Food sustains life, provides nutrition, evokes the senses, gives comfort & joy, bonds friends and families.
For my children food is also poison.
We usually teach children to share but from a very young age I have taught my children never to share food. And, not to accept food that is being offered to them unless it’s been okayed by me.
Because combined they are allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and soy their food is prepared with great care after reading labels, calling companies and investigating ingredients. Food is prepared on surfaces, in pots and with utensils which are cleaned thoroughly to prevent any cross contamination. Knowing the lengths I go to in order to prepare safe food for them I am fearful of them eating food prepared outside of our home. But my children have to socialize, form bonds and develop relationships.
This summer, my 13 yr old son Sahil received an invitation to his friend’s Bar Mitzvah. I looked at the invitation many times planning to call the venue and his friend’s mom to see if Sahil could eat anything there. I kept putting it off. Finally, fairly close to the RSVP date I started reaching out to them. There were many emails back & forth to the host & venue. An in person chat with venue staff. Checking ingredients lists. Multiple assurances from staff that his meal will be safe. Helping Sahil through his fear of eating food not prepared in his own home. Carrying his epi-pen as usual. Carrying allergy alert cards for the chef & waitstaff listing his allergens. Borrowing his dad’s cell phone to keep in constant touch. Trying to stay calm. Trusting that strangers will keep him safe.
Even with all that preparation there were still a few hiccups – when he arrived at the venue they had him listed as being allergic to dairy and nuts instead of soy and nuts. The chef and staff were corrected and they said it was still fine – his meal would be safe. He texted me several times throughout the evening. As each course was served he informed the waitstaff of his allergies. He was able to eat the pasta and french fries. He wasn’t able to eat the dessert which he said looked delicious. Still, It was a successful evening – Sahil attended the Bar Mitzvah, he was able to eat a few things and he arrived back home safe.
The following week Sahil went out with friends to see a movie. His friends also made a plan to eat at the adjacent restaurant after the movie but didn’t inform Sahil because they assumed he would not be able to join. As soon as the movie ended he texted me to pick him up. I felt really sad for Sahil. Unable to go to the restaurant with his friends. Yes, if we had known the plan from the start we could have called the restaurant and found out if there was anything safe for him to have. But I was not involved in making the plan. He says next time he will ask his friends if they are going out to eat and maybe we can work out a way for him to be with them.
It hurts to be left out and when you have food allergies it takes work to be included. Hoping that oral immunotherapy will lighten that work. Our next OIT appointment is tomorrow.