Sibling Revelry and Rivalry

04/27
2012

 

When we walked into the house after Lucy’s yearly appointment, her brothers (Sal, age 6, and Gino and Milo, both age 5) clamored to hear the news.  Dressed in her mint green owl shirt, little 2 year-old Lucy looked admiringly up at the boys and said one word, “Egg”.  Sal, who has no known food allergies, gave her a big kiss on her cheek.  Gino, who required 2 doses of injectable epinephrine after he ate egg and who probably has reacted to more foods than he is able to eat, ran to her and threw his strong, tan arms around his sister. “That’s great!  You get to try eggs!”  He couldn’t contain his smile.  His joy for her was palpable.  Milo, who is only allergic to egg and soy, sulked.  There was no celebratory embrace from him.  He shuffled to the family room and sat at the edge of the couch with his serious eyes focused away – away from what he wanted to happen to him, away from the egg talk.  I sat next to him.  “It’s not fair, Mommy.  It’s not fair that she gets to eat egg and not me.”  He couldn’t contain his tears and so they flowed.

I brought Lucy to my mom’s house the morning after the appointment and in a clean pan, my mom scrambled up a fresh egg for Lucy and served it to her in her pink bowl.  I fed her a bite that was smaller than a grain of Kosher salt and we waited.  There were no hives.  There was no redness.  There were no symptoms.  I let her have another small bite and we waited.  We repeated this until she had eaten a good amount of that pale yellow scrambled egg.  She was fine.  She was happy.  She was not allergic to egg.  I breathed a deep sigh of relief and gratitude to the food allergy goddesses but then I felt my heart sink a little.  How would the boys react to this?

I picked up the boys from school later that day and I told them that Lucy ate an egg and that she was not allergic to it.  As the boys walked past her car seat to get into their own, Sal rubbed her head in a way you would expect the oldest brother would and told her she did a good job.  Gino gave her a tender high-five followed by a tickle to express how happy he was for her.  Milo went straight past her and buckled himself into his seatbelt.  Gino asked Milo if he heard that Lucy could eat eggs.  He confirmed that he did indeed hear the news.  Sal asked him why he didn’t smile at her but Milo didn’t have an answer.  I wasn’t sure he really knew the answer.  He is only 5, after all.  He wasn’t mad at her for being able to eat eggs.  He was only able to focus on the fact that he wasn’t able to eat them.  I could sense his frustration and conflict.

As I thought about the twins’ differing reactions to this news, I contemplated if their individual food allergies played a role.  Gino, who may never be able to eat wheat, milk, egg or many other foods, reacted selflessly.  He knows that this opportunity may not present itself to him any time soon and still he was able to feel genuine delight for his sister’s stroke of luck.  He has learned through living with his food allergies to be happy for others even if you can’t have what they have.  He has learned to accept that his life is distinct from everyone else’s and in doing this, rarely compares himself to others or feels cheated.  Milo, however, sees himself as the twin who is hardly allergic to food.  He relates more to the food allergy-free world.  His more self-focused reaction was motivated by his own intense hope to lose his egg allergy.  He feels like he is just shy of being like “everyone else” so his competitive drive and his need for equality are intense, often creating a strong sense of rivalry.

I compare these differing reactions to a tennis match.  If you are defeated in a match with a score of 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 then chances are you are able to acknowledge that your opponent won fair and square.  You didn’t stand a chance against him.  In these games, usually one player applaudes the other for his prowess, and moves on, accepting the outcome.  This is in stark contrast to the player who loses a match 7-6, 7-6, 7-6 with every game a battle of deuces and every set a battle of tiebreakers.  The loss of that match may cause one player to dwell on a serve he should’ve made or a call that wasn’t right or a backhand that had a bit too much muscle on it.  This kind of match leaves the loser just barely out of the competition.  It leaves him hungry for another round.  It leaves him knowing he could easily be the winner next time.  See what I mean?  It’s like the more foods that allergy stacks against you, the more likely you are to accept your fate.  The fewer foods that are seen as victorious opponents, the more likely you are to feel you should be able to overcome them.  I am obviously not equating having food allergy to losing but after years of playing tennis matches like the ones I have described, I have felt how I think Gino and Milo are feeling.

We also left Lucy’s appointment that day with a future milk challenge in place.  Lucy had anaphylaxis to cow’s milk at 4 months and like her brother, required 2 doses of injectable epinephrine in order to decrease her airway swelling.  So as excited as we are for the chance to knock yet another allergen off of her avoidance list, I am sick over the thought of her having a reaction.  But I am also a little sick over the thought of her being able to eat cow’s milk. (I cringe as I write that because it is almost too honest to share.)  How could I possibly feel that way?  The truth is that I am concerned how her brothers will feel.  The kids find refuge in having shared food allergens with their siblings.  There is something safe about that.  Something sacred.  And not having a food allergy that another one has gives the one without the allergy a very important role as a protector.  See how complicated this gets?

