For the past three months, my 8-year-old has had some
serious, mysterious stomach issues that have left him unable to hold down most
foods with the exception of rice, bananas and apple sauce. We had been to just about every G.I. and
abdominal specialist in Southern California. They all had the same diagnosis, "He's totally fine."
But since my kid couldn't digest food and was getting major
stomach issues after he ate, my husband and I went for a second (or 10th?) opinion and finally
had a diagnosis that made sense. After a few nasty stomach flus earlier this
fall, our son's ability to digest lactose had been totally diminished. He had become lactose intolerant and the good bacteria and villi in his stomach lining needed time to grow back.
Being lactose intolerant he can't have dairy, too much sugar, or
foods that turn into lactose when digested. "But lactose is in everything!" I said to our pediatrician who nodded in
"Yes, you're just going to have to become an expert. You're
going to be reading a lot of labels," he said.
As I joined the ranks of the allergy moms, I was determined not to be one of the annoying ones.
Suddenly, I was overtaken with the need to buy a zillion
health-related books. I spent hours Googling "lactose intolerance" and was
surprised to learn just how many foods have dairy or sugar in them. Imitation
crab meat, who knew? There's sugar in
sushi rice? You learn something new every day.
I started to become obsessed with what my kid was eating,
especially when he wasn't with me. We
had finally found out what was wrong with him and I knew one bite of the wrong
thing could send his stomach, and our lives, into a tailspin.
Suddenly, I had a new understanding for the parents I know
whose kids have dealt with food allergies their whole lives. My daughter's pre-school class has kids with more than 16 allergies. Truthfully, those
kids' moms always seemed to fall into two categories.
There were the allergy
moms who just dealt with their child's allergy without making a thing of it, who didn't require the whole class to change for her child.
And then there were the second category of allergy moms, the
annoying ones. Their children's allergies seemed to take over their lives, and
their child's. With my son unable to digest dairy and sugar, I understood those
annoying allergy moms better. It's stressful to see your kid suffer. And in
some cases, an allergy can be life-threatening.
But as I joined the ranks of the allergy moms, I
was determined not to be one of the annoying ones. So if you are an allergy mom
and you're wondering if you just may have driven everyone around you crazy with
your pre-emptive emails and menu requests, here's how you know.
And by the way, you allergy moms whose kids are anaphylactic
get a hall pass. You're not annoying. You're just doing your job. The rest of
us, well here's how you know.
1.Your kid's allergy
isn't anaphylactic, but you still want your child's entire class to avoid
eating what your kid can't eat.
If a kid has allergies, dealing with certain foods is going to be a part of his or her life. Forcing an entire class to
avoid certain foods won't change that.
2. Before coming to a
friend's house for a play date, you call ahead with a list of what your child
can't eat instead of just bringing something he can eat.
If your kid needs an EpiPen, tell the host. But if your child has to just avoid certain foods, bring a
snack for your kid or eat after the play date. Play dates don't
last that long!
3. If you're going to a
catered event, you ask in advance for the caterer's name and phone number so
you can grill them on the ingredients in everything being served.
If you're not the host of the event, it's not
your place to instruct a caterer on what to serve. There's nothing wrong with
bringing something for your child if you're concerned he or she won't be able
to eat what's served.
4. If you go out to
dinner with another family, you ask the other parents to kindly not order their children the foods your child can't have because your child will be sad.
Kids are going to have to learn about their
own differences their entire lives. The more parents are OK with a child's
difference the more the child will be.
There's no reason the entire menu needs to be focused around your kid's needs.
5. You've started a
campaign at your child's school that the school never serve food your kid can't
have at hot lunch.
As long as there
are choices your child can eat for hot lunch, there's no reason the entire menu
needs to be focused around your kid's, or anyone's, needs.
6. Whenever a child in
your kid's class has an upcoming birthday celebration at school, you
pre-emptively send the birthday boy or girl's parents a list of what your child
If you're concerned your kid can't have the birthday treat, send
him with something he loves that he can eat. It's not that big of a deal.
7. You think it's
rude (your words) when other kids eat foods your kid can't have in front of her. You don't want your kid to feel different.
It's not rude. It's life. And newsflash: Your kid is different than the kid who can eat what your kid is allergic to. It doesn't make anyone better or worse.
8. You're indignant
that you should have to bring something special for your child to eat when you're
going to a big event.
Unfortunately, the world can't accommodate each and every
person's food issues and requests. Every allergy parent can feel angry his or her
kid has to deal with avoiding certain foods, but that doesn't mean we have to
be indignant that we sometimes have to accommodate our child ourselves.
9. Your child doesn't
have a food allergy, but your family has chosen to avoid certain foods like
meat or fish for non-religious reasons. You want your child's school to take that into account when serving hot
lunch or birthday treats.
It's great if
your family has decided to go vegan. It doesn't mean the whole school has to.