This happens all the time and it literally kills me inside. It is a reality in life for families with children that have life-threatening food allergies. Often times, our children will be passed over for a play date, birthday party, sleep over, etc. because of their food allergies.
How do I possibly explain these “lack of invitations” to my now 6 and 8 year old boys? This is, in my opinion, one of the hardest obstacles to overcome as a parent of children that both have multiple food allergies. Obviously, we have been dealing with this issue for years and I think managed it well, but it is still challenging.
You NEVER want your child to feel left out of a situation because of a silly disability like a food allergy. I ALWAYS volunteer to help the hosting parents out by providing the food and helping to chaperone. Many of the classmates in my boys’ classes are very understanding and want their friends with food allergies (ie. my boys) to be able to enjoy the same birthday snacks as the rest of their classmates. Several of the parents usually call me in advance to ask if there is “safe” birthday snack they can purchase so my children will feel included and not “different” or “left out.” This is great and I really applaud these parents who are sympathetic and do not want to exclude children from classroom celebrations. Thank you to all of these wonderful parents! It really brings tears to my eyes when others go out of their way to accommodate our boys eating challenges. For the most part, we are blessed to live in a caring and understanding community.
I always keep “safe” treats in the classroom freezer for my boys to pull them to pull out and enjoy along with their classmates. This would be in a situation where the rest of the class is eating something “unsafe” of course.
This system has worked extremely well the last couple of years and my boys always seem to feel like they “fit in” with their classmates.
However, recently a situation occurred at school where the parent called me in advance to see what treats they could bring in that were safe. I thought it was absolutely wonderful they were looking out for every child’s safety in the classroom and I was overjoyed this particular parent took the time to call me in advance of her child’s in class birthday celebration. After school that day my son mentioned to me that his same friend had an after school birthday party that he was not invited to. All of his little buddies were talking about it all afternoon at school and he didn’t understand why his close friend didn’t include him in the after school celebration. A rough concept to grasp at the tender age of only six, I might add.
At first, I was upset that my son was not included but then when I really thought about it, I realized the parent who hosted the party most likely didn’t want to deal with (1) food allergies (2) didn’t know how to handle the situation (3) it was too time consuming to consider inviting my son and then creating a “safe” atmosphere and (4) “you don’t know what you don’t know”…enough said and I was making assumptions of course. Whatever the reasoning may have been to not include my son, it didn’t really matter at the end of the day.
This situation was an example of the many times my children will be excluded from social events due to their food allergies, in my opinion. And again I’m making this assumption that this was the reasoning. Food allergies are more difficult to manage now that our boys are only 6 & 8. Albeit, it’s easier than when they were 2 & 4! Hopefully managing their food allergies will only become easier as they mature and become more responsible for eating in a safe environment and carrying their Epi-pens. Eventually the responsibility will be completely on them and my husband and I have been training them for this since they could talk.
There are multiple situations where our entire family has been excluded from events due to our children’s allergies but that can be covered in a future blog post.
The hardest part of dealing with rejection is how to eloquently explain it to my 6 year old in a way that he understands. I was not honest in telling our son that he was most likely not included due to the difficulty of people accommodating his food allergies. Of course I wanted to protect him. I told him that “the child’s mother probably didn’t have any more room in her car to accommodate more boys…additionally it was a small, last minute party with only a few of your classmates and not a big deal that you were not included, etc…etc. …etc”.
Thankfully, that landed well with my son and that was the end of it. I guess it’s easier explaining such situations to our 6 year old than our 8 year old because he now “gets it.” This is something that our children will have to learn more about overcoming and rising above as they grow and mature. Always taking the high road.
It’s not easy to watch as a parent but it is OUR reality. I would appreciate any input, suggestions, stories, etc. of how you and your children cope with rejection and exclusion sometimes during similar situations.
My husband and I are adamant about always telling our boys that their food allergies do not define who they are. They are like every other little boy and girl their age. They ski, they swim, run, play, go on vacations, eat out at restaurants…they are SPECIAL and LOVED! In fact, we tell them that they are lucky because they eat healthier foods than most children which will benefit them in the long run.
I digress….have a great weekend!