It's Halloween. That magical time of year when the last vestiges of colored leaves cling to the trees, and if you live in the Pacific Northwest the rain returns. I've always found joy handing out goodies to all the little ghouls and goblins screaming "trick or treat" at our door. That is, until food allergies entered our lives. Suddenly, those peanut butter cups that we used to hand out because secretly we kept a stash for ourselves (Shh! Don't tell the kids that adults love the sugary debauchery just as much as the kids!), evoked a most visceral response. The thought of eating a peanut butter cup literally makes me ill - so I don't. It's a waste of calories if it can't be enjoyed. By the way, please don't feel bad if you are a parent to a food-allergic child who can still enjoy eating your child's allergen! I honestly have a really hard time with it, though :(.
This year is perhaps the most challenging year yet on this food allergy journey. JR is now 4.5 years old, and it is clear that on some level he "gets" his allergies and that he understands he is different from most other children his age. His level of maturity regarding his allergies has repeatedly shocked me over the last 6 months. When a friend offered JR a cookie, he replied, "I can't eat that. I'm allergic." Comments like this infuse pride because my son is learning to navigate an allergen-infested world, and yet deep inside, my core aches for my son. When did JR grow into a little boy, who is advocating for himself?! Perhaps what makes me so sad is that no 4 year old child should have to deal with issues this big - matters of life or death, and yet, here JR is exhibiting a maturity level well beyond his 4.5 years.
Halloween is an absolute mine-field for us. Because JR is allergic to corn (yup, it's in EVERYTHING in the U.S.), peanuts, many tree nuts, soy, and several fruits (among others), I have yet to find commonly available products on the market that may not contain nuts, corn, soy, or fruit-derived sweeteners, most commonly apple. Believe me, I have tried. Last year, I left Target practically in tears after looking at what seemed like nutrition labels for practically every bag of candy.
Well, tonight, my heart broke into even more pieces. Last year, we began the inaugural Halloween tradition of watching It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Last night, we carried on the annual tradition. If you haven't seen this holiday classic for some time, here is a brief recap. All the kiddos are out Trick or Treating in their holiday garb. Poor Charlie Brown is constantly mocked for having the strange ghost costume with eye holes cut all over his sheet. Several scenes show all the kids stopping after visiting a house to share what each of them got from the house. All the kids besides Charlie Brown excitedly proclaimed, "I got two (or three! or more!) pieces of candy!" Like they were competing with each other for the best Halloween spoils. Then, Charlie Brown would take his turn last and whimper, "I got a rock."
|"I got a rock" - Charlie Brown|
My heart has always gone out to Charlie Brown, but this scene suddenly took on new meaning when JR stated ever so matter-of-factly, "Charlie Brown has allergies like me. That's why he kept getting rocks." My husband and I looked at each other in complete disbelief. We just let the comment sit like dead weight in the room. Usually, we try to explain things when JR makes comments trying to understand how the world works, but for some reason, we did not have the heart to tell him the real reason Charlie Brown got rocks. JR moved on and was chipper as could be for a boy on the eve of Halloween. However, this comment from a 4.5 year old boy continues to linger deep in my soul and probably will for sometime. Another example that the world is unfair and even cruel at times. Even though I know the real reason Charlie Brown got rocks, it is my hope that for a moment, JR feels a bit of comraderie with another little boy who has allergies just like him, even if that little boy didn't really have allergies.
Those are just a few thoughts from a Mom navigating the perilous food allergy road on a food-oriented holiday. By the way, it is not all doom and gloom! JR had a blast at a school harvest festival yesterday, and we will be trick-or-treating tonight. We have chosen to do a candy exchange (we have found a few safe things that I don't have to hand-make!), so he will get a combination of candy and non-food based Halloween goodies. All-in-all, exciting times for a 4.5 year old boy! May your Halloween be safe and fun! And to all the food allergy parents out there, stay strong! Maybe Charlie Brown is a little boy with food allergies who absolutely adores rocks.
|Sheriff Woody enjoyed decorating safe Halloween cupcakes with his school friends. Vegan pumpkin muffins were decked out by Woody with chocolate chips (from Enjoy Life) in the shape of a pumpkin!|