Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Food Allergies

Before I was a baker of nut free sweets I was a mother of an anaphylactic kid.

And tonight someone reminded me of why I make nut, soy, dairy and gluten free sweets.

It might be a trend in the market -- but that is not why I do what I do.

But for a few weeks, I think I had forgotten why I was doing what I was doing.  Why God had given me this 'God-given talent' and why all this actually 'matters'.

I do this because I know what it is like to be a mother of a kid living with food allergies.

I was blessed.  I had friends who were living similar lives.  But I was reminded tonight that not all parents have the blessing of being surrounded with families who are dealing with food allergies.

You see when you are told that one of your kids has a food allergy, and that they could stop breathing and die if they are not given treatment immediately, your life changes.

It is not just that we are picky and over zealous parents.

Your world changes.

At least mine did and if the stories I hear are not lies I believe I'm not the only one.

I remember

  • - spending weeks just thinking back to my pregnancy and feeling guilty, wondering if I was at fault for making my son allergic
  • - feeling like I had failed my son somehow and now he was never going to be 'normal'
  • - feeling lost after our first visit to the allergist -- I mean, I expected more support and information than just a prick test!
  • - wondering what my son's life would be as a grown up with food allergies
  • - worrying about his life, and feeling like I would need to be by his side every minute of the day to make sure he never ingested any nuts or peanuts
  • - feeling angry whenever I met people who did not seem to understand that my son's allergies were not a matter of food choice but instead, life and death
  • - being furious when I overheard a parent complain about the school allowing allergic kids to wear 'needles' (referring to their epi pens) during recess (implying kids would play with needles)
  • - being nervous about dropping off my son at birthday parties as he began to grow up, worrying about what he might eat.
  • - freaking out when we went to Asia and seemed to be unable to keep my kids away from nuts and not being able to get people to understand that we did not want nuts in our food because my kid could stop breathing - that it was not about not liking nuts.
  • - fuming over the fact that family members commented that I was being over zealous over my kids' food.
  • - feeling guilty for feeling jealous of families who could have that dish with peanuts or Christmas cookies with all those walnuts or almonds
  • - feeling uncomfortable when friends and family DID understand and took measures to ensure food was nut free ... felt singled out

And .... after a while of feeling and wishing and hoping my kid would outgrow this phase so that we move on...

I realized we needed to embrace the allergy instead.  Learn to live with it.  Learn to speak up on behalf of those living with it.  And not let it paralyze us.

Tonight I spoke with a mom who did not realize there are hundreds of us out here dealing with the same feelings and challenges she faces.  And I had a chance to share my experience with her, reassuring her that she was not alone. The allergies do not have to control our lives.  There are ways to learn to embrace and live with the allergies.

I share this with you because I was reminded tonight that even though allergies are part of our family lives now, and we have been able to learn to live with it, there are many other parents who may still be going through those first few weeks and months of adjustment.

Let's not forget to care for one another.

Let's not forget to be sensitive to the realities that friend/family/neighbour of yours with an allergic kid is living with daily.

Let's learn to be inclusive instead of exclusive.

Yes, offering nut free sweets might be good for 'business' -- but behind all that, there are lives who are being blessed.

I still remember one customer whose family had allergies to gluten, soy, egg, dairy and nuts.  When they got their cake the mother told me this was the first cake they had eaten in 30 years!

I am thankful I got that call tonight - In the busyness of life, I had began to forget the reasons I do what I do.  I had began to wonder if these cakes made any difference.

And please, next time you meet someone with a food allergy - pause and think about what I just said.

I pulled out the mission statement I came up for Sandy's Sweets a while ago - and reminded myself why I do what I do...and why I must press on.


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