It all started with a trip that we're not sure we should take. To Mexico (olé!). They felt that we were being too cautious by leaning towards not taking her on a family trip there in the Fall (to a place I might add that the US has advised traveling to certain parts of, but that's another issue).
"You know," they said, "you can't put her in a bubble her whole life!".
This isn't the first time we've been told by these people that we are overreacting when it comes to her peanut allergy, that she will grow out of this, that she can't react to (fill in the blank - sharing utensils, people double dipping into her safe snacks, etc.). They also get annoyed when I call ahead to a restaurant to ask about food prep and menu items or actually (gasp!) read the labels on food that they've bought (which in many cases have BIG 'MAY CONTAIN' warnings - sigh).
Is it bad that I wanted to reach through the phone and kick them when we heard this AGAIN? Yeah, probably huh? Don't worry - I have excellent restraint. You would have been proud!
So back to the issue at hand. Bubbles. And avoiding them.
So let's see: A) not traveling to a place where we don't speak the language that B) has foods where peanuts are in many sauces and C) where the closest hospital is over 20 minutes away by car and D) that our doctor wasn't too jazzed about us taking her there in the first place isn't exactly living in a bubble. Isn't that just being cautious since B's only 4 and might not exactly know what the onset of anaphylaxis feels like?!? Oh, and since we aren't bilingual I might not be able to communicate this to the EMTs who finally do arrive??
Is it terrible that I want her to be a bit older before we undertake a journey like this? We've done Maui (a 6 hour plane trip) and managed with flying colors, but the language thing with Mexico just plain makes us nervous - is that a crime? Well, to them it kind of is.
These are people that live in another state so our relationship with them is pretty inconsequential. They see us for short spurts during the course of the year so we end up just rolling our eyes at them and thanking the mighty G that they aren't around ALL the time when they make dumb remarks like this.
But not this time - what they said really unnerved me. Why was I so offended by that remark (and so defensive)?
It got me to wondering - Geez, do we put B in a bubble without even realizing it?
Wait a minute! I think I was SO offended because we are trying our damnedest NOT to put her in a bubble! Is this living in a bubble?:
- B goes to a school that is not only not nut free, they do all sorts of projects with food in the classroom (and we have plans in place that have successfully kept her safe at the same time including her in ALL activities)
- B takes extracurricular classes (with other kids some of whom have likely eaten a PB&J prior, not washed their hands (they ARE kids) and touched equipment, drank out of water fountains, and the place has a vending machine that has LOTS of peanut treats)
- B goes to (many) birthday parties in homes and other places that are definitely not peanut free
- B eats out alot with us and she eats restaurant food, not food we've brought with us (uh hello? if that's NOT not living in a bubble, I don't know what is)
We're trying our hardest to expose our peanut allergic daughter to life: teaching her how to react if peanuts are around, teaching her to ask questions, not to eat anything that isn't approved by a trusted adult (usually us), she's even learning how to read the word peanut!
And you know what? Those folks who judged us - they were idiots. I'm embarrassed that I let them under my skin (again). But I'm sharing this with you so you know you aren't alone if you also have relatives and friends telling you that you're overreacting or being overly cautious. Articles of late certainly don't help. We're all just overreacting, right? We can't win.
When you don't know what the next reaction might be, you're not overreacting in doing your best to keep your child safe.
You can't ever judge a parent of allergic kids unless you've walked in our shoes (now if an allergic parent were to say something to me about being overbearing, then THAT would be another matter). We're not crazy - there are plenty of other parents just like us out there. Just this week, Pete Wells of the NY Times wrote a piece about his child's allergies and how he accommodates successfully for his sweet tooth.
So no, we're not putting little B in a bubble - we're just giving her a helmet and elbow pads to deal with the bumpy road ahead. And we're doing just fine.
p.s. I need to say I'm sorry to you all for my lack of posts. Where have I been these last few weeks?!?! I wish I had some exciting tale of traveling off to Maui or something, but the truth is, I've been running on that hamster wheel called life!