Two days a week I get my nearly 4 year old all to myself. The other three he is in school and I’ve been working. This bi-weekly affair delights both of us! With only a few more months of these special days left, we really do make the most of them. (In the fall, he’ll go to preschool 5 mornings.) Our typical days include the mundane like chores and errands, but also the fun like playing Candyland and extra cuddling.
Last week, on one of these special days, we took a dear friend out for a birthday lunch, but I brought safe food for my son. Lately he’s had some unfortunate experiences at restaurants. I’m still not recovered emotionally from these screw ups. And as his parent, I need to take full responsibility for everything that goes in his mouth. In that regard, I’ve let him down.
In January while away for a special family get-away at an indoor water park, he had a very serious allergic reaction. The restaurant screwed up; gave him pancakes with milk in them even though they had thought they were making something safe. After 2 small bites, he was reacting. We ended up giving him an epi pen (epinephrine) for the first time — and then spent a long 4 hours in the ER. Even after an epi and high dose Benadryl and steroids in the hospital he got hives. He was in good hands and actually enjoyed the hospital experience, but says that getting the epi and getting sick at the restaurant was “very scary.”
Following that experience, we had a birthday dinner for his brother at McDonald’s, and he asked us to bring him safe food from home. It made us realize how aware he was of the possibility of getting sick while eating out.
Fast forward to early March. We ventured out to a tried-and-true restaurant in our neighborhood. He ordered his safe meal. And he had a reaction. Luckily this was more mild physically but it did scare him (and us). Even “safe” food can become very unsafe if not handled properly while being prepared.
All of this is why last week he asked for me to bring him food from home. He’s afraid.
I’m scared too. And I’m pissed. And I’m bummed.
The worst part last week wasn’t the pain-in-the-rear of bringing food from home. It was that he was scared. He asked to stay in the car. He cried as we walked in. He associates restaurants with feeling sick, and that is both a sad and a necessary reality for him. And yet, while we want to teach him to be wary of food that isn’t in our control, we want so desperately for him to be included.