(The following originally appeared in Pure and Peanut Free on August 8, 2013. I'm sharing it here in honor of Mother's Day and Food Allergy Awareness Week.)
Dear Allergy Moms and Dads:
You are the unsung heroes of this generation! Through your diligence and tireless self-sacrifice you are raising a generation of healthy, well-adjusted, confident food allergic children. Children who are ready to face the world with a level head and a sense of compassion toward those who may be just a little different, a sense of compassion unseen in previous generations.
You bake safe cupcakes at midnight for a birthday party the next morning. You attend countless meetings with teachers, principals, and nurses at the beginning of every new school year. You can spell the words anaphylaxis and epinephrine without batting an eye as you fill out endless health forms, 504 plans, and allergy action plans. You make hundreds of phone calls to hundreds of companies, demanding better ingredient labels. You soothe heartaches. You hold trembling hands and softly wipe away tears as blood is drawn. You rub little backs that sting from skin prick tests, until they hurt no more. You stroke tiny heads, kiss clammy foreheads, and hold them close to your heart in the middle of the night when mysterious hives keep everyone awake. And sometimes, late at night, when the shadows close in and you feel so alone, you cry. You cry out in despair. You cry out in anger. You cry out in fear; for what does the future hold? Yet in the morning, you dry your eyes and put on a brave smile - for little eyes will be looking up to you today.
Don't despair, allergy parent! It's true, when we were children no one had peanut allergies and emergency epinephrine was a thing of suspense movies. But times have changed, and we march on. We are raising a generation of pioneers! I look forward to the day when my children can walk into any restaurant and be handed an allergen menu without a second glance; when nut-free cafés will be found on every street corner, in every town; when all food labels will be standardized, regulated and finally trust-worthy. We're not there yet, but look how far we've come! All thanks to you, food allergy parent!
You are at once a bodyguard, a chef, an advocate, a nurse, a parent, and a teacher (often educating those who condescend, who are unwilling to learn or change). You endure a myriad of eye-rolls, heartless jokes, and meddling in-laws. Still, you hold your head high. And because of you, our kids can look forward to a future that is bright and full of sunshine. A future where food can once again be a source of pleasure rather than fear, and where a food allergy is no longer a source of shame. A future of hope, where all differences are treated with educated, dignified respect.
Yes, there are days when the road seems too long, and the mountains too high, and you are ever so tired. There are days when hope begins to fade like the last fleeting rays of the setting sun. Be encouraged, dear food allergy parent. The sun will rise again and shine with brilliance on a future that you helped create. Remember, God will never give you more than you can bear. He must think very highly of you, allergy parent! Very highly indeed!
With love, from one food allergy parent to another,