Well, if she is able to eat cow’s milk, Sal will be thrilled even though he does pride himself on keeping an eye on Lucy whenever there may be milk around.  There will be an adjustment for him because he takes this role on with intense and instinctive responsibility.  I know how Milo will see this.  He is not allergic to milk so there will be no sense of rivalry there; he will get the chance to celebrate with his sister and boy, do I hope that he has the opportunity to feel this emotion.  It is so important for siblings to feel pure excitement for another’s success.  It’s that sort of empathy that forges long-lasting friendships between brothers and sisters.

But what about Gino? This is where my sadness comes in.  With Lucy’s ability to eat cow’s milk, the gap begins to widen between Gino and his siblings.  As happy as we would be for Lucy to have one less allergen, Gino will also have one less ally in avoidance. Right now, they make a great team.  At Starbucks, they both order an orange juice, while the other two drink their cow’s milk. If Milo and Sal get a cookie, Gino and Lucy share their own safe cookies.  Her milk allergy plays a critical role in the balance of power among the siblings.  Will Gino handle a milk victory as well as he did the egg? And what if he can’t?  That possibility breaks our hearts.

Of course, I want few things more than for Lucy to be able to eat cow’s milk with no reaction.  But the truth is, with that ability to drink cow’s milk comes a change and it will be a change that has a lot of emotional strings attached. It’s a change that I desperately want for her, but one that I don’t know if I want for Gino.  Although chances are that if she is able to have cow’s milk that he will graciously throw his arms around her and revel in one more food allergy victory with her – because he has learned not to see his limitations as punishments, because he has learned to be happy for what he has, and because, well, that’s just the kind of kid he is.

Here’s hoping that next Tuesday afternoon I get to see that victory hug.

What a perfect moment that would be…

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46 Responses to Sibling Revelry and Rivalry

  1. Michelle says:

    I hope you get to see it too! I am glad the egg challenge went well. :)

  2. Susan says:

    Wow, i read this while my kids are all at school and instantly teared up! when my 3rd son was born he had many issues, none of which were explained to us, he was always red and crying from the severe (undiagnosed) food allergies and eczema. His oldest brother took on the role as his protector at age 6, keeping all things food away from our precious baby. When we learned about the eczema, he changed his entire wardrobe to cotton so he could hold his brother! When we go to food challenges, Big brother will text his support as we begin and celebrates our victories and cries with less than successful tests. I’m so glad that our boys can travel this road together and that the un allergic can learn compassion and love for the allergic!

    • Sarah says:

      Susan,
      If anything, food allergy definitely instills empathy in the siblings without food allergies. The sacrifices that they make can often be great and I am sure difficult for them, but it is worth it if they can learn to be sensitive and responsive to other people’s needs. In a way, that’s a gift. Thank you so much for reading and for your comment, Susan. It means so much to me and I’m sure to everyone else too.
      Sarah

  3. Tom says:

    Keep up the good work – You’re a good mom. Glad Lucy can eat egg!
    Hope all is well – Tom B.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I think the hardest part is to handle the disappointments. They work together as a team to stay healthy but that doesn’t work when the pack is broken. Understand it all.

    My oldest child’s allergies that we thought she had outgrown are now becoming worse during her sophmore year of college. Two bouts of ana this year at college. Four year old has the worst allergies. They envy the third child. He was blessed with the “good hair”, great skin without the eczema, dad ‘s learning ability (everything comes easy) and the least allergies.

    Hard to blame them when he has no worries compared to them, can go to birthday parties without care, not have painful skin outbreaks, no epi treatmens and no hospital runs.

    I pray every day for them to not have the pain caused by their allergies and a cure..

    • Sarah says:

      Jennifer,
      The disappointments are so hard. That must be difficult for your daughter to think she has sort of “moved on”, only to have to deal with multiple episodes of anaphylaxis. When Milo couldn’t tolerate soy during his soy challenge this summer, he was so down. He felt like he had lost a very important game. He is the only one of the siblings still allergic to soy so he felt like he let everyone else down.
      I pray for a cure too…
      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts.
      Sarah

  5. Christine says:

    I always get excited to read your new posts, even though I tend to end up with a lump in my throat or tears in my eyes, not bad tears, but just because I can relate so well and can’t put my feelings into words as well as you can, it’s like you read my mind! Well written once again :)

    • Sarah says:

      Christine,
      Thank you so much for continuing to read! I am so happy that you enjoy the posts and can relate to them. That is why I write! I appreciate your kind words. Have a wonderful weekend!
      Sarah

  6. Becky says:

    What a beautiful post! Its nice to see people notice the psychological effects that allergies (or just being different in one way or another) can have on a person – especially a child. It is so often overlooked.

    (p.s. It was nice to meet you at the FAAN conference last month.)

