If your child has allergies/intolerances, when was the first time your little one really realised they were different to everyone else?
My daughter, who has multiple food allergies, is 2 years 5 months. She knows that there are some foods she’s not allowed because they make her poorly. In fact, lately we’ve been having conversations about it most mealtimes. She knows that she has her own special milk, and that she is not allowed eggs, cheese, bread, etc. She also knows to ask before eating food that other people have given her. She’s also used to being told not to share her other people’s food. When we go to parties, she brings her own lunchbox of food. So she does have some understanding about her allergies, in a two year old way. But usually, if there’s something she’s not allowed, I’ve provided a suitable alternative, and so she’s not been too bothered.
Until Monday. We went to our usual local playgroup. It’s a group in our local church hall, run by volunteers, and they’ve been absolutely fabulous at accommodating my little one. The children have communal snack time, where they all sit down together and eat, with biscuits, crisps and fruit. It’s lovely and I think it’s great that they get to have the experience of eating all together. In the past, the food was put out in front of the children, in the middle of their table, for them to help themselves. But to make it safe for my daughter, they now put all the food out on a different, adult-height table at the side, with each food in separate bowls. Each parent takes a plate for their child and takes food from the selection. They’ve also taken the time to ask me what food is safe for my girl and they do their best to make sure there is something suitable for her every week – the fruit is always fine but only certain brands of crisps are ok, and sometimes they get her some rice cakes instead of biscuits.
Up until now she’s been oblivious to the fact that her friends are eating biscuits and she’s been eating (mainly) fruit. But this week was different. She looked at the child sitting next to her, and saw he was eating a biscuit. Then she looked to the other side and saw that that child was also eating a biscuit. I watched as she then looked around every single child at the table and realised that they were all eating biscuits. Except for her. She looked at me, and in a very hopeful voice said, “I ‘lowed deese biscuits?” I said sorry, no. For a moment she looked absolutely gutted. My heart broke for her, and I waited with bated breath to see if she was going to cry or have a tantrum. But I couldn’t believe what happened next – she just shrugged it off and went back to pulling silly faces and blowing raspberries at her friends!
To say I was proud is an understatement! She can have a tantrum over having the wrong colour cup, but this she took in her stride. She was more mature about it than I used to be when I was breastfeeding and dairy & soya free (otherwise she would react to my breastmilk). The first time we went to a cafe and my husband had chocolate cake while I had to make do with a packet of crisps, I wanted to cry and sulked for at least half an hour!
So I’m hoping that this is a good sign of how things are going to go in the future, as I’m sure there will be many more occasions where she can’t have the same as everyone else. For me, once you get used to the constant planning and preparation of managing food allergies, the biggest challenge is the emotional repercussions of always being different to everyone else. Hopefully the silver lining is that these early experiences will help to build character and resilience, which will be great qualities to have as an adult!
How has your little one reacted to these types of situations? Have you had a positive experience like us or have you been unlucky and had a negative reaction? I’d love to hear other’s experiences!