Our son was diagnosed with an anaphylactic peanut allergy when he was not yet three years old. Not wanting to deny him the childhood right of passage that is trick-or-treating, we have for the past several years taken him and his non-allergic twin sister around the neighborhood standing close by and arming them both with the phrase “No thank you. I’m allergic to peanuts but thank you anyway and have a Happy Halloween” to any neighbor who offered peanut candy. We would NEVER presume someone would change their candy-buying habits just because our son is deathly allergic. A mom can dream, but I’d never ask. Beggars can’t be choosers, and the kids really DO have gratitude to people offering up free candy and humoring them in their costumes with praises like “Oooh…how scary you are!” and “My, what a CREATIVE costume!”.
We moved into this neighborhood in April and have been retooling how we manage our sons allergy. We no longer insist he sit within the first three rows on the school bus. That was the rule knowing that a reaction to peanut exposure could take place any time within 24 hours of exposure and knowing that kids eat peanut butter at their school and not all classes enforce the ‘wash your hands’ after meals rule. Now that he’s nine, with his twin sister at his side and both trained on using the Epi Pen, their Dad and I have agreed they can sit towards the back of the bus with the rest of the 4th and 5th graders. It’s a big deal to them, and one more step towards helping our son to feel ‘normal’. The driver is aware of his allergy and we trained him on the use of the Epi. Also, our kids know Epi’s are not toys and understand the seriousness of their purpose. They don’t take them out of the SpiBelt in which they are stored and other kids can’t get a hold of them. We have also given our daughter permission to eat with her friends rather than having to eat lunch at the allergy table with her brother. She’s only done it a few times. The fact of the matter is, our kids are good friends, and her brother is pretty cool. The allergy table is usually full with kids that forgo nut-based lunches in order to hang out with our son.
Fast forward to last night.
With a little foresight, we changed our rules for Halloween. I stopped off at Fred Meyer after grocery shopping to pick up some Jelly Belly Candy Corn. It’s the first candy corn we’ve found that’s made in a PEANUT FREE Facility. It’s the first candy corn our son has ever been able to try. It may seem like a small thing to someone without life-threatening food allergies, but around here, it’s a really big deal and one more step towards ‘normalcy’. While there, I opted to pick up a few bags of ‘safe’ candy to use for a candy exchange with our kids. Before we headed out trick-or-treating, my husband and I talked with the kids about our plan. They could trick-or-treat. They didn’t have to say ‘no thank you’. When we got home, we would go through their candy as they took showers and swap out unsafe/peanut or shared equipment candy with safe favorites and their Dad would take the rest to work at a the big factory near us.
They cheered! They deemed us the coolest parents ever. They threw us a ticker-tape parade!
O.k., no parade, but the other two things DID happen.
Parenting isn’t easy. Active parenting isn’t for wimps. Parenting kids with life-threatening food allergies and trying to help the kids be extraordinary while still helping them to feel ‘normal’? That’s a challenge to any grown-ups creativity. Thank God I’m an artist!