I have to be honest: I do not scare easily. I watch horror movies alone before bedtime. I go to haunted attractions where actors in bloody clown suits terrorize guests. I am not afraid to try new foods, take on challenges, fly on planes, and I have never been afraid of spiders.
Despite all of this, nothing prepares one for the anxieties that come along with parenthood. Is my child eating the right foods? Watching the right programs? Watching too much screen time? Does organic versus non-organic milk really matter? Should I call the pediatrician? Why are his feet that color?
I’ve kind of learned to go with the flow of things and realize that I cannot control everything. Now that our toddler is beginning to walk, he falls a lot. And picks everything off the floor. And licks the floor. And does just about everything you don’t want children to do. The other day I literally found him eating our dog’s food. That’s right: he crawled right into the kitchen and found the dog bowl and proceeded to pick up a few pieces and shove them into his mouth.
So, no: we cannot control everything in our children’s lives. In all honesty, I don’t want to. The necessity to control everything in another’s life sort of robs them of their dignity as a human person. Not to mention, I would literally drive myself insane. (At this point I probably sound like a carefree, lazy, or neglectful parent who just lets their kid lick the floor. I promise that this is not the case at all. I have just come to the conclusion that kids are pretty much going to do what they want and a parent can only control so much. Besides, my dog only eats organic dog food so…) Any parent probably knows what I am talking about.
Despite my inability control everything in my kid’s life, there are some things that I absolutely need to control. My kid does not know why he cannot play with the electric socket. I need to control the situation at hand and make sure he does not stick his little fingers in the socket. My kid does not understand why he cannot touch the knobs on the stove. Once again, I need to control the situation and make sure this does not happen.
Now, what about aspects of our children’s lives that we want desperately to control but sometimes fall short on? If you recall from earlier, I do not scare easily. Parenthood has allowed me to tap into depths of fear that I truly didn’t know existed.
…And then something happened that tipped me over the edge. My son was about seven or eight months old when we got the OK from our pediatrician to try peanut butter. I was so excited! Peanut butter is delicious and makes for easy lunches. It can be a healthy snack. We can bake new treats with it! The possibilities are endless. After the pediatrician appointment I went straight to Whole Foods and bought the best organic peanut butter they had. We went right home and I let my son try it and he loved it!
…And then within fifteen minutes I had an ambulance, EMTs, and police at my house preparing my son to head to the hospital. They stripped him of his clothes, gave him doses of Benadryl, EpiPens were flying everywhere, I was crying, he was put on oxygen, etc. It was without doubt the scariest moment of my life because I did not know what was happening.
When I was in college I had a very bad allergic reaction to a medicine and was taken to the hospital. Now I know exactly what meds to stay away from, how to handle them properly, etc. But little kids? God forbid my son one day picks up a peanut off the floor and shoves it into his mouth (like he does the dog food and everything else he sees because he is a curious toddler)! How are we, as parents, supposed to control situations like this?
Before having a kid (especially a kid with allergies), I have to be honest: I found “allergy parents” kind of obnoxious. I am not proud to admit that. I felt like they were hypochondriacs who were helicopter parents to the extreme. Now? I understand. I sympathize with every parent who is carrying around an EpiPen and Benadryl and is constantly checking their kid for hives. I sympathize with every parent who is hesitant to try new foods, go to birthday parties, or even use a new laundry detergent. I sympathize with parents who scare their kids about eating choices and how to read labels.
It is scary. Having kids is scary enough! Then add allergies into the mix and it is honestly terrifying.
Here is my plea: be patient with parents of kids with allergies. We are constantly afraid that our kid will need another trip to the hospital, will need an EpiPen, or that something even worse may happen (I don’t even want to write it out). It is scary to think that eating a small peanut, inhaling fumes from a shellfish dinner, or even touching an egg could lead to a tragedy. We are trying our best to control a situation that we, in reality, have little control over.