As an allergy parent, one of the things you worry about is how to teach your child about their allergies. How do you teach them what foods they can have and which they can’t? How do you teach them to ask questions and speak up for themselves? How do you teach them to be educated about food in general? And how do you do this when they’re not even 5 years old?
At this point, he was excited to help with the rest. He added spices to the cauliflower and helped to put them on a baking sheet. He also helped season the steaks. And he was eager to join me outside at the grill.
It was a wonderful night with him, but it was probably just a fluke, I thought. But then, his interest continued this weekend.
On Halloween night, my son had his first trick-or-treating experience. My husband and I hadn't mentioned it until it was clear he knew it was a thing — honestly, we weren't sure we really wanted him to participate. As a child with food allergies, there are very few candies he can have. Plus, we aren't wild about introducing him to more opportunities for sugar. But he was fully aware that people would give him candy if he just rang the doorbell and asked. I was trapped.
I love the holidays. Yes, I love Christmas and Thanksgiving. But I even love the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Holidays are an opportunity for fun and traditions. But I have a beef with holidays where junk food is a key component. (I’m looking at you, Valentine’s Day!) And Halloween falls into that category.
Cooking with kids is important. But making it fun for everyone is too. A few things to consider to help ensure you're prepared to be patient and enjoy the experience.
Mac and cheese. Pizza. Chicken tenders. String cheese. These are staples of childhood. And they are things my son can’t have. In fact, these foods could make him very sick — or worse.
His food allergies aren’t the end of the world, but they do make life harder — for us as parents trying to find foods he’ll eat, yes, but mostly for him. We remain hopeful that he’ll grow out of them, but we’re also keenly aware he might not. And if he doesn’t? Well, he’s going to need certain skills when he gets older.
Weddings, birthday parties, family gatherings and neighborhood picnics. These are events that should be fun, right? But for parents of children with food energies, they can be stressful — from both a safety perspective and a social graces standpoint.
Here’s what goes through my mind pre-event: Should I call and ask what they’ll be serving? Should I bring food for my son? Will they think we’re rude if we bring our own food? Would it be rude to call and ask? Will they feel like I’m pressuring them to change their menu? It doesn't matter; I just want to plan. Will they understand?
Then, at the event: Is that cheese on the floor? Is my son reaching for a doughnut? Does that bread have egg? I wonder if the host made these meatballs? Should I ask her what’s in them? Did I remember the EpiPen?
I'm going to level with you: Lately, I just haven't had the energy for cooking. My workdays have been long. My son was sick a couple of days. I've had several evenings where it's just my son and me — and it's really hard to cook for two. So, yeah, I've taken a bit of a break from the kitchen just to catch my breath.
While there would be food at our destination, I was nervous about it. Typically, before we go out to eat, I try to vet a restaurant and review the menu to ensure there is indeed something on the menu my son can (and will probably) eat. I wasn't able to properly do that in advance of the weekend. Plus, the resort was off the beaten path, so it's not like we could easily wander off-property and dine at Chipotle if the resort's food wasn't cuttin' it.
So, I threw some leftover rice and chicken into a cooler just to be safe.
As I stared at that cooler and the jumbo bag of snacks, I remember thinking: Are other parents doing this? Is this a toddler thing or an allergy thing? I'm pretty sure it's an allergy thing.