Parents of children with food allergies are members of a different tribe. We are a group of parents that will do anything so that our children can live a “normal” life, and be included in the social gatherings where food is the catalyst that brings family and friends together. I used to tell parents, “Don’t worry about preparing food for my daughter, she will bring her own food, just include her to your list of invitees. She would love to go to your child’s party.” Whew… sigh of relief, my daughter was invited to the party! These well-intentioned parents wanted my daughter to be safe but didn’t know what to feed her. My daughter is severely allergic to nuts, milk and eggs. Ingestion and cross-contamination of these foods will cause an anaphylactic reaction. So true to tribal rituals, I made her allergy free cupcakes, offered to make extra cupcakes for the guests, and prepared my daughter’s food to match the menu of the hostess. For example, if the party was serving pizza, I made my daughter pizza. If tacos and hamburgers were on the menu, my daughter had her own tacos and hamburger. Finally, if the host was catering the food, I prepared a tray of food that my daughter can eat and share with the guests. It didn’t matter whether or not I knew these guests, my daughter was able to bond by sharing a meal! I was never much of a baker, but I learned how to bake a cake without eggs and decorate it so that it looked like a Barbie Princess. I also learned how to mold soy ice-cream so that it would look like an ice-cream cake. These were the early days when food allergies were beginning to emerge and there were very few stores that carried food free of the common allergens.
Fast forward to the teenage years - hormones, boys, driver’s license and going out with friends to get a bite to eat. I am now a little older, a little grayer, my energy level has declined, and my stress tolerance has diminished. As my daughter runs out the door, I shout, “Did you carry your epinephrine? Have you called the restaurant? Why did you delete me off of Life 360?” Her eyes roll, “Mom, I’ve lived with this all my life. I know what to do.” And she’s right. My fellow members, you can understand why I will always be asking the same questions each time my daughter leaves home…we are from the same tribe.