Had a weird interaction with another allergy mom from my son’s school.
A few months ago, one of my son’s teachers made a comment about this particular mom and how she has alienated most of the parents in the small school. “Huh, I haven’t had any issues with her,” I say.
Famous last words.
Fast forward several months, prepping for my son’s birthday party. I get the first of several emails from her about food at the party. Her son has a serious raw egg allergy. Raw, not cooked. My oldest had an egg allergy–eczema city!–but he never needed an Epi-pen for it. However, I have years of ferreting out egg as an ingredient.
The first message was strident; subsequent messages were…well…a tad hysterical.
I TOTALLY get food allergies. I really do. You tell me your kid has an anaphylactic allergy to egg, there will be no egg in any of your child’s food options. NONE.
I respond to her that I’ve got this covered and explain how serious I am and conclude with a lengthy explanation of what we’ve gone through…and the hysterics start. “WHAT ABOUT THE EGG WASH ON BAGELS???”
Bagels? There were no bagels. She hadn’t read anything I’d sent her. I had sent her a full menu, including the name of the cake mix I’d be using, and the name of the pizza place providing lunch. She freaked out that the pizza place told her they couldn’t deliver to my zip code. This is where I was stumped. WTF? I assured her, twice, that getting the pizza to the party was taken care of, but she had a hard time letting it go.
So, I’ve been thinking about it. I suspect she is anxious by nature and she doesn’t think people take her seriously. I get that, too. If she put me off, a sworn sister in the allergy wars, what was she doing to the other parents??
Here’s a few tips that might smooth the way:
1. Be vigilant, but keep in mind you’re not the only allergy mom in the world, and probably not the only one in your kids’ school. You have allies. (Seriously, ask the school nurse how many kids have Epi-pens…you might be surprised.) If you can, find out who those other allergy moms are and compare notes.
2. Offer options. Every teacher would appreciate a list of safe foods that they can share with other parents. If your child is invited to a party, ask the parents if they’d find a list of suggestions helpful. Ask, don’t tell. And focus on what your child CAN have.
3. Always ask if there are other kids with food allergies. Don’t steam roll everyone with your child’s allergies and then ignore other kids. Respect the other moms’ knowledge and they are more likely to respect what you have to offer.
4. If you can, volunteer at class parties, and bring several food options that are safe for your child.
5. Bring safe food choices with you or send them with your kid, especially for birthday parties. Call ahead and ask if it would be ok to send extra so your child can share.
6. Just because you know your kid’s allergy, don’t assume you know every allergy or diet-related issue: be open to learning about other special diets. For instance: Rice Krispies aren’t gluten-free, so if a GFCF kid has to pass them up, don’t be upset that you did something special and they’re not eating it.
7. Be nice. Before you talk to someone, imagine that they want to help you, not fight you. If you are talking over the phone, or even typing up an email, SMILE, even if they can’t see you.
8. Don’t get upset if the other parents can’t do what you can do.
9. Limit your involvement to just the food your child will eat. I can attest that someone else getting involved with pizza delivery–and calling the pizza place on MY behalf–is, frankly, a pain, an unwanted complication, and an unnecessary violation of boundaries.
10. Don’t pull your kid into your cycle of worry and anxiety. Let them know you’ve got it well in hand. You have checked everything out AND you have food that’s safe for them. The mom I had to deal with had completely panicked her son and he had to be persuaded to eat anything. And his mom hadn’t sent anything he felt safe with. Another kid I know announces with great frequency that he could DIE if he eats peanuts.