The Dreaded Ice Cream Truck

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Every day, the same ice cream truck visits my son’s day camp. Every day, it’s waiting there as we pick him up and he begs for ice cream every single day. We appease him once or twice a week even though “everyone else gets ice cream money every day and we are so mean.” To that, I say, “Well, I love you more than everyone else’s parents.”

The Dreaded Ice Cream Truck

The rule is that he can have packaged popsicles or ices. We’ve identified the specific items on the menu that he is allowed to eat. He is not allowed to have the soft serve cones with their free range toppings (nuts included).

Last week, I was washing dishes while my son was drawing at the kitchen table. “Mommy,” he quietly asked, “Can you remind me which kinds of ice cream are okay to eat from the truck?” Instantly on high alert, I tried to keep my voice calm as I answered, “Just the popsicles, honey.”

That’s when he told me he’d eaten a soft serve vanilla cone at camp that day.

Herein lies the problem that every allergy parent has experienced: do I calmly explain why his action was wrong and educate him for the future or do I just FLIP OUT and scare him into avoiding that ice cream truck forever?

Of course, I ended up choosing the first option, because I don’t need to give him any more material for Dr. Phil, but I’m not entirely certain I made the right choice. One point of his rationale was truly scary to me, “Well, I’ll be fine because I have my Epi-Pen with me.” Perhaps in teaching him how to use it, he took that to mean it would completely save him in an emergency. If he thinks to use it in time. If he’s able to correctly administer it himself. If the ambulance arrives in time. He’s only 6, for goodness sakes.

We reviewed the simple facts of the ice cream truck. The man is inside the truck. The truck is small. The man might be wearing latex gloves to protect his hands. How often does he change the gloves? He picks up the cone, fills it with ice cream, then dips it into chocolate sprinkles, then nuts, then rainbow sprinkles. This is called cross contamination. The nuts could be on the gloves, in the rainbow sprinkles, in the chocolate sprinkles. It’s all contaminated!! (I’m really freaking myself out writing this, guys.)

Every summer I get sad that we can’t go to an ice cream or frozen yogurt shop like other families, but I just can’t trust that the 17 year-old working there hasn’t mixed the nuts with the candies.

Now that some time has passed, I might sit the whole family down for a screening of FARE’s Discovery Channel documentary “An Emerging Epidemic: Food Allergies in America,” narrated by Steve Carell. Even though the trailer made me cry a little. Maybe it might scare him a little, but in a calm and clinical way.

I thought I had this one solved, but I think it’s more of a work in progress. It’s the endless possibilities of my overactive imagination that can sometimes make being a food allergy parent incredibly stressful. How would you handle this situation? I’d love to hear your experiences.

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10 Comments to The Dreaded Ice Cream Truck

  1. That must be so hard, Kate. I wish there was some way he could eat the soft serve like the other kids! You would think there would be nut-free ice cream trucks these days, where the only topping options were candies and chocolate?

    • Kate Petrov

      Thanks Heather. I feel terrible for him. I would LOVE to see a nut-free truck!

  2. Tiffany

    Oh Kate, I feel you! I’m so sorry :-/. Thanks for the reminder of the documentary. I have lots of people that should probably watch it.
    So, were you on high alert for the next two days?

    • Kate

      I’m on high alert EVERY DAY!

  3. Emily

    That is so tough…my middle child has a severe peanut allergy, and the cross contamination issue is always so scary. We do the serve yourself yogurt place and just get sprinkles (they aren’t close to the peanuts and I always inspect first), but I’m still usually stressed out the whole visit. She’s starting preschool in the fall, and I don’t feel like I’ve been able to get the seriousness of her allergy across to her (without scaring her completely) either.

    • Kate Petrov

      I’m with you, Emily. Allergy parents are stressed out. Maybe when your daughter starts preschool, you can send her with an allergy ID/ medic alert bracelet. There are lots of options available online. Good luck, and keep breathing!

    • Kate Petrov

      Wow, what amazing willpower! Thanks for sharing your story, and introducing us to your blog.

  4. Leigh

    Oh gosh that’s scary!!! I really hate the ice cream truck. I’m thankfully that we don’t have one come down our street, but he does drive down the main drag through our neighborhood. My 3 year old always asks for ice cream and I always say no. He’s allergic to peanuts, dairy and eggs. I always explain why he can’t have that ice cream but offer him his special ice cream or his popsicles from our freezer. It’s tough and I know it will only get worse with age.

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