I started writing this blog when my daughter was in second grade; now she's in fifth. We actually discovered my daughter's allergy when she was four years old and in preschool.
Though the early years were scary for many reasons, I think our current and future situation is possibly going to be both the most challenging and also the most rewarding. Now that my daughter is 10, nearly 11, I can't really approach her as I could a small child. She's growing into her own person and wants to do more things idependently. She's clamoring for sleepovers "not at OUR house, at my FRIEND's house" and other activities that take her out of the realm of a controlled food environment and optimum safety.
I'm struggling with what I will let her do and not do, but mainly I stick to the principles that we've had all along. Safe is safe. Some things aren't safe and we don't do them, but we'll do something else. However, I don't want to squelch her independence or joy about new friends and new experiences. It's a very tricky balancing act and we're figuring it out as we go. These days, I often feel like I'm on a balance beam.
Like all of us dealing with a life-threatening nut allergy (she is allergic to peanuts and most tree nuts)I evaluate each situation individually and urge you to do the same. When questioning what you will let your child do, you have to ask: how allergic are they? How risky is the activity? Is an allergic reaction relatively avoidable with certain precautions? Do the adults in charge truly understand how to handle an allergic emergency? Finally, the last question is: How much does your child want to do the activity?
All of the above goes into my decision-making. From Day One of being a "Nut-Free Mom" I've always wanted my daughter to have the fullest, most "normal" life possible. However, this involves some work. I strongly believe in educating all of the parents of her close friends on the details of her allergy; I will even give them copies of her Food Allergy Action Plan just to keep it all straight. At the same time, my daughter and I go over scenarios and possible allergy risks and discuss the best way she can handle them.
Obviously, no matter how much your child wants something, you shouldn't allow it if it just seems too risky. Health comes first. However, I am finding myself on the balance beam much more frequently these days and it's a new kind of scary. We could fall off and we have to walk a very straight line to stay on the beam. However, getting out there is liberating to my daughter and ultimately to our family. And of course, we aren't walking a beam with no soft mats underneath to break our fall. Always carrying medication and following our "house rules" when it comes to food help us make it safely across the beam and back again.
As my daughter grows, it's not just providing safe foods and hosting play dates any more. It's about teaching her how to be responsible for her allergy without scaring her away from life and its many experiences. She is eager to try so many things and I support her in that. I know that she's going outside of our realm with knowledge, her medications and some confidence that she can handle herself. As she grows toward adulthood, these are going to be key in keeping herself safe.