We're Not Just Being Overprotective

Monday, May 06, 2013

By Guest Blogger Megan Crisci

Have you ever been attending a social gathering revolving around children, such as a birthday party or school Christmas party and witnessed what some might categorize as a “helicopter” or “overprotective” mom meticulously monitoring every tiny piece of food that goes into her child’s mouth? Have you ever thought to yourself “Yikes, that woman needs to relax; this is a party after all?" Maybe you have or maybe you haven’t. Maybe “that” mom is a mom who simply wants healthier choices when it comes to the foods their child eats or maybe “that” mom is the mom of a child with a food allergy. Both types of moms are simply doing what they feel is the best way for their child to nourish their bodies but for the mom of a child with a food allergy it is more about keeping their child safe from food that will do nothing but bring their tiny bodies harm.

I am the mom of two daughters with newly diagnosed food allergies. My daughters are now living with Celiac Disease. They both suffer horribly when they ingest gluten. Maybe you have noticed all of the gluten free products and foods when you are making your way through the grocery store aisles and have wondered if this is just a new trendy way of eating or dieting. Maybe to some people that is exactly what gluten free eating is. A trend. But for people like my daughters and myself, eating gluten free is way of life. A way to keep from getting sick. A way to live “normally”. Yes, I have Celiac Disease too.

I feel there is a huge lacking in our society when it comes to the understanding of the dangers of food allergies, especially in children. I recently had a pretty traumatic experience involving my four year old daughter while she was the guest at a friend’s birthday party.

We had recently received the news of her diagnosis when the party was approaching and as any mom out there who only wants the best for her child and to ensure her safety, I phoned the venue of where the party was to be held and spoke with the venue operator to make her aware of my daughters allergy and to inquire what types of food would be served so I could make the necessary arrangements for my daughter. After having a conversation with the venue operator, something did not sit well with me and I didn’t feel as comfortable as I would have liked sending my daughter to this party. But, this was going to be my daughter's first friend birthday party and it was literally all she had been talking about in the weeks leading up to this particular weekend.

Well, the morning of the party arrived and I woke up extra early to bake gluten free cupcakes and prepare gluten free goodies for my daughter to take with her so she could still enjoy the party along with all of the other little girls that would be there without getting sick.

Both my husband and I took my daughter to the party and she was as excited as she was the day we told her we would be taking her and her sister to Walt Disney World! I was so happy to see my little girl so excited. Upon entering the venue, I immediately went over to the venue operator that I had already spoken to the day before and gave her the food for my daughter with detailed instructions on what she could and could not eat. (Which turned out to be everything that was being served.) I also let the birthday party girl’s grandmother know of my daughter’s gluten allergy and she assured me she would do her best to make sure my daughter would feel as special as the other party goers even though she would be eating differently from everyone else.

My husband and I left the party feeling slightly uneasy about not being there for my daughter but were very hopeful that the adults at the party would take her situation seriously and all would be okay.

However, when we returned to pick up our daughter, all was not okay. We were informed by the venue operator that our daughter had been served the exact food she was not supposed to have. We were dumbfounded. How could this have happened? We made every possible arrangement to ensure that something like this would not happen!

We were told that the by the venue operator herself that she “was too busy serving the other children before she realized that our daughter had already taken a couple of bites of the wrong food." I was appalled! I wanted to scream! Angry doesn’t begin to explain how I felt at that exact moment. I was also told of this horrible “mistake” in front of all of the parents who were there to pick up their little ones who clearly did not seem to understand how serious the mishap was. I was not able to say all of things that I wanted to say. I trusted that my four year old daughter would be safe. Boy, was I wrong.

The moral of my story is that I feel we all need to be more aware of the seriousness of food allergies, especially in our children. Mistakes cannot happen. Mistakes, when it comes to a food allergy have dire consequences. Parents who monitor what their children eat might be doing so for a reason. More than just wanting their child to eat healthy. It may be because certain foods are simply not safe for their child.

So, if you find yourself as a party host for a children’s birthday party or maybe the parents supervising a child’s sleepover and the other parent makes you aware of a food allergy, please take it very seriously because that is what it is. A very serious issue that will only keep a child safe.

Isn’t that what we all want for our children anyway?

