As much as parents of kids with food allergies would like it, it is impossible to anticipate every place where you will encounter unsafe treats. When Max was a toddler, the easiest way to manage this kind of encounter was simply to steer him in a different direction, to leave. That’s often the solution to any toddler issue though, isn’t it?
I’m afraid as Max has gotten older our approach to the unexpected food encounter hasn’t always matured with him. Whereas his hurt was pretty raw when he was left out of the cupcakes in preschool (see Heroic Effort), he handled the unexpected cookies and muffins at church at the start of Advent with a little more equilibrium. One of the kindhearted adults, upon seeing that they had nothing safe for him to eat, offered to go with him to get some ice to jazz up his drink. I tell you distraction may be an adult instinct. When I arrived he was sad, but a hug and a little misdirected anger at his sister (“She could have not eaten too”), and it was pretty much forgotten 10 minutes later. We were new to the church. I asked the adults in charge if they would let me know when they were planning food, and several of them who knew of his allergy said they hadn’t realized food would be served either. They asked for suggestions on what he could have, and I’m sure if they plan a similar surprise again they will have some options for him.
Then last night Jason and Max had a similar encounter at a Cub Scout meeting. The den leader brought in cupcakes to celebrate his child’s birthday. The den leader is a volunteer and gives a lot of his time to the kids. I think it’s probably his prerogative to bring treats for his child even though food is not usually a part of Cub Scout meetings. Jason’s first instinct when he saw the cupcakes was to want to leave. The account I got was the kids were oohing and awwing over the cupcakes. Jason pointed out to Max who was taking part in the ogling that they weren’t safe. Max replied he knew that. The meeting was mostly over, and leaving seemed to Jason like the best way of coping. Max was quick to point out when he got home that he would have liked to stay even if he couldn’t have eaten. One of his other friends with some complex medical issues of his own rarely eats anything at these types of events. Max said he knew he wouldn’t have been alone in not eating. He would have liked the social time. Then he asked if he couldn’t have a second dessert at home. I, of course, said OK.
In Jason and my defense, sometimes explaining and negotiating these encounters is draining. Earlier the same evening Jason had talked with a different Scout leader about a banquet they are planning this weekend. He was explaining pizza wouldn’t work for Max, and the accommodating adult wanted to figure out something that would. They settled on bringing in some spaghetti for him. By the time, the cupcakes came out, Jason wasn’t up for another long discussion on the topic. Leaving seemed easiest if maybe in hindsight not the best solution. Growing up is hard on mom and dad too. Sometimes we have to cut each other some slack, apologize and have a second dessert.
The Allergist Mom has a more eloquent post on a similar topic this month: http://theallergistmom.com/2012/02/08/child-heal-thy-mother/.