First it was a bag of caramel popcorn brought into our home and we noticed the label, “manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts and tree nuts” label. We’re used to these labels. But on this day, it bothered my daughter. And then came the tears. I did what any parent would do. I comforted her, acknowledged her frustration, and then ordered nut free caramel popcorn and cookies from Divvies. While food should not be a source of comfort, this was a legitimate exception.
A few days later, while busy in activities on the road, we decided to go to a local Burger restaurant. Not a new place. Spoke with the manager about the practices and ingredients. Unsure of the production process of the burger buns, he recommended having the burger on lettuce. I looked at my daughter and she said, “Never mind, I don’t want anything.” Then she just sat down and cried. And now I had to hold back my own tears. So we went to Red Robin, recently ranked by Allergy Eats as one of top 10 allergy friendly restaurant chains , and picked up a to-go order for her. By now I lost my appetite.
The following weekend we attended our book club meeting that had safe and nutritional snacks. The host also offered cake pops to the girls from an event she previously hosted. I really did not feel like going through this again. I asked the usual questions about the cake mix, icing and requested labels. The uncertainty in the responses was enough for an answer. I could sense sadness about to reappear again from my daughter. Then another parent said to her “Oh, I made you a special snack from a recipe for you, it’s free from your allergies.” The chocolate thin mint energy bites were delicious and the gesture made it that much more tasteful. A light reappeared on my daughter’s face.
The parent is also my hairstylist. I was not completely surprised by the gesture from someone who owns a salon, and is in the business of taking care of others to make them look and feel beautiful. Being the exception for once made my daughter feel exceptional. Moments like this also gives a light of hope that non food allergy parents can have empathy. It simply takes understanding the bigger issue is the feeling of exclusion and its impact on food allergic children.
Nine years on this journey, we still have our meltdowns. But mindfulness keeps us uplifted.
By the way, I had to request the recipe which we’ll try at home and share on a next post.