I’m not sure if I’m a juggler or a catcher.
Most days it feels like both.
Keeping balls in the air and fielding the ones tossed my way.
On a daily basis, I drop one ball or another. I’m working to see this not as a failure, but as a “missed” try–something to work harder on. Some are more serious than others–bigger balls, you might say, and so the little ones I drop I barely blink an eye anymore.
Forgot to get boxes of tissues. Okay, grab a roll of toilet paper and sit it on the counter. Not aesthetically pleasing, but not hurting anyone either. And it gets the job done.
Forgot to get ketchup. A little more serious. Dig in the refrigerator I need to clean out (another dropped ball), fingers crossed I will find a stray pack of ketchup or sauce that will make them forget they really want ketchup.
Slacked on the toothbrushing routine and paid for it at the dentist. A little more serious. Actually, I spent three days beating myself up over this. But once again, took it as something to work harder on and we are back on track. Dental hygiene–we got this!
Overdue library book. Okay, lecture my sorry self about being a sorry self and put the book in the car and make sure we get by there to return the book. Again, it costs us, but it is easily fixed. Thankfully.
Got behind on fourth grade math skills. This dropped ball weighed on my heart, smack dab where it landed, for quite some time. Finally, I gathered my thoughts and made a game plan and asked for help. Possibly my best move as a home school parent–asking for help when it was overwhelming. That ball has been tossed back up in the air, and as long as we stay on it, we’re good. Thankfully.
But there is one ball that I am constantly fielding and juggling. I am not the only one. There is a whole community of parents and caregivers who are dealing with this. Every single moment of every single day.
Those who care for children who have food allergies.
Food allergies. These are the commonly recognized top 8:
These are the major allergens, but know that these are not all of them. There are as many food allergies as there are foods. I have a niece who is allergic to two of the top 8 and bananas. They can vary and often the person with food allergies will have multiple foods that are problematic.
Food allergies are more than unpleasant and uncomfortable and bothersome.
They are DEADLY.
When you are allergic to something, it doesn’t matter if your last reaction was treated with Benadryl and you were fine. Each reaction is different, and anaphylaxis can occur with any contact to an allergen.
Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. It can kill. When it occurs, a shot of epinephrine and a trip to the ER are the proper course of action.
As a parent of a child with three of the eight major allergens, that is the one ball I cannot drop.
I MUST NOT DROP.
At the grocery store, I read labels. And reread them. Sometimes my OCD and anxiety kick in and I have my oldest reread the label before we prepare whatever it is.
I get emails regularly notifying me of recalls because of potential exposure to allergens. I usually get several of these a day. (The latest is for cumin and paprika–these have me rethinking a lot of what we prepare and eat…..and no more Mexican restaurants for a while.)
I bake cupcakes for her to take to birthday parties. I politely decline treats at the bank and grocery store. I hesitate before accepting invitations to anything.
I check and double-check that we have her epipen anytime we leave the house.
I obsess over complaints of throat discomfort and rashes. Sometimes it’s hard to delineate between anxiety and a potential reaction.
Before we go out to eat anywhere I’m online looking up allergen charts. If they don’t have one, we don’t go.
I reiterate over and over to the wait staff my child’s allergens and what she’d like to order. Even if we just ate there last week, and all was okay. I sound like a broken record to my family, I know.
I am careful about soaps and lotions and shampoos, because there can be allergens in there as well.
When we go to events, I eyeball what those around us are snacking on. I have coached my daughter to look out for her own well-being, but she’s only ten.
This is my ball.
And I’m doing everything in my power not to drop it.
So when I see this “meme” going around the social media world that is insinuating that this is a choice–living with this life-threatening condition that keeps me up at night and has my anxiety at a level 9000 on a scale of 1 to 10–
I get mad.
How dare they?
The memes I’ve seen are basically saying:
“If my kid can’t bring peanut butter to school, yours shouldn’t be able to bring communicable diseases.”
I’m sorry–what the heck?!
I am not here to debate about immunizations. That is not my place.
What I am here to do is to put a halt to this IGNORANCE.
I’m not angry with the people who shared it. They don’t know any better. They might be reacting from a place of fear for their child’s health, and I GET THAT.
But hear this–
I FEAR FOR MY CHILD’S HEALTH EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
I wash down surfaces in public to keep her safe, and I carry a sheet to cover the theater seats to limit the chances of exposure to her allergens. I LOOK LIKE CRAZY, JUST TO KEEP MY CHILD ALIVE.
THIS IS NOT A CHOICE.
Whether or not people get their children immunized (again, not debating that here) IS A CHOICE.
Get it straight, please.
While there may be some parents who have children with food allergies who choose not to get immunizations, the two do NOT automatically go hand in hand.
ONE IS A CHOICE A PARENT MAKES FOR HIS OR HER CHILD.
THE OTHER MOST DEFINITELY IS NOT.
Because believe you me, if I could choose for this to be gone tomorrow, in the next minute, ten years ago–
If I could choose an allergy free life for my child I would.
So we could enjoy going on vacations without worrying that the person who stayed in the room before us had a major feast of her allergens right before checking out. So we could go to eat with friends without my having a mini-meltdown in my closet before we have to leave. So I could let her say yes to party invitations based on whether or not she wanted to go, and not on how well I felt the parents would work with us on her allergens.
So I wouldn’t be sitting here tonight, while she’s ten years old, praying with white knuckles that when she is allowed to date, the person she is interested in will respect her and care enough about her to do everything to keep her safe.
Just like I have.
Every day of her life.
I have a lot of balls in the air.
But this is one I cannot, MUST NOT drop.
This. This is not a choice.
This is our reality.
There is a difference.