Dear food allergy,
I hate your guts. Or more accurately, I hate what you do to my child’s guts. I hate that you hide in the most common of places and only one bite can kill my child. I hate the worry, the anxiety, and the fear that looms in my mind. I hate the anxiety I see in my child now, as she attends school. I hate the social isolation and misconceptions society still has for food allergies. I hate the doctor’s visits, the shots and blood works. I hate rushing to the ER and using an epi-pen. I hate the hives and wondering what is coming next. I hate leaving a party early (or not even attending) because I know there is danger there. I hate that we can’t eat at restaurants, have convenience foods, enjoy get-togethers involving food, or even hire a babysitter. I hate making every single meal from scratch. I hate that our food expenses have increased so significantly that we can no longer save for vacations. I hate being told “well, at least it’s not cancer”, as if I am supposed to feel grateful after a long, hard, worrisome day. I hate feeling defeat, crying in the night, wondering how I can protect my children. That is my job as mother, right?
But through it all, all the hate, blame, fear, and anxiety, I occasionally feel small pings of other feelings. Grateful that it isn’t cancer. Thankful that my child can live a long, healthy, active life if she is careful. Amazed at the courage my child musters when she is left out of a party at school and is able to hide her tears and disappointment until she gets home. Astonished when I see my child ask for a more restricted meal so she can sit at the peanut table with a friend. I feel impressed with my child’s ability to control her impulses and say no to food/friends. Gratitude for our healthier diet and ability to make a meal out of basic ingredients. I see the strength my child is gaining through this trial. The determination she has to make it through an allergic reaction. The ability to read food labels and make good decisions for herself. The fortitude to be the only one in a crowd who is different. The capacity to feel empathy towards others who are struggling (especially with food allergies or social isolation). The education we have gained about allergies and allergic reactions.
So food allergy, even though I hate your guts, I see change for better in our lives. When I feel that you are winning the battle of self-defeat, I try to remember the small steps towards becoming a more defined person. A person who knows they can do hard things. A courageous, empathetic, and resilient person. In the end, that is what I want for my child. Even though I hesitate to admit it, maybe you are helping me be a better mother, after all.
A concerned parent