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.
17 thoughts on “The One Ball I Cannot Drop”
I totally respect you and all you said in this article. Sometimes it is hard to express the daily struggle of having a child with a food allergy…you have done it so well. Thanks for sharing!
April, thank you for reading and for your kind words. It is a daily struggle, isn’t it? And yet it’s our “norm” so we just do what we have to do. Some days are more overwhelming than others. I am thankful we live in the time period we do, with labeling laws that are only going to get better at keeping them safe I hope. Best wishes to you and yours.
Wow. You hit the nail on the head. I had a long drawn-out (unfortunately) debate with people this weekend after someone posted that peanut butter sandwich meme. Yes! We are trying every hour of every day to keep them alive. It never leaves us.
Deena, thank you. For reading and for your kind words. I am so sorry your debate was drawn out, but I am thankful for folks like you who are willing to speak out and educate. I know it probably sounds dramatic–I worry over keeping her safe every single day. And yet it’s our life. Some days it’s easier than others. If we can educate people that this is very real, very serious, and not a choice, I feel like things will slowly but surely get better. I am hopeful anyway. Way to go, Deena! Thank you on behalf of all of us.
Incredibly well-written. I have been walking around trying to formulate my response to all of this. And you nailed it. Thank you. I know you appreciate that you are not alone, going through life protecting your children and handling their food allergies. Indeed, you are not alone. I am with you and advocating for our children’s safety. Every day. Be well.
Thank you! I appreciate your reading and your encouraging words. That’s exactly it–knowing we are not alone doesn’t fix it, but it sure helps my heart. It calms my worries when I can ask questions and share stories. Thank you for your advocacy. Bless your heart. I appreciate you.
I feel educated. I had no idea of the constant stress you must deal with. I knew food allergies were deadly but hadn’t thought of the endless worry. And as for the vaccination debate, I don’t see the comparison. I think that sometimes people DON’T think. I’ve been guilty of that myself (luckily not with this topic!)
Thank you Tracy for reading and for getting it. That means the world to me. You have no idea how much it has meant to me that you did not blink an eye or make it the least bit uncomfortable for me to bring food for my girl when we’ve been at Wesleyan for events. That right there–that grace and understanding–is more valuable than gold. Love you girl.
Thanks for voicing how hard it is to be the allergen police, and that it’s not a choice. However, this sentence is misleading: “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.” Some kids with allergies cannot have vaccines because of their allergies and not by choice. So sometimes withholding vaccines is not a choice. I’m totally for vaccines, btw, and it irks me that some people choose not to vaccinate because other kids who cannot get the vaccine due to allergies are put at risk.
That is a very good point. Thank you for making it. You are absolutely right–it’s not always a choice. This is why it bothers me that fingers are being pointed at people (those with food allergies and those who have not had their child(ren) immunized)–we don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t know the ins and out of why things are done as they are (or are not). Thank you for reading and I appreciate you making this important point. Best wishes.
If I hadn’t known better, I would have said my wife wrote this. You have written exactly the situation that we wrestle with every day as well, except our 10 year old has 2 in the top eight and 2 others, plus our youngest has a completely different set. It’s exhausting and relentless. We often say we can never let our guard down because that’s when it happens. She’s 10, and she is an amazing advocate, but she should be allowed to be a kid. I worry she has not had that luxury because she has had reactions to new foods and undeclared ingredients, she’s even been intubated.
–There is NOTHING that made me feel more helpless as seeing my child have a machine breathe for her. —
Thank you for being another voice in our need to increase awareness and build a stronger support community who understands one another.
Thank you Tara
Thomas, wow. Thank YOU. I cannot imagine dealing with different allergies with more than one child. My oldest has had gastrointestinal issues since hitting puberty six years ago, and we have spent years of avoiding this food or that one, but with her it has never had the ANA potential. Just made me into the short order cook I swore I never would be. I am exhausted with raising just one child with food allergies–y’all are amazing. I am so sorry for what you and your family and your sweet girl (same age as my girl) have been through. You are right, there is this feeling that if I relax for even a second (oh maybe I don’t double check this time or I don’t ask them to clean the checkout counter just this once), this could be the time.
I am humbled by your story, and I appreciate your taking time to read mine and share yours. It is going to take all of us sharing our stories to build the stronger support community and understanding that we so need.
You made me cry. Please go hug your wife and sweet children for me. We are in this together, and tell her I get it. I’m glad she has you who gets it as well. Not everyone has that.
Best wishes to you all. And thank you again.
While our allergies are no where near as bad as your family’s, I understand completely. I haven’t seen the meme. I am glad that I haven’t. That is a pretty ridiculous meme to go around. I feel for people with allergies. I know they can be life threatening and I have always helped these customers when I was a server and now as a person who makes body care product. Please know that I truly hope that there is a cure for these allergens in the extremely near future.
Mary, that means the world to me. I really hope there is a cure too. On behalf of my family, thank you for your help as a server. It is so comforting when a server hears me as I’m explaining and he/she lets me know that. THANK YOU. I saw the meme again in a different form on a friend’s page (she’s a nurse for goodness’ sake), and I tried to kindly educate that it was not an accurate statement. I never got a response from her, but her sister wrote “Suck it up buttercup. LOL” Oh me. Some folks don’t get it and never will. I am so thankful for those who do–like you. Hugs, Mary. Thank you. Please come visit again.
Great article. My son has multiple allergies too and it’s not a choice I would ever make. I have seen that meme going round and couldn’t understand the connection. It seemed a way to bash someone else to make their point about vaccines. You are right though, it’s just ignorance and maybe if they stopped and walked a day in our shoes they may think more about what they say.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It’s harder than most folks realize, isn’t it? Even when I know she hasn’t been exposed to any of her allergens, if she complains of her throat bothering her, I go into worry mode–because what if it was cc with nuts? Thanks for reading. Please come back and visit again soon.