Three years ago, we walked into our local Claires Store. My ,then, 4 year old had accomplished the scholastic feat of learning all of her continents, oceans, and the entire milky way! I had been prodding her growth with promises of something from the store, as a sort of reward. Claires is such a fun store for girls, and the girlie side of us women! My daughters made their way through the sparkle and frills and back to the Disney princess lip-glosses for kids. I bought one and thought “it worked! The knowledge and the bribe were complete!” But, as she ripped off the wrapping to her new lipgloss in the car and applied her new sparkly, “fun” lip gloss–our worlds changed! Her face began to swell with hives. I was driving and looking back on her telling me something was wrong and what I saw made me grow scared, really, really scared.
I pulled over and jumped out of my vehicle and got to her. I wiped off the lipgloss and washed her face with a wet wipe. Her hives were not going anywhere! I gave her a Benedryl, cancelled our date with friends on the drive home, AND, of course, blamed myself (something us food allergy moms have down pat). I’d bribed her to get her to pay attention & learn something new, exposed her to danger due to my own lack of knowledge, and instead of celebrating her milestone- she got her whole day of fun plans taken away.
In theory, I had really hoped to expose my girls to the big beautiful world, instead of through things “MADE IN” different parts of the world. I was obviously a hypocrite trying to find my footing as a “homeschool mom” and “food allergy mom”, and felt the need to overcompensate. Hind site tells the nasty truths. All of the things my girls were excluded from, due to food allergies, made me behave differently than I had wanted to. So, that day (for the last time), I blindly trusted in the pretty princess labeling with no allergen warnings, and exposed my oldest to the food allergen that we had spent the majority of our life avoiding– and teaching her to avoid! It was a wake up call and it changed the way I parent completely! It was a defining moment that gave boundaries and structure to all the grey areas in our lives.
Although she had a terrible reaction, we made it through that day. Thank God’s mercy on my mistake! I realized it was the solidified mineral oil that contained “casein” a milk protein. I also learned that non-edibles weren’t required to be labeled for food allergens, even though you’d think a lipgloss would be considered an edible, right??!! My little girl was determined to get something else, after all a bribe is a bribe, and I had committed one big one. I took her back another day, and told her :”NO lipglosses because they have mineral oil.” Well, she really, really wanted one since her best friend had some. We sat there and read every lipgloss on the shelf and all were made of synthetic “junk”. She ended up with another crown for our crown shelf! We were living in such materialism and that was going to stop!
I started my own research and I found an organic, transparent-European based company called NYR (Neals Yard Organics). I showed her the catalogue and told her that “she can have anything in here,” still trying to solve the “lipgloss” problem. They were all great, organic, and safe for her. It turned out to be a great resource for the grown ups in her world that had -God knows what –on their face that they were exposing her too. As family and friends would begin their precursor of how they’re not sure if their contaminated , I would hand them a a catalogue and say “now you can”!
But the organic, synthetic dye-free, neutral colors weren’t “her 4 year old fashion.” She wanted purple, sparkly, and shimmery colors! None were options. Then, it happened! My little entrepreneurial Leader began to shine. She asked that for Christmas the next month if, instead of getting gifts, she could start her own business?! She told me she has been thinking about it for months and she had some ideas. She continued:! that it didn’t seem right that if half of the Americans with food allergies were girls, then 7 & 1/2 million females kids couldn’t have princess lip gloss??!! Because it’s not labeled properly??!! This deeply disturbed her and she wanted to fix the problem. I said “well, we’re going to need to put together a business plan and present it to Daddy.” She then said “Mom, every girl should get to sparkle and shine.” Slogan done! She spent days picking out stock labels and then combing them into her perfect one. Putting together a business plan to know what we needed to start this venture, and using thuan”teachable moment” to sit my then almost 5 year old in front of an Excel spreadsheet to understand all that involved in having a business.
She became her own saleswoman and pitched her brand everywhere we went. We got a lot of “no’s”, but such is life! It wasn’t easy and it was good for her to see that! I really began to see how strong kids with obstacles become. How fearless, inspired by others and the world around them, and selfless. I began to look at her in a different way, a more respectful way. Like, “wow-you really are going to help change the world someday” kind of way.
She became more concerned about this companies ability to make others feel good and included, that she forgot all about that Disney lip gloss that once had her crying on the floor, so distraught and feeling excluded in Claires. She developed sympathy, compassion, empathy, a hard working foundation, and a new business in an untapped market by age 5! Her little friends all ditched the princess lip gloss and wanted to buy hers and she became an inspiration to many.
This business gave her new work: excel spreadsheets of a raw cost analysis, and the new needed use of business terminology. It’s no wonder she excelled dramatically in the homeschool arena. New limitless opportunities to learn, and I made sure to teach that there’s “no such thing as a free lunch (for anyone who took economics in college). Education is the gift– there’s nothing owed to you for doing the right thing. I also started to feel better about where my lessons and parenting lessons were going, and proud of my strict direction.
From then on I stopped negotiating with terrorists and took control of the ship! Being a mama is never knowing if you’re screwing your kids up, or fostering excellence! Join Hello Mamas to find custom tailored moms just like you! we come in all different sizes, shapes, thought processes, deep seeded values–being a mom isn’t a generalization. we have the chance to customize our approach and find others just like us with Hello Mamas.
But, when your kids pioneer a carefully thought through concept, in an effort to help others; you get to smile and think that maybe you’re doing something right?!! It’s never too late to learn the concept of paying it forward. I’m proud my little girls have hearts of gold! And, I hope that in some way-I helped to give them the tools to foster that.
Lisa Ficke is a Hello Mamas Influencer, guest writer, and President of FARM, Food Allergy Resources and Mentoring. Follow Lisa on her Blog, Facebook and Twitter! Want to hear more on becoming an Influencer? Contact us! To meet fellow local food allergy mom friends, visit HelloMamas.com