This is a guest post from Rob Balaam. We love sharing other people’s stories because it’s a great way for us (by us, we mean parents of kids with allergies, asthma, and eczema) to grow as a community, for others to learn about what we experience, and for awareness to increase so our kids are met with more support. As always, please check with your doctor before implementing ideas you see on Scratch or Sniff as we are not doctors, just your friends on the internet. :)
As the father of a child with food allergies, there is one question that I hate hearing: “Well, why can’t you just …?”
It could be about anything, like packing a particular snack or eating in a certain restaurant. It’s always about something that — to them — seems so simple. Why can’t we?
We just can’t.
My child’s allergies are not only, at times, a disability — they could be deadly.
Of course, allergies are invisible unless they’re triggered. My child doesn’t have a blinking arrow above their head that flashes “ALLERGY.” They look like an average kid, and unfortunately that seems to make people think they “don’t really have a problem.”
Why can’t they just avoid it?
Why can’t my child eat that food around your child? They won’t share it.
Why can’t you take them out to eat?
Why can’t you just give them some medication and fix it?
I am so tired of the questions. It makes me want to yell that my child can’t stop an allergic reaction any more than they could stop a moving train.
What frustrates me on a daily basis is that if my child were mentally challenged, people would go out of their way to accommodate them. No one would ask say, “Well, why can’t they do this?” or “Why don’t they just understand that the rest of the class is having a party, so they need to wait in the hall?”
If my child had a physical impairment, people would go out of their way to accommodate them. If my child were in a wheelchair, you would not ask them why they can’t walk up the stairs.
No one would ask these questions if my child had a mental or physical challenge, so why do they feel the right to be an @&$#%£¥ about my child’s life-threatening food allergies?
Is it because they’ve never witnessed someone in the midst of a reaction? Is it because they’ve never had to rush their child to the hospital? Is it because they’ve never felt the agonizing pain of watching their child struggle to breathe, while they fought back their own screams of terror?
I would never wish a reaction on anyone, but experiencing the severity of an allergic reaction seems to be the only way that some people truly get it. Maybe they see someone reacting in person, or maybe they just hear about their neighbor’s cousin’s friend who had an anaphylactic reaction at the frozen yogurt place.
Either way, they’re coming to the understanding that allergies can be life-threatening and need to be taken seriously. We, as parents of children with allergies, need to keep those conversations going.
Once people understand the severity of food allergies, I can guarantee they won’t be asking “Well, why can’t you just …?”
Instead, they’ll be asking the right question: “What can I do to help?”
Rob Balaam is a married father of 2 wonderful children, living the blue collar dream. Occasionally he has to put on the red cape to fight off the evil that is food allergies….though this often embarrasses his children since a middle aged man does NOT look good in a spandex body suit.