my real life advice for dealing with our kids, food allergies, and school.
I’m taking you by the hand, and I’m looking you in the eye when I tell you…
I know you love your son. I know you want to give him some of the same joys that you had when you were a child. I know that making delicious treats that he enjoys fills you with almost as much happiness as one of his hugs. I know that look he gets on his face when you tell him you’ve made something special for his class, the bright-eyed, crooked smile look of amazement. I know that look sends you over the moon. I know that our kids are only little for such a short time, and that we are limited in how long we will be able to do special things for them. And I know that someone telling us we can’t do these things for our kids can grate.
But here’s what I also know. I know that there is another mother out there who loves her child as much as we love ours. I know that every day she sends him out into the world scared to death. I know that every time her little boy or girl walks into a classroom or a birthday party or plays team soccer she worries that her child may ingest something that could make him very ill or worse. No one likes to think about the possibility of a child dying, but that is something that mother has to consider every time her child leaves the house.
And she does not only have to worry about her child’s health. She also has to worry about whether he will be pushed to the side or made to feel different all because he can’t eat the same things his friends can eat. Will they even want to be friends with him? Or will they think that he’s odd and different and not want to play with him? Will other mothers not invite him places because of the extra attention that has to be placed on what he eats? Will he be left out? No one wants that for her child, or any child.
My advice to you is to see this as an opportunity to teach your child compassion and acceptance of others. Explain to him that you want all the kids in the class to be included for his special day, and instead of being upset that your child can’t take the treat you would normally fix, contact the teacher or the mother of the child with the food allergy and see what you can bring. I’m positive that she will be grateful, and that she would be happy to share ideas with you.
This year is the first time either of my kids have been faced with having a classmate with a food allergy. At the beginning of the year, the teacher sent home a note with a list of acceptable treats that can be brought to class. I took the time then to explain to James that a little girl in his class could get very sick if she ate anything with nuts. I told him that to be a good friend we needed to be sure not to take anything to school that could potentially make her sick. Guess what? He hasn’t complained about it one time, and he has enjoyed taking treats that all of his classmates can enjoy.
Sometimes the frustration of not being able to do what we would like can blind us to the fact that we can do something even better. It is our job to protect ALL the children, not just our own. It is our job to treat them with compassion and love, and in doing so, teach our kids to do the same. As my friend Kristin says, “The only place cake should come before compassion is in the dictionary.”
Hope this helps,
For additional resources and information on mothering a child with food allergies, see these posts:
The Time I Almost Killed My Child
How to Cope When Your Child Has Food Allergies
Stop Complaining about Food Allergies
A Response to Carina Hoskisson
Have you got a question, problem, or situation where you’d like a little guidance or an independent opinion? Leave me a comment or send me an email. All questions will be kept anonymous unless you specify otherwise. Don’t want me to know that it’s YOU asking the question. Set up a generic email address with Yahoo or Gmail and ask away.
Disclaimer: Advise This is a real life advice column that I started at the encouragement of a few friends. Read more to find out what it is all about. I am not a licensed therapist or professional advice giver. All thoughts and opinions are my own and should only be considered anecdotal. Any physical or mental harm that comes from taking my advice is on you.