This is probably the first of many posts I will write about how to deal with and manage allowing my kiddos out of my protective and watchful eye as they grow up. I honestly don't think the impact of having two children with food allergies has really hit me yet because they are so young - 2 1/2 years old and 2 months. Right now, either myself, my husband or a close family member is pretty much with them 24/7. I am a stay-at-home mom and I attend all of our social activities, whether it be our Little Gym class time, Snuggle Bugs Storytime at our local public library, or a play date at a friend's house. I am always there and I am always watching. My oldest daughter is really starting to develop her own friendships and it has hit me that at some point fairly soon, she will start visiting friends on her own. Part of me wants to follow her every move and never leave her side but part of me also wants to give her some space as she gets older. I don't want my shadow to instill fear into every bite she takes. I want her (and all those around her) to know how to PREVENT and TREAT an allergic reaction. I should note that she is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish and has no other known allergies at this point. My thoughts regarding leaving her may be different if she had even more allergies than those mentioned.
I recently read a post titled "Getting Rid of the Food Allergy Fear Factor" by Dr. Ruchi Gupta on the Huffington Post Healthy Living Blog about how to prepare parents of non-allergic children in the event that your child has an allergic reaction under their watch. For some reason this article really hit home for me, possibly because we are on the brink of encountering some situations where my girl may be under someone else's care. I am struggling with how to approach other parents (even our best friends!) regarding the management of my daughter's allergy and what to do in the event of an allergic reaction and this article helped me put things into perspective. It offers a very matter-of-fact approach devoid of emotion and fear.
I think Dr. Gupta'a approach can help both food allergy parents and non-food allergy parents deal with play dates, birthday parties, and other social situations. I don't expect other parents to be as educated as I am about food allergies but I do expect them (if they are up for watching my kiddo) to A) learn the signs of an allergic reaction, and B) be prepared to follow our allergy action plan (which includes the injection of epinephrine). I know that some parents will feel comfortable in taking the steps to talk to me and educate themselves on what to do in the event of an allergic reaction and some will not, and that, I have no control over. I think my options in that scenario include either me staying to supervise my child, or just not allowing my child to attend that particular event.
I have a total type A personality, like being in control and want to have a plan in place for everything. When I was talking to my husband about Dr. Gupta's article, our approach with other parents in relationship to social events and this blog post on the topic, he said something that made me uncomfortable but is so true. He said there is a lot of grey area; that there is no black and white rule on how to approach these situations and that we will have to discuss and approach each play date, birthday party or other social event on an individual basis as it comes up. He is right, but that fact won't stop me from envisioning how I will approach others who may be responsible for the health and safety of my child over and over in my head. I appreciate Dr. Gupta sharing her approach as it gave me some basis for having those conversations in a calm, logical, and straight forward manner.