When I became a mom, I didn't know what a peanut allergy was. We learned the hard way two years later. I gave my daughter toast with peanut butter on it and watched as her lip immediately swelled up. She didn't even take a bite, the peanut butter only touched her mouth. Luckily, the reaction resolved on its own.
A few weeks later at her regular check-up, her doctor asked if there was anything we would like to discuss. I brought up what happened and they recommended we visit an allergist.
After testing, we found out our daughter was allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and that's the day our lives changed. We didn't understand at the time how life as a food allergy family would be.
Nut allergies are tricky because you are allergic to the protein in the nut, which can be found in the oils. That's why it's difficult to manage in some cases, the protein can live on surfaces for a long time and they are invisible. Imagine going to the playground and watching a child eating a peanut butter sandwich, licking their fingers, and running around touching everything. The slides all of a sudden become a minefield.
That's how we felt wherever we went. When I started to search for safe schools, we had to move to another district because the one we were in was not going to accommodate us. The teacher our daughter would have had for Kindergarten actually told me that it would be too much responsibility for her and if we went there, she would ask the principal to put our daughter in a different class.
That's when I realized how much education was needed on this topic. Most people want to help keep your child safe but don't really understand how. I became an advocate for my child, joined Facebook groups with other food allergy families, and started participating in The FARE Food Allergy Heroes Walks to raise awareness.
We ended up finding a wonderful school district. They were extremely accommodating and the nurses there were amazing. Having a child with a nut allergy in school wasn't always easy, but I learned some lessons along the way. If you have a child with a nut allergy and are looking for advice, I share tips from everything we've learned on my website here: Dealing With A Nut Allergy In Elementary School.
It's our imperfections that make us unique and allow us to view the world from a different perspective. Our daughter has dealt with her allergy for as long as she can remember. She has been left out, picked on, and made to feel alone and misunderstood. All of those experiences have made her stronger and made her more empathetic and kind to others. She understands what it's like to be "different" and gravitates towards other children who have imperfections because of this.
Sometimes life throws a curveball at you that you weren't prepared for but it can teach you lessons that make you a better person. We are now part of a supportive community that makes us feel like we aren't alone. I tell my daughter all of the time, everyone is dealing with something whether you can see it or not. We all need to support each other and be kind to one another.