There are countless reports that tell you that eating dinner each night with your family builds more than a foundation for nutrition in kids. The benefit that we personally see is our daughter blossoming as we interact with her. There is nothing better to me than hearing my 4 year old ask me, "So Mom, how was your day?". And I tell her and -gasp- we talk about it. She is included in all our dinner conversations. She loves it and we love it. She's included!
It really got me thinking - the family dinner table is really the one place where you should feel the most at home, the most included, the most safe, and the least vulnerable. And that concept translates to peanut allergy (believe it or not). I think all allergic parents strive for our children to be included. I know the place to start is at home. Bear with me while I ramble a bit...
I get questions from newly diagnosed families about once a week, overwhelmed and wondering where they should start to deal with peanut allergy? I always tell them the same thing. First, get an epipen and benadryl for every conceivable place your child will be.
Second? Clean out your house. Remove all items that contain peanuts, peanut butter, tree nuts, etc. And while you're at it, remove any items with 'may contain' or 'manufactured on' warnings. Many people don't want to (which is unconceivable to me). Too severe for you to fathom? I don't think so.
By eliminating peanuts and tree nuts from our home, Bella is free to eat anything from the fridge (well within reason obviously), grab a snack from her snack drawer, or heck, get a kiss from mom without worrying about a reaction. To the very best of my knowledge, there is nothing she could ingest (foodwise) that will send us running for the epipen. She thinks about her allergy enough while she's at school, I don't want her to be on guard at home. At home, she's free to be SAFE.
Mark and I, for the most part, don't eat nuts (and definitely not peanuts), and definitely not in the house (we can't - they aren't there!). Once she couldn't have nuts, we were done with them as well. We're a unified front. Folks have tried to bring foods into our house that are off limits (pecan pie for example one holiday - I know - can you believe it?) and the box wasn't even opened (I'm sure they thought I was so rude, but I don't care). If Bella can't have it, then WE don't have it. At home, we've just removed peanut allergy from the equation (which isn't to say we aren't very aware of it).
There will be enough times where she'll be excluded because of peanut allergy in school or after-school activities (harsh, but true - sorry). That's out of my control. But in our home, B will always be as safe as possible and included when it comes to food. There wont be anything like "you can't have this because it has nuts - but oh, everyone else around the table can." Why on earth would you do that to a child? Tough love? Well, that kind of stinks when you're 4 and have little in the way of reasoning to guide you. I tell you what though. I'll keep them out of my house even when she's 24 if she's still allergic. I'm always going to try to protect her.
But this way of dealing in your home with food allergies can't be the case with many of you. I know some of you have kids with multiple food allergies that you really can't eliminate entirely from your home, especially if you have other children. Do you make the same dinner for everyone? Separate utensils? How do you keep your kids from causing a reaction in your allergic kids? I only have one little food (I never thought I would think of peanuts as one little food when B was first diagnosed) - that's nothing compared to some of you guys.
How do you ensure that your child doesn't constantly feel different due to their allergies? How do you all handle this?
Whew. Do I have a talent for tangents or what?