My kids have a lot of food allergies, but it doesn’t come up that often here. We’ve been living with it so long that it’s just part of our everyday lives, part of our ongoing family background. We’re in the allergy groove, so to speak.
In fact, we’re so used to living with it that I often forget that not everyone has to deal with this kind of stuff on a daily basis. The meds check before you leave the house, the epipen training runs, the warnings to kids as they leave the house to check all ingredients, wash their hands often, and alert an adult immediately if they have any symptoms. The massive bag of food you have to carry with you everywhere, the super short list of approved fast foods in your pocket based on hours of reading the ingredients on every website of every restaurant in town. You know, the usual drill.
The other day I was skiing and on the lift I had an unfortunate conversation with the lady next to me. We had been chatting about packed lunches and what our kids like to eat, and she had a story about how her kids loved egg salad sandwiches, and that’s all they would eat for two years. And then, a letter came home from the school asking if they would stop sending eggs because they had an egg-allergic child in the class.
And of course, I understand her being upset and inconvenienced. For us personally, we feel strongly that our kids need to learn to live in a dangerous world and protect themselves and we can’t ask other families to accommodate us, so we do not ask our kids’ school to limit or ban foods, although we do appreciate all the great things the staff there does to keep our particular children safe.
But it went beyond complaining about having to change her kids’ lunches when she said that she went and consulted with both a doctor and a nutritionist, and they both said (she claims) that an egg allergy is not possible. She said that both told her that if someone CLAIMS to be egg-allergic, they PERHAPS have a sensitivity, but that a true allergy to eggs is NOT POSSIBLE.
And so then I very gently told her that actually, we have an egg-allergic kid, and we’ve seen his reactions first hand and they are no mere sensitivities. And she said that maybe our son was an extremely rare case, because she had been assured by medical professionals that it was not possible.
I’m not mad about it at all – I know people who don’t live with allergies sometimes don’t have a full understanding of what’s going on. And I know it’s a bother and a pain to try to eat around us and I feel terribly about it, and so grateful to parents who go out of their way to learn about this kind of thing so they can help take care of my kids. It’s lovely, but not expected.
But this conversation has made me very thoughtful about two things: one, that I should possibly stop taking it for granted that everyone at least understands that allergies do exist, and possibly be a stronger advocate and educator on the topic of this thing that affects my kids’ lives. To make sure that people at least know that allergies are a proven medical fact, and that people aren’t out there spreading totally false information to complete strangers on chairlifts. How to do that, I’m not sure, but I’m giving it some thought.
And two, that perhaps there are other diseases and conditions out there in which I have been that woman, the one who thinks that it can’t possibly be that serious, the one who thinks maybe the symptoms are all in someone’s head, the one who thinks that working around someone else’s limitations would be too much of a bother. I can’t put my finger on any such circumstances at the moment but that’s just it – you might be being wildly insensitive without even realizing it. So I’m going to try to be a little more open minded, and a little more understanding, of physical situations that are foreign to me in the future.