If you have kids or work with kids, you’ve probably run into me. Because even though I feel alone, I’m actually everywhere.
I’m the mom declining your child’s birthday invitation because I won’t be able to keep my child from eating the cake.
I’m the mom meeting with the Sunday School director to find out what snacks are served each week and whether or not they use play-dough in class.
I’m the mom that has to “approve the menu” if you invite us over for dinner.
I’m the mom emailing the principal asking about food policy and if we can please stop using food (candy, pizza parties, sundaes) as rewards.
I’m the mom that has to bring in allergy-free cupcakes for the preschool freezer so my child has an alternative when one of the moms bring surprise treats for the entire class on her child’s birthday.
I’m the mom who can’t relax at any social event, ever, because every social event involves food and most of it my child can’t eat. So I follow my son, and I hover over the plate you set down on the coffee table “just for a minute” and I apologize as I constantly move things onto higher counters that he can’t reach.
I never thought I’d be this mom. I’d seen her before, but I never understood. I tried to show her compassion — nodding and smiling and asking kind questions — but then I’d set my plate down on the coffee table for a minute and walk away without a second thought, blissfully ignorant of the risk my actions caused. Because until you’re the one in it, you don’t really realize what it means to have a child with food allergies. And now I’ve been on both sides. I’ve complained about having to pack a peanut-free lunch for school, and I’ve complained about all the allergen-contaminated food coming into the classroom. I’ve been annoyed by how difficult it is to cook for someone with food allergies and having them double-check me, and I’ve been the one annoyingly reading the ingredient labels on everything being served at a friend’s house.
So the next time you cross paths with “that mom” take a minute to try to understand. Imagine what it might be like to have to live in fear of food that could make your child seriously ill or even cost them their life. Consider the extra time and energy required at every social event involving food. Feel the fear of sending them to school in case one of the students’ lunches contained an allergen because another mom was careless or downright unsympathetic. It’s a hard place to be and “that mom” is just doing exactly what you would do – trying to keep her child safe from harm.
Really, we are all “that mom.”