Sometimes, those of us with food allergies run into resistance in unexpected places. Our blogger explains.


Cindy Gordon

Welcome to my Diary of a Food Allergy Mom blog at GlutenFreeandMore.com. This series of posts will document the triumphs, setbacks, peaks, and valleys of living with food allergies. While we have many joys in life, through it all sometimes comes disappointment. Our family has chosen to trudge through this food allergy world by continuing to educate, advocate, and surround ourselves with a community that understands. In this and upcoming posts, I’ve changed all names to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent. This is our story.... —C.G.

 

I really feel that we have been blessed with a church that seems to work hard to help children with food allergies, specifically my children. When we started to attend, we were not able to take communion. The pastor asked a close friend of ours why we didn’t participate, why we chose instead to walk past the receiving line. Our friend explained our food allergy needs to the pastor. He told our friend to do what she could to make sure that our entire family could participate the next month.

I am proud to say that the church now offers top-8 allergen-free communion stations. I think it’s truly amazing that even though we never asked for that, the pastor saw a need and wanted to make sure we could participate. Our church holds many functions and makes every effort to ensure that the events are nut-free, using signs, training, and other methods.

I hear stories (quite frankly not-so-kind stories) about how friends’ churches do not support them or try to accommodate their children’s life-threatening food allergies. I often hear that churches are some of the worst places for food-allergic children—the communion wafers, foods and snacks served at special events, gatherings, and/or classes. I’ve been able to disagree with all those statements for a long time. I’ve felt so supported—that is, until recently.

Our church holds multiple Vacation Bible School (VBS) gatherings each summer. The first one was in my neighborhood. The last few years, the event has been nut-free, just like the events at our church.

The first day of VBS, I checked in my older son and headed over to the snack table. Though he has life-threatening food allergies, he does have fewer than my younger son. I wanted to check the snacks to see if he could possibly eat them.

As I entered the snack area, we learned that they were making trail mix. All the nut-allergy mamas and dads reading this right now probably know the exact feeling that overcame me: panic! But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, right? After all, I make trail mix that’s free from all of the allergens, so I know it’s possible. Wishful thinking! Included in the ingredients were Peanut Butter M&Ms, Honey Nut Oats (almonds), and granola (which contained three tree nuts as well as many other “may contain” statements on the label). 

With my peanut/tree-nut life-threatening food-allergic child by my side, we knew that the snack was not safe to consume, nor to be around. We made the decision to leave. We didn’t make a fuss; I simply let the Children’s Minister know, and we left. Life happens, and we deal with disappointment on a daily basis. The hardest part was having my big guy walk away from a situation like that. He had neighbors calling out to him, and classmates were asking him to stay. But because of his life-threatening food allergies and the risk, we felt it was not safe to stay. Sometimes food allergies suck. Sometimes food allergies make you feel so isolated.

In this situation, I just assumed it was going to be safe like it had been in the past. I let my guard down a bit and didn’t make the proper calls and emails ahead of time to check on the snack. Had I done that, we could have avoided the disappointment. But part of me is so frustrated that we have a whole life of disappointing situation after disappointing situation ahead of us—no matter how hard we try to avoid it. Sometimes, it’s just hard.

How do you help your child deal with the disappointments that come along with food allergies?