Being food allergy parents has made us particularly self-conscious when we’re out with the kids. When food unexpectedly enters the scene, we’re simultaneously guiding Charlie away from the food while politely pointing out that he has food allergies. I’d say that the statement “He has food allergies” makes sense to maybe half of the people in this scenario. They nod, apologize for bringing the food in (though we don’t expect or want an apology) and generally make us feel as comfortable as we can while we create (or move to) a safe place for Charlie.
The rest have no idea what we’re talking about, or look irritated or embarrassed. Those people don’t understand where I’m coming from (and what I’m trying to tell them), but I don’t mind because I used to be exactly like them. Even though I have shellfish and insect sting allergies, I just plain did not realize what life is like for families that have members who are allergic to common foods. Things that are ordinary to you are poison – deadly and fast-acting poison – to a food allergy person. It’s hard to explain that to strangers, so I don’t blame them when they don’t understand. I usually don’t blame them when they’re hostile.
So, when a family took Goldfish crackers into the Lincoln Children’s Museum and set up an impromptu picnic at the toy train area, I decided not to explain to the dad, who looked like he had his hands full with the kids, that Charlie would be better off if the family moved to the cafeteria. I opted for the front desk, where the lady I spoke to (I wish I remembered her name!) immediately said something to the effect of “Oh, yes, we understand how serious food allergies are and we only allow people to eat in the cafeteria. I’ll have someone talk to them right now.”
Every day, I read stories from food allergy parents that end with the opposite outcome. So, I thought I’d share my bright, gleaming ray of sunshine for today.