If you color a pumpkin teal and put it on your porch this Halloween, it means you have treats that are not food and are safe for kids with food allergies. I’ll be headed to the dollar store today to get some stickers, spider rings, erasers, or combs (kids like combs right?) and some teal paint.
If you’d like to know more about the Teal Pumpkin Project, you can look here. I found out about it when a friend of mine on Facebook shared the story of her daughter (who is allergic to peanuts) trick or treating for the first time. You can imagine how the story goes – just a typical happy Halloween watching your toddler get rejected at every house in the neighborhood. The mom said, "The look on her face…". She didn’t have to describe it. I know that look.
As a parent, I have a mental picture of many "the look on my child’s face" moments. It’s a slide show of utter disappointment or utter joy expressed perfectly in their tiny features. The look on my son’s face when the older kids left him behind. The look on his face when his dad gets home. The look on my daughter’s face when she screams, "tunneeeeeeeeeel" while driving through a tunnel. The look on her face when her brother pets the cat at daycare and she stands off to the side holding her hands behind her back. The way she glances at me and kind of smiles wistfully like, "I know, Mom, I can’t touch it. I just want to look". The look on her brother’s face as he looks at her and squeals in gibberish, "Can you believe I get to touch this f*&#ing cat?!"
It’s a small problem as problems go, to be allergic to cats or to dust like my daughter. Or to be allergic to cow’s milk like my son. Or even to be allergic to fowl like my husband (Yes, it’s a real allergy. No, I didn’t totally believe it myself at first. Yes, I have since learned.) They are minor problems compared to Celiac Disease (a gluten allergy) or a peanut allergy but still I find that people react to my family’s allergies in an odd way. It’s almost as if they are in denial, as if allergies are kind of like global warming and up for debate.
I assure you, I am not making up my kids’ allergies.
Here are nine things to never say to the parent of a kid with allergies.
1. "When I was a kid, food allergies weren’t even a thing."
Please don’t refer to my kid’s medical issue as "a thing". "A thing" is Justin Bieber bangs or Instagram. You wouldn’t say, "When I was a kid, bird flu wasn’t even a thing." And, you’re wrong. Food allergies were around when you were a kid (ask my husband), you just didn’t know anyone who suffered from them or the kid you knew who suffered from food allergies didn’t know that food allergies were "a thing". Poor Drip Nose Nelson just kept chugging his afternoon milk.
2. "Are you sure he’s allergic?"
es, do you need me to show you a doctor’s note? Or, no, but my tiny child did stop reenacting the projectile vomit scene from Team America when I stopped giving him cow’s milk. Maybe it’s a coincidence (like you are passive aggressively suggesting) but I’m not going to test my theory.
3. "She didn’t have a reaction last time."
Yes, she did. No, I didn’t chase you down at your kid’s birthday party to point out my kid’s runny nose and red eyes that your cat is responsible for causing. Just because I’m not an asshole, doesn’t mean my kid didn’t have a reaction last time.
4. "He seems fine."
Not all allergic reactions are instantaneous. They can show up hours or days later. I have had a miserable, sneezing toddler in the shower at 2 am after what seemed like an innocuous afternoon at a friend’s house.
5. "Well, I cleaned the house."
I appreciate that. That’ll buy us ten minutes. Cat dander is inside your couch and your air conditioner. It’s on your clothes and your purse and in your hair. It’s on gifts that you give us that have been sitting in your house. (All of this is doubly true for smoke.) In fact, you know how my kid and my husband are always sneezing and have a stuffy nose when you are around? That’s because you are around.
Even when you come to our house, we have to vacuum the couch and change my kid’s sheets if you were in her bedroom. These are not precautions. These are things we do because we have learned the consequences when we don’t. And the consequences involve a grumpy, tired toddler who doesn’t feel well and keeps the whole house up.
6. "Oh, do you want me to lock the cat in the bedroom?"
Uh, no. I don’t WANT you to lock the cat in the bedroom. I don’t WANT to punish the cat. Please don’t ask me if that’s something you should do. If you WANT my family to come over and you know half of us will get sick around your cat…you decide what you think is best.
7. "So I guess you really don’t like cats."
Yes, I do like cats. Do you know who LOVES cats? Do you know who would do anything to be able to play with a cat? My kid. She didn’t choose to be allergic. The kid in your school who’s allergic to peanuts who makes it super inconvenient for everyone because no one can bring peanut butter sandwiches to school…that kid didn’t ask for that allergy either. The parents of that kid (probably) don’t enjoy inconveniencing everyone for the sake of their kid’s safety.
8. "Oh, I forgot she was allergic."
Is it really that hard to remember that my daughter can’t be inside your house for very long? I don’t enjoy being in the position of always having to say, "We can’t come over. My kid is allergic to your house, remember?"
9. "They’ll probably outgrow it."
Maybe. My husband outgrew a few of his allergies, but he kept a whole slew of others. And just because my son might outgrow his milk allergy someday doesn’t make it less of an issue now.
According to the foodallergy.org website (run by Food Allergy Research and Education), one in thirteen children have food allergies. That means there’s a good chance that a child in your neighborhood has a food allergy. Please consider getting them a little something this Halloween – just in case they come to your door. Imagine the look on that kid’s face…