A good friend wrote a “secret, imaginary blog post” and sent it my way. I realized instantly it was a real blog post. But to protect her son and allow the imaginary (blog) to become real, she called upon her childhood and the beloved author Judy Blume, for help. She chose the pen name Veronica:
Then Nancy decided we should all have secret sensational names such as Alexandra, Veronica, Kimberly, and Mavis. Nancy got to be Alexandra. I was Mavis.
–Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Veronica is an awesome friend, a passionate researcher, and mom to two. Like all of us she has stumbled upon unexpected challenges in protecting her children from harm. In particular, protecting her son with severe food allergies. Her post helped me see more clearly what it is like to love and to care for and to support a child with severe and life-threatening food allergies. What it is like to wave good-bye for a day of school…and house worry. And really, what it is like to have no choice but to go well out of the way.
Enjoy her post. Tell us what you think. Share what you do to protect and support your own children with food allergies. If you’re looking for online information about food allergies, Veronica likes going to Food Allergy.org or Kids With Food Allergies:
Four Hours On A School Bus: Parenting & Severe Food Allergies
by Veronica Z
Four hours on a school bus. Because I go on every field trip. Because none of the teachers is certified to give my child his life-saving medication if he needs it. And yet he won’t need it today. But he might. And so I sit on a school bus for four hours. Bouncing along with screaming kids, singing kids, sleeping kids. My own kid sitting with his friends at the back of the bus while I sit in the middle of the bus, supervising other kids. Because he no longer needs me. Or no longer needs to sit with me, anyway. But I need him. I need him to live. I need to guard against every preventable accident. I need to think ahead to every holiday party, birthday party, unexpected celebration, and field trip. No matter how far into the countryside. No matter that there will be no threat to him today. No outside food. No unexpected snack. No candy snuck onto the bus by another kid. No reason for me to be there. Except that I’m a food allergy mom. I’m always there. The Zelig of pre-school, pre-K, K, 1st grade, 2nd grade. Room parent at the ready. Volunteering for every occasion where my child may encounter an allergen. Because I want him to live. And I don’t want him to worry too much. And I don’t want to be too much trouble to the teacher. And I don’t want to make too big deal out of this. But I do want my child to live. Four hours on a school bus today. That was our food allergy tax. It was a high tariff, but I paid it. Turns out I didn’t need to. But I didn’t know that this morning. I never know until it’s over. So I pay it every time. Every. Time.
There are silver linings. I “get” to go on as many pumpkin patch, museum, or musical theater trips as I can manage. I know the birthday of every kid in the classroom. I bring a home-made cupcake, like an offering, to every party. But it’s not for the birthday kid. It’s for my kid. I’m paying the food allergy tax. No store-bought shortcuts. It’s some other kid’s birthday, but I’m baking. I’m baking a whole batch of cupcakes so my kid has one safe one.
Here’s what I tell new acquaintances: Imagine a life with no take-out, no last-minute meal plans, no “hey, let’s just order pizza” or “let’s go out to eat.” We cook from scratch. We know the ingredients of everything we have in the house. It changes the way you eat. It makes you lose patience when a list of ingredients takes a long time to read. So you stick with less-processed food. Unless it’s Oreos. Because those are awesome. Shelf-stable sugar for those occasions when all your plans are for nothing. Someone decides that today is the day they are bringing in cupcakes. I’m out of town or out of flour, or sugar, or vegetable oil. No cupcakes in the freezer. Oreos to the rescue.