When my daughter was first diagnosed with her severe allergy to nuts, I was so concerned about how she would fare without me when she got older. It isn't possible to follow your child around their whole life, keeping them safe from allergens and in any case, who would want to? We moms have things to do and places to go and it's good for kids to be independent, right?
Right. Except I still had that lingering anxiety about my daughter's health and safety when I'm not there to monitor the food. And I still do. But I want to report that last Friday, my 8-year-old daughter successfully dealt with a potentially tricky food situation with no help from me. And what a relief that is!
Here's what happened: as all of you dealing with this know, you go over "safe treats" with everyone who cares for your child. And you go over it with your child. But you wonder if what you're saying sticks or not.
Well, this time it did--with my daughter anyway. At Girl Scouts last Friday, she was offered what were purportedly "safe" cookies and other treats. She was told stringently that the treats were "nut-free." (I think most of us know what a slippery slope that term can be.) But ---insert scary music--the food came in, as my daughter described them "plain white bakery-looking boxes" and when she asked for original packaging, there wasn't any. She also told me that the cookies looked like the kind I've served her before. But without a label, she was hesitant to indulge.
Now she was faced with a decision. Should she trust that the food was safe and eat it? Or should she stick with her intuition that told her it might not be safe? I'm happy to say that she held fast to our family's official motto: "When in doubt do without." She gave her share of the goodies to her allergy-free friends and went on with her meeting. I detected no stress, sadness or irritation from her. It was just another day in 3rd grade.
I was so happy that she was looking out for herself so well that I almost ran out and bought her a puppy! (Note, "almost.")
The bottom line of this story, for me, is that some of the burden was lifted from me that day. Of course, I'm going to follow up with the GS leaders (and provide my daughter with her own "back-up" snack for meetings) but I know that my daughter is doing the right thing without supervision. She's been listening. She gets it. She even sounds like she's over it, a little bit. (Years of not eating what other kids are probably immunes you to this after a while.)
So for all of you who have little ones and are worrying about the same things I do, hang in there. Keep teaching them how to check food labels and if necessary, refuse food politely. Role playing is very good. We still do this. And if you keep reinforcing the message, you'll have your own success story. I'm sure a lot of you do already! Kids are smart.
Now about that puppy--I'll have to see about that one.