Holidays can take a food allergy sufferer and their family to a whole new level of anxiety. A time that is meant to be joyous and festive is wrapped in fear, trepidation and discomfort for food allergy families. For us, food centered gatherings are no time to relax and enjoy the company of friends and loved ones. Our focus must always be on safety, protection and prevention. Children, teenagers and adults lose their lives at gatherings such as these, even when they do absolutely everything right. There are too many moving parts to a family food-centered gathering, too many variables, too many figurative and actual hands in the pot, too much for us to monitor and ensure safety.
What defines many people’s ideas of the perfect holiday may not center around food such as pecan pie, peanut butter cookies, pumpkin pie with whipped topping, candied pecans, cheese balls rolled in nuts, and green beans with sliced & roasted almonds, but it is certainly a major part of their idea of the perfect holiday. We are still fighting to show that one child’s favorite lunch food, a PB&J sandwich, is not worth losing the life of another child. Holidays are a whole new ballgame.
If I could embody food allergy sufferers and their families with one trait, it would be perseverance. We keep going, keep advocating, keep protecting, and yes, even keep loving despite all the hurtful, harmful and hateful opposition. Despite all the negative comments, the abandoned friendships, the shunning of family members that just don’t get it, we keep going. We persevere.
Keep in mind at this years’ family gatherings that we don’t want to be a pain or offensive by asking millions of questions about food prep, ingredients, labels, what you ate before you came and other weird-seeming questions to non-food allergy folks. We want to be protected. We want to leave the party in the same car we arrived in, not an ambulance.
For some families, possible exposure is too big a risk to take, especially when the allergy is severe. Please know that we want more than anything to be there. We sacrifice our desires & preferences to keep our children, or ourselves, safe. We ask for no judgement on this decision. I promise it is a painful decision for us to make.
Be careful, my dear food allergy friends. It’s a minefield out there. My prayer for you is discernment on what is a safe situation and what is not safe, and of course to always be safe.
My prayer for all non-food allergy friends & families is for understanding, respect and love towards food allergy sufferers. That’s the best holiday gift you could ever give us.