    • Sarah says:

      Becky,
      It was nice meeting you too! Thank you for reading the post and I am so happy that you enjoyed it. The psychological effects on the children with food allergy are significant and important; and not so surprisingly, the effects on the unaffected siblings are great and unfortunately too often not addressed.
      Please share if you can. Thank you, Becky!
      Sarah

  7. Chris says:

    Sarah – (sorry in advance for the long comment!) Oh how I feel for you and the kids – all of them! I have a confession to make and to commit myself to change, I’m taking the liberty of writing about it on your blog.

    I have considered it so important to W’s acceptance of his food allergies that others have them too. My strategy has been to emphasize commonality over difference. After reading your post, I recognize that I have missed out on cultivating – if it can be cultivated – in W the incredible personality trait that Gino has. Gino’s attitude will carry him so far in life, on so many levels. When God gives such a burden as Gino carries, He also gives extraordinary power to carry that load!

    Since W was 2 years old, I had boldly explained to him that “most” people are allergic to something, just like he is allergic to something. After my brainwashing, when W first started making new friends, he’d say, “Hi. I’m W. What are you allergic to?” I tried hard to make that situation be true – I even neglected to say that I am not allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. And by saying instead that “We don’t eat nuts. Our family doesn’t eat nuts. Nuts are not in our house… etc.” I knew that I was creating the false impression that our entire family could not eat nuts. As the years have passed it’s been a challenge to wean away from that impression, first saying that Dad can eat nuts, but stone fruits make his mouth itch and he cannot be around cats. Then M came along and for a year it looked like she was allergic to shrimp. When it turned out that she is not, rather than whoop up the result, we made sure to mention that M’s skin is very sensitive and prone to rashes. We/I did this to “protect” W.

    Recently I have been tackling the mis-impression about me, first saying…”Mom is not as allergic as W, but Mom is very allergic to some medications that W is not allergic to…”, to offer him a victory. We are finally at a place where I can say, “Mom is not allergic to nuts, but to keep W extra safe, Mom doesn’t eat nuts either.” And yes, I refrain from eating them, though I love and often crave them. I wonder how he will view this later, but for now, I know that I am determined to share his pain because his situation pains me so much. I realize that the real task is to wean ME away from sharing W’s food allergy.

    The path I have taken is demented philosophy, to be sure, and I’ll bet that W is actually mostly fine with not being able to eat nuts, and that he needs no food-allergy-conjoined-twin in me. But I’m there, because of the bizarre oversensitive nature of motherhood. I sure hope that I am able to develop some of Gino’s grounded perspective soon, so that I can allow W to have his own life path!

    Thanks for your spot-on writing about your real-life. You are an invaluable companion in this demented world!

    • Sarah says:

      Christine,
      I believe that we raise our children in accordance to their individual needs and that God must give us very early hints as to what they are going to need. Maybe W needed that sort of “companionship” more than Gino did and remember, Gino had a food allergic non-conjoined twin from the beginning that W didn’t have. (And don’t think I never strive to find commonality in the differences… I have MUCH worse tree allergy than Gino and I’m allergic to cat and I don’t even really like eggs at all, after all they are baby chickens… See I do that too!)
      I do think that there is a great opportunity though to create strength and pride in those differences that they, alone, have. I want him to be confident with those differences – being the only one bringing his food to the restaurant, being the only one not eating the birthday cupcakes… I want him to be able to say, “Hey, that’s not something I can do… No big deal. I am happy with who I am.” And that’s when realizing you may in that boat alone (but not without tons of support!) may become important. And that realization will happen when everyone is ready.
      You do a wonderful job with W. You are so blessed to have each other.
      Thank you for all your support and for your beautifully candid comment.
      Sarah

  8. Aunt Barb says:

    Hi sweet Sarah, so happy for the
    little egg eater, but of course, bittersweet. Really enjoyed your
    post so clear and makes perfect sense. Lift prayers up for your
    babies daily. Love you and have a happy weekend!

    • Sarah says:

      Thank you so much, Aunt Barb. Always means so much to me that you read my posts and take time to comment. Thank you for the prayers. Hope you and your family are doing great! Hi to everyone!
      Sarah

  9. Kelly says:

    I know the feelings all too well. My dairy allergic daughter is older. When my son was born, he showed signs of being allergic as well. We avoided until he was 1 and then had him tested. He was not allergic. She sat in the hall outside the exam room, hearing every word the doctor said. All I could do was sit outside and cry with her. It still makes my heart ache when I remember that moment. What a delicate balance we must strike with these babies…

    • Sarah says:

      Kelly,
      Oh, that makes me sad. It is such a delicate balance and a challenging one. It’s like we need two separate worlds for a moment. One in which we can jump up and down to celebrate a safe food. And another in which we can cry and curse that same food for ever existing. The problem is with siblings, the worlds are often in the very same room…
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for reading. I so appreciate it.
      Sarah

  10. Megan says:

    This was a really beautiful post! Congratulations to your daughter on a successful food challenge.

