A new school year comes with its share of stressors for all mothers, but moms like me fear something that many others look forward to. I’m not talking about that feathery air of peace that fills your home when it’s quiet and empty at the beginning of a new school year. I suspect most moms, myself included, love that. What I’m talking about is food.
Food enters our schools on non-stop conveyor belts throughout the year—for school parties, ice cream days, holiday celebrations, candy rewards, birthday celebrations, and my personal favorite <insert sarcasm>, lunch deliveries from local fast food joints. These food-filled occasions are fun for many children, teachers, and moms, too. I get that. But not so much for my child or for me. Like many other children, my son has food allergies. While his issue is allergies, others with special diets for any number of reasons can also relate.
I found out about my son’s food allergies at his first birthday party. The smash cake—you all know it. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s an early celebratory step into the dark side of food—sugar. We let my son indulge freely while he was surrounded by doting family, friends, and flashing cameras. In the midst of all that, something happened. I noticed that he was pawing at his neck. Curious, I removed his bib and was horrified to find him covered with M&M-sized hives. Thank goodness that one of our guests was an EMT who helped us get the situation under control quickly. But on that day, a little grey cloud had appeared, one that will follow my son to every meal and every party for (most likely) the rest of his life.
My son’s food allergies mean that with very limited exceptions, I prepare and pack all of his food, all of the time. My collection of food containers and coolers is unrivaled—seriously, Martha Stewart would be impressed. My son’s food allergies mean that he’s not a convenient choice for a playdate. He probably can’t sit in that extra car seat in your car, maybe not even in your car at all. You’ve seen your friend’s funny Facebook posts about the who-knows-how-old-sandwich found in the car, right? That’s funny to moms who have to feed their kids on the go and can relate to food gone MIA somewhere in the minivan. For me, however, it’s horrifying, and one of the reasons I always offer to drive if my son will be in the car.
The list of exclusions goes on—no cakes, no cupcakes, no donuts, no candy bars, no PB&J, no Lunchables, no Goldfish, no Cheetos, no mac and cheese, no nothing on the “Kid’s Menu” at any given restaurant, no “Kids Eat Free” events, no milkshakes, no ice cream, no frozen yogurt, no anything that I didn’t bake myself or otherwise approve. Our little grey cloud crowned me chief decision-maker over every single item of food that enters my home, my car, my general vicinity, and most importantly, my son’s body. That reality sucks. It is unbearably time- consuming, it alienates my son and me from others, and it weighs heavily on me at times, especially at the beginning of a new school year.
That little grey cloud annoys other moms, too. Some reading this article have tuned me out at the first mention of food allergies. I understand why. If someone told me I couldn’t pack a turkey sandwich for my kid’s lunch, I’d be hard-pressed to find something he would love as much as my turkey and mustard special. But I hope some of you have made it this far, because I’m not here to make a plea for no food in school and no cakes at birthday parties—or to beg people to clean up their minivans (although, really, you should want to clean up that minivan anyway!). I don’t expect anyone to join me under this cloud. But those of us who are already under such a cloud—we have our struggles, and we need support. Maybe you are such an individual, or a parent. Or maybe you know someone else who is. If you do, please share this article with them.
I became a member of the Food Allergy Families of St. Johns (FAF of St. Johns) to offer and accept support from other families dealing with life-threatening food allergies. We are a strong group of families who all manage the daily grind associated with our little grey food allergy clouds. By reaching out to one another for advice, and sometimes just to vent, we push that cloud a little farther from our crowns and find ways to help our children—and ourselves—safely enjoy every holiday, school party, and each and every slice of birthday cake.
Members of FAF of St. Johns invite you to join us for TWO events in the month of October that will benefit and educate those impacted by food allergies:
10/10/2015: FARE Walk for Food Allergies: 9:00 a.m., Nocatee Park. This event will include a fun fundraising ceremony and a walk to help us say FAREwell to food allergies.
10/17/2015: Jacksonville Food Allergy Symposium: 9:00 a.m., Wilson Center, FSCJ South Campus. Three outstanding speakers will present a variety of topics interesting and informative to those affected by food allergies, intolerances, and related special diets. This wonderful event is FREE and open to the public.
About the Author
Lori Cordell is a California native who, after many years of living the hectic life of a litigation attorney, is enjoying a rewarding balance of work and mom life from her home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Ponte Vedra Beach. She works part-time as labor and employment counsel to a local corporation, and when she is not playing allergy-conscious shopper and chef, she enjoys frequent trips to Disney World; decorating and redecorating her home; entertaining; boating; beach-bumming; cocktails; watching sports; and participating in a few peer-led support groups, including one for moms who have struggled with infertility, and Food Allergy Families of St. Johns. Having graduated from UCLA with a degree in English, Lori received her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Miami. She also served four years in the United States Navy.