Last weekend in an attempt to replace a broken screen door on the back of our home, I purchased one from a building supply store. It was too short. So in the late afternoon, I drove back to the store to return it. It was hot─very hot. It took about thirty minutes to get there. The air conditioning in the car was broken. It felt even hotter carrying the screen door back into the store. I was hungry, tired, frustrated and disappointed─I actually felt sick to my stomach and a little light headed. After trying to find another door that would fit, I gave up, in despair and felt depressed─surely an overreaction to a screen door problem, but that is how I felt that afternoon.
When I returned home, about one-and-a-half hours later, I found my younger son sitting on a little blue beach chair on the lawn next to the driveway. He was happy to see me─grinning ear to ear and waving to me as I pulled in. His feet were sort of wiggling back and forth on the green grass in a relaxed, silly way. I thought to myself, “Wow, I can’t believe I just went through what seemed like hell and back, while my little son had a totally different experience for the past ninety minutes.” I was indeed quite envious.
When I got out of the car, I asked him if he had been here the whole time. He replied, “Yes Mommy, I was waiting for you. Do you want to play catch?” I was further stunned that he had been so patient and was so happy despite the heat and the wait. Although I had a headache by this point, I said okay, and we played a bit of catch in the backyard, until I realized I just couldn’t even catch the ball that day because I was so exhausted from the heat and my own experience of screen-door-frustration.
So you might ask, “What does this experience possibly have to do with food allergies?” Well─it is a vivid reminder that to a large extent we can create our own experiences. While we all must carry the burden of having to deal with food allergies, we can ask ourselves, “What is my attitude about food allergies in my life?” Am I angry? Tired of them? Frustrated? Mad? Feel unfairly burdened? Do I express my frustration at others who are eating peanut butter or dairy near my child? Am I angry with the school? Doctors? Do I feel frustrated towards my own child because of allergies? Do I get angry with relatives during social gatherings when their attitude is not as I’d like? In other words, a parent may feel that the food allergies are unfair, so they may therefore carry around a certain amount of resentment and stress that negatively impacts their life, their child’s life and those with whom they come into contact.
Instead, consider my little son’s take on life: Sitting on the beach chair on the terribly hot day, waiting for ninety minutes for my return─all with a very good attitude. Can we parents find the pleasure in life with all of the good things that we have─despite the food allergies? Perhaps a child has food allergies, but is that child is otherwise healthy, adorable, bright, fun, silly, loving and smart? While social gatherings can be difficult, are there ways to create get-togethers that are more conducive to dealing with food allergies?
How one feels about food allergies in a child, can be controlled to a large extent. A parent can still be careful─but not stressed out about it. Make the experience of childhood fun, despite the heat (so-to-speak). You can’t change it anyway. All you can do is make it better or worse─with your attitude and actions. In fact, there are studies that show stress can actually make allergic reactions worse, up to 200% worse! So try to remove stress from your allergy situation by working to change your attitude and feelings about them. Accept them. Deal with the allergies with care, but try to have fun while you kids are growing up. Be like my little six-year-old son who sat waiting patiently and finding fun on the beach chair, doubtlessly getting up now and then to chase a butterfly or look at an ant, and smiling contentedly at me after waiting with anticipation of some more fun upon my return.