Sunday, June 23, 2013

Not A Defining Characteristic

We work so hard on raising awareness and keeping our children safe that I sometimes worry that all people will see when they think of my kids is food allergies.  We have to constantly talk about it with others, always keep an EpiPen on hand, slap warning stickers on their belongings, wear alert bracelets, and carry cute lunch totes with a blaring "I Have Food Allergies" label.  All this and more in hopes that no one will feed my monkeys something that is unsafe for them.  All this may be actually life-saving for my them.  But, I don't want this to be the defining characteristic of my children.

There's a fine line between awareness/advocacy and food allergies being all you see and know of my kids.  I don't want people to look at them and think, "There's that kid who can't eat anything!"  Parents are scared when I show them how to use an EpiPen when I drop off for a playdate.  (I hope that doesn't make people shy away from inviting them over.)  I most definitely want people to be aware of their food allergies for their safety, and I want to be a strong advocate for them so they will learn to advocate for themselves.  But there is so much more to these very special, little people of mine.  I want you to see a bright, athletic, wonderful boy, a sweet, beautiful girl with a heart as big as the sky, and two loving sisters who very much adore their older siblings. 

Food is very much ingrained into our culture. So many activities revolve around food that we are constantly explaining their situation, and it becomes a big topic of conversation. This is wonderful for keeping them safe and raising awareness.  I also absolutely love having warning labels I can put on water bottles, backpacks, lunch boxes, etc, and the lunch boxes from AllerMates with "I Have Food Allergies"  labeled on the front are so practical for summer camp and other outings when I can't be there.  The alert bracelets can be labeled with specific allergens and even "I carry Epi" so a Good Samaritan will know how to help.  These items speak for themselves so my kids don't feel like they are always having to explain why they are eating something different from everyone else.  One glance and people will know. 

But, again, I want my kids to enjoy being kids.  We look for ways to have fun that don't involve food so no modifications need to be made.  We can all just do the same thing.  That's easy for us to do as a family, but harder to do when we are around other people.  Like I said, so much involves food.  Lots of good people go out of their way to make accommodations, and it is greatly appreciated.  And accommodations will need to be made when food is involved.  I am grateful for those who take the time to understand what my kids' needs are and don't define them as a person by what they eat.
 
My monkeys: Bubs, GirlyGirl, Cutie, and Curls

6 comments:

  1. I totally understand what you mean. That was the original intent behind the name of my blog "Amazing & Atopic" (THANK YOU, by the way, for listing my blog on your site!!). I wanted to convey that my daughter was not only "atopic", having food allergies, eczema and asthma, but she was also an amazing little girl to me for things that have nothing to do with her health status. I sometimes worry that my blog doesn't cover enough of my amazing little girl, as I keep a lot of the things she says and does blogged on another site. I think in my personal life, I keep a decent balance of "food allergy" posting and "daughter specific" posting, but thank you for the reminder to post more on my blog about the amazing daughter that is the inspiration and motivation for the blog, itself. :)

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    1. I love that you have "Amazing" in you blog title. It's so true that we as parents have a good balance, but I worry that others may not since we are so diligent with food allergy education. Keep up the great blogging about your amazing and atopic daughter! I love reading your posts!

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  2. oh that is so true. food is so much around us, it is not only nurturing but a big part of our cultural and social lives. so we have to talk about it. constantly. to remind us and others. is it defining? In my little son, "allergybabe", I hope it is not. when we meet new people, they first discover his personality, his vocal abilities and his happiness. And when I mention he has a lot of food allergies, no one believes it, because 'he looks so healthy'... . That reminds me to never stop mentioning his allergies and how to keep him safe. it is a small line between educating people and stigmatising the allergic child.
    thanks for reminding all of us who try their best every day.
    ps your kids are adorable!

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    1. Yes, I also try to allow people to get to know my kiddos before unleashing the beast. But sometimes the food allergy info has to be the first known fact. Especially with teachers and parents (like at birthday parties). When we are able, I don't mention it until I need to, then I educate and inform. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  3. Something that is certainly important to be mindful of! I am finding especially as my daughter gets older that she needs people to get to know her first and then about her allergies second. It used to be the other way around when she was small and I had to be her voice all the time to keep her safe.

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    1. I agree that it gets easier as they get older. My son is 8, and he is more aware of his allergies. He is able to take some control over those things. When he was young, I had to be a helicopter mom (truthfully I still am a bit) to make sure he wasn't getting into anything he shouldn't be. But now, he's knows his limits, and he knows when to ask if he is unsure. This helps me know I am doing a good job teaching him and teaching him to self-advocate. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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