Undoubtedly and well-documentented, I think it’s safe to say that love can get really complicated. So, it’s difficult to see and sometimes define the secret blessings in it all. This really counts for any kind of love. Beginning with our first experience with love—-the love shown to us (or not) by our parents. I know that this first experience lives with us forever. It defines the way we see the world and the way we expect to be treated. A rosy, happy place; or a struggle with the insecurities of not living up to an expectation, with negativity and a “victim-like” perspective. This awareness become so clear when you have a child who lives with anaphylaxis.
I’ve heard it said that we always remain the people we have become by about age 8. Some people and Books even go so far as to say this age is “the age of accountability”, including many religious interpretations. By this age, we’ve begun to think for ourselves and make our own decisions. We’ve learned to tell lies or “over-tell” the truths, and we view the world the way we’ve seen it defined to us. We’ve begun to experience and learn our insecurities. We’ve begun to see less of how we see the world, and more of how the world see’s us. So, it’s crucial to help establish exceptional strength in our kids with food allergies at an early age.
Our parents play such a vital role in the lives they provide for us and the accountability they expect from us. The kindness they show others and us shows us how to behave. This is where the expression “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” comes from. It’s because ignorance breeds ignorance, and if you aren’t fortunate enough to have proactive, supportive parents– you’ll have to figure things out the hard way, or become the apple. Our social lives play a huge role as well i.e., peer pressure so we really need to have defined ourselves as “leaders” or “followers.” I think that’s an appropriate and proactive discussion with young children.
By age 8, we’ve learned to understand the faith our parents have exposed us to, and to see the world on our own accord as we piece everything together in our own ways. We use our own crafted perspectives from our childhoods. We hone in on our vulnerabilities, weaknesses, loneliness and the ability, or inability, to trust by now. We’ve developed our own roots, of which we carry our whole lives. The roots that will nourish our souls as we soar through this life, or the ones that don’t provide sustenance.
For some, they become the obstacles that hold us back –as we allow our pasts complicated scars find a negative or dangerous way to numb the pain from. Or need therapy, really great friends, or a miracle to push through to move past the permanence of our childhoods. The best thing we can do is to pass an ideological strength as a learned behavior to our kids. We can do this by showing compassion for others, teaching them to speak up for themselves to overcome life’s obstacles, and teach them to expect respect, not pity for their life threatening condition.
Any parent is (or should be) aware of this monumental and precious time, and aim to instill self-confidence, strength and a sense of real trust. The kind that creates a moral compass that will guide our kids through life and all of its obstacles. Teaching them to know that we are here for them when they need to find their footing when and if they find themselves lost. We have to show our kids the most important thing—–the experience of giving and receiving unconditional love. It’s as important to learn how to receive love, as it is to learn how to give it. This understated sentence really sums up the most important parts of parenting and inevitably, life. One of the secret blessings of being a “food allergy family” is that we all learn how to do this. All of us!
We carefully choose our words. We think outside of the box to find ways to have fun without compromising safety issues. We take the time, and attentive thought, to really notice the things that REALLY make each other happy. Beyond the thought of a birthday wish, present or gift of nominal value. I don’t mean this to sound ungrateful for these things- but there’s a distinguishing factor that defines the differences between these- and it’s called learning to really know each other. This is what I meant by giving the extra attentive thought.
There aren’t words to express how great it is to be a part of a family that really knows each other. Having a household of people who would really do anything for you. I mean really. Being so important to your parents that they build their lives around your needs. We all think we have that until we really have it. Then, and only then, can we see the difference. This is the blessing I’m talking about. Not living robotically following our pasts, family ways, and seeing only the box that was wrapped up and presented to us in our childhood. The ability to go beyond our comfort levels is when we can change. When we can grow. When anything becomes possible!
My husband and I always say that our daughters food allergy has changed our world– in the best, gifted way. It’s changed our marriage by reshaping our value system. It’s changed our relationship with our families and friends as we’ve grown and defined our expectations of each other. It’s shaped us into the parents we’ve become. The trust we have in one another and what we’ve grown to expect from each of our children and their goodwill toward others is our everything. We have changed, and sometimes we have memories of the previous versions of ourselves. These previous versions led us to one another, but the people we are now in the face of fear and miraculous pride is so much better.
Food allergies are no joke. They’re hard and scary and you feel isolated and alone, abandoned, hurt and overwelmed. But, if you can find the strength that I know is possible, and pay it forward to your children, then you can make a strong connection with them and give them a positive outlook on their situation. We don’t need to be pitied, ignored, unconsidered–what we need is to fill that gap in with real connections and creative fun! Finding other moms that deal with similar obstacles provides such a great blanket of security when you have days when you doubt your abilities and capabilities. Under everything, we’re all moms just guessing our way through motherhood with no manual. For us food allergy moms we’re driving through the forest to clear our own paths- due to all of our additional obstacles.
This past month I met another “food allergy mom” from another country and it was one of the best moments in my journey through motherhood. Our daughters have very similar reactions to their food allergies and it felt so nice to know I’ve made a real friend who really understands my concerns and our lifestyle. She’s someone I can lean on, trust in her opinion, because she knows exactly the emotional journey of a “food allergy mom”. She is one! My advice is to grow your support system of friends or family, and follow your heart to learn what’s best for your family. And try to have some fun between the constant over-thinking and chronic stress of living with your child’s life threatening food allergy.