Anonymous commented on 06-May-2013 08:11 AM
I work in a preschool, and several of our students cannot have gluten. Whenever a parent sends in a special snack, we ask for ingredients and check to make sure those kids can have it. If we aren't sure and can't get in touch with their parents, we don't take a chance and don't serve it. (One parent actually got mad that her son didn't get a special snack, that he could have had, even though we explained that we erred on the side of caution.) That said, while it's not fair, you will probably have to stay for events such as the one you describe above until you are confident your daughter knows what she can and cannot eat. It sounds like the incident you describe was an honest mistake; perhaps the venue operator should have told you she couldn't promise to monitor with so much going on. I do think at least current parents of younger kids understand the severity of food allergies, but I also think in a big party situation, where the adults in charge don't necessarily know the children, it is hard to keep up with.
Suzy commented on 06-May-2013 08:27 AM
Thank you for this blog! I agree that there should be more attention brought to food allergies and Celiac (which is actually a disease not an allergy). I have Celiac and my daughter has severe nut allergies (to all nuts, even coconut!). I completely understand about the need to keep them safe, but as she's getting slightly older now (she will be 7 this fall), I'm learning to more so teach her about what she can and can't have, what to do in a reaction, etc. as unfortunately I can't be with her every step of the day. It's tough for sure considering if she eats one nut she would have an anaphylatic reaction (been there before too!) but with continued work we are getting there! :) I've also tried my best to share articles and blogs with the community about food allergies to help raise awareness and encourage others to do so too! Good luck :)
Daniela Miller commented on 06-May-2013 09:05 AM
I'm sorry that happened to your family! I feel that many people don't consider Celiac Disease to be a "serious" food allergy.
Jenn commented on 06-May-2013 10:23 AM
THANK YOU for this blog. I will admit that I have been the one to roll eyes, but will not do so anymore!
Megan commented on 06-May-2013 12:04 PM
Suzy, Daniela, and Jenn,
Thank you for your comments. Yes, CD is so much more than just an allergy to gluten but for the sake of this blog I decided to foucus on the reaction from eating gluten. I would love to do a blog on CD itself and what comes along with such a diagnosis.
The lesson was learned for me at the party. Until my daughters completely understand what they can and can not eat, I will remain with them at a party, etc.
Nicole commented on 06-May-2013 12:38 PM
My 4 year old has a peanut allergy. Thankfully, awareness of this particular allergy has increased. He is good about asking if something has peanuts before eating it and keeps his epi-pens with him if he is dropped off, but I still do not leave him anywhere where he may be exposed to them. Unfortunately, we have to become a little over-protective in our circumstances. Even exposure to 1/1000th of a peanut can trigger a deadly reaction. We have to be aware of situations that seem harmless enough, but may be very dangerous. For example, one day at the park some other children were eating lunch before playing. They had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The youngest child had peanut butter all over his hands and face when he went to play on the equipment. Many parents just aren't aware of how scary this is to those of us with children with these life-threatening allergies. On the other hand, I understand that I can't expect everyone else to be aware of every single thing that could be a danger to someone else with an allergy. That is why I have to be very diligent and make sure we ALWAYS have our epi-pens on hand. Thanks for helping bring awareness to these issues.
Angela commented on 06-May-2013 03:14 PM
So scary and so true. If a child had a physical disability we would all do everything in our power to make sure they did not hurt themselves or feel ostrasized, but with an allergy that we cannot see we do not pay as close attention to the harmful effects!
Anonymous commented on 06-May-2013 11:37 PM
Thank you for the post. I also am one if those mom's who watch what their children eat. I have a 4 year old boy that has a severe dairy and egg allergy. I send in cupcakes at the beginning of the year to the school to keep frozen for parties, but they always seem to forget to take them out. It breaks my heart when he comes home and says that he had to have fruit loops, because the teacher didn't take them out. Thank you again
Susan M. commented on 07-May-2013 08:35 PM
I have Celiac disease myself and was diagnosed about 6 years ago. It's not like a peanut allergy. No one is going to die on the spot if they accidentally ingest some gluten. It's not that scary like a peanut allergy. It takes a cumulative effect of gluten ingestion to do damage to the small intestine.

You cannot rely on someone else to monitor your child's food intake. Until your kids are old enough to know they cannot eat what is served, you either need to stay with them or not take them.

You will also have to monitor their use of soap, shampoo, lotion, cosmetics, OTC meds, and anything that goes on their skin. It's not just food.
Amy K commented on 08-May-2013 10:35 AM
We all do what we think is best fo r our children. Props to you for standing up for your child and doing your best to make her feel normal while protecting her as well.

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