We walked into a birthday party at the local bouncy house place and the first thing the birthday girl said to Max was “You can’t eat my cake. Ha. Ha. Ha.”
Before the party I had called the birthday’s girl’s mom to make sure she was OK with me bringing something different for Max. Like many of the other moms in the past, she was understanding. In fact this mom, I remember, was extra kind and had offered to have fruit and chips too just so he would feel more included.
The Mom had obviously also thought to explain the situation to her daughter– probably to prepare her, but now the daughter was seemingly using this info to mock him.
I know it wasn’t the same level but my mind raced ahead to the image I had had when Max was first diagnosed of a bully with a peanut butter sandwich chasing the allergic kid around the playground. I was irked.
My little guy, on the other hand, was unfazed. He gave her a shrug and replied, “Yeah I know. It would make me sick.”
Then in a flash he removed his shoes (as you are required to do before you can go jump), thrust them at me, turned his back on the birthday girl and ran off for the slide.
As I was still formulating a plan to address the teasing, the birthday girl turned and ran after him. I was bracing for round two but, to my surprise, when they re-emerged from the bouncy slide they were all giggles. What?!
I had to swallow my mama bear instincts and remember that teasing over food allergies isn’t really that much different than any other teasing. As long as it is not crossing that line into bullying, it is really best handled amongst the kids who, especially in that age group, haven’t yet discovered some topics are sensitive or off limits.
It also helps to remember that everyone gets teased over something. In a way having the focus of the teasing be something you can’t control can give you confidence to handle it more matter of factly. When Claire was completely bald about this same time period (see Our Journey), Max used the same matter-of-fact “she has alopecia, she can’t help it, it’s not catchy, now want to play” tone to neutralize a lot of teasing before it even began. He would speak up when another child would first point or whisper.
That’s not to say there’s never been teasing, or more often thoughtlessness, that’s gotten to both him and me over the years, but it helps to remember there’s a line between teasing and bullying. I try my best to let Max handle teasing, but I am on stand-by for extra hugs or to intercept bullying which, so far, he has never encountered.
One of my favorite food items to bring to a party is a pan of brownies. When Max outgrew his soy allergy, I realized the world of boxed cake mixes had opened back up. While many have dairy and eggs, it is possible to find those that don’t. While many of those call for eggs or milk, it is fairly easy to skip the eggs and replace the cow’s milk with soy milk and still get good results. Often the mixes will have a warning label about being manufactured on the same line as dairy and eggs. When Max was a toddler that kind of cross contamination did sometimes lead to hives or mild reactions, but as he got older that happened less and less. One of the best finds ever was Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix. Before he outgrew his egg allergy, we left out the egg which led to a denser than usual brownie. As you might expect, it still tasted decadent. Guests still gobbled them down every time.