author of Feeding Eden

Growing Up & Screwing Up

Like it or not, when you have a child with food allergies there will be "accidents." Our mistakes come in waves, predictably when situations are unpredictable, travel, for example, when we are confronted with limited choices, greater temptations and an uncontrolled environment. An unlabeled Italian ice on purchased on a hot beach boardwalk or a fellow-airline passenger who packs their child a PB&J; - these are our villains in disguise.

The funny thing (not "haha" but interesting) is that for the last six months, Eden and I have rarely left the Manhattan, let alone the tri-state area and yet he has had accident after incident after accident. These reactions have ranged from the garden variety itchy lips to hives that covered his torso to an intense but isolated asthma attack. Why? I think because he is getting older.
He is seven and wants to eat in the cafeteria with his friends and make "safe" selections. But he loves cornbread (mine of course) and the one time he decided to try a new food without asking the cafeteria staff about safety, well, he really wanted to eat the cornbread. Another recent incident: He and his sister ran off to play an electronic game after a meal. Since I don't helicopter over him like a younger child, I had no clue that she had enough peanut butter on her breath to trigger his ensuing reaction.
In other words, I have let my son out into the Big Allergic World more and more. And as much as we both hate for it to happen ... he and I will both screw up. When Eden was only two years old, I joined a support group PAAC in New York City. One of the veteran allergy mothers told me that her son had to have his epipen several times in high school. "Teenage boys! It's probably the toughest time. But they have to live."
Indeed we have to live. And as far as the expression goes, I have learned a lot of useful details on Eden's current allergies; the kind of detail that blood tests don't reveal. It isn't an easy education -- but then growing up isn't so easy.