By 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?