    That having been said, I have a 6 year old daughter with egg, peanut, tree nut and shellfish allergies, and I kinda know how Milo feels. Whenever someone new hears about my daughter’s food allergies, I inevitably get one of two reactions from that person. The first is that this person knows someone with one or more food allergies, and usually that person has outgrown them. I am told about this unknown person outgrowing their food allergies with scarcely a look backward. I know it’s meant to provide some sort of hope, but it doesn’t. All that occurs to me is , “why is THAT kid more worthy than my daughter?” The second reaction is essentially the person telling me how terrible and horrible my life is. I resent both reactions. I need neither false hope nor fake pity. I’m just tired of jumping through all the figurative hoops just for “edible” food, and meanwhile my daughter looks forward to every skin test because she is sure that “this time” things will be different…

    • Sarah says:

      Megan, I, too, often cringe at the “he’ll grow out of it though, right?” comment as it makes my children feel like they are unlucky and downgrades the seriousness of the condition to something like shin splints (yeah, I know they hurt but you’ll outgrow it). It can definitely be frustrating.
      I am happy that your daughter has perpetual hope that “this time” things will be different though! It’s this hope that keeps us going year after year.
      Thank you for reading, Megan, and for your comment.
      Sarah

  11. Kerri scott says:

    I so understand this! Mine is reverse though. I only have one child with severe food allergies. It makes me sad at times to watch my “normal” kids eat things. No birthday cake for my almost three year old makes me sad. He loves to feed me and his siblings things he has never tasted and at this point won’t get too. Food allergies just arent fair!

    • Sarah says:

      Kerri,
      They aren’t fair! That’s as simple and as true as you can get. When my oldest son is in food-heaven eating a donut, I always imagine how happy the twins would be… Man, what I would give to see Milo and Gino eat a Dunkin’ Donut.
      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts!
      Sarah

  12. Diana says:

    That is so amazing that she can eat eggs now. Congrats on that and good luck with the upcoming milk test. I long for the day when my son might outgrow his peanut allergy. I know he feels badly when his sisters can eat something he can’t or he has to eat something different at school. He asked us the other day what a peanut tasted like. You do such a great job with your posts. Thanks for putting into words what we all feel.

    • Sarah says:

      Diana,
      Thank you so much. I always appreciate your comments! That is so hard when they ask you what things taste like. Funny that you mention that, my son was eating some jelly beans today and I heard him say, “Mmmm.” I asked him which one he was eating and he said buttered popcorn. It hit me that he has never eaten buttered popcorn… but in a weird way, he just had! Take care!
      Sarah

  13. Kristin Baugh says:

    Great post! I have often thought about how siblings feel about each others allergies.

  14. Stephanie BARBARO says:

    Good luck! We have a milk challenge coming up as well! But congrats on the egg!! That’s a big one! My little one is almost 3 and still very allergic to that one. I love your posts!

    • Sarah says:

      Stephanie,
      Thank you! Milk challenge is tomorrow. I’m so nervous. It’s hard for me to believe after having such a terrible reaction the first time she drank milk that we could actually make it through this without any problems… I sure hope so though.
      I hope your milk challenge goes well! Let me know when you have it so I can rally the troops of well-wishers :)
      Thank you again for reading and for your comment.
      Sarah

  15. Robyn says:

    This post hit home for me. I have a 3 year old who can eat everything and a 2 year old who can eat NOTHING! My 2 year old lives on RX formula. My 3 year will get jeolous and wonder why he “has” to eat when his younger brother doesn’t. Logan, my oldest, gets jeolous of Jamus’s OT appt and doc appt and pretends to be sick so he can go to the doctor too. Having a child who is allergic or intolerant, changes the whole family and it is a very hard adjustment, especially for siblings. Thank you for your posts and good luck on future food challenges!
    Robyn

    • Sarah says:

      Hello Robyn,
      Thank you for sharing your experience. It can be a challenge for both the allergic child and the non-allergic child, right? It can feel special to need the extra attention and when the sibling without the extra needs notices that, they often try to get that same attention. Giving each their own special alone time has really helped us work through those feeling with the kids individually. It’s amazing what they will share when they have you all to themselves…
      Thank you for reading Robyn. I appreciate it.
      Sarah

  16. Jennifer says:

    I am glad to see someone taking the effect seriously. A few years ago I asked our allergist for a psychologist reference. We weren’t having a specific issue, but our son was 5 and about to start school. At that point, he was allergic to dairy, eggs and peanuts. I knew there would be a lot of food and lot of being left out. I knew he had in that last year of preschool started to be affected by being left out. I knew our daughter, who is 18 months younger and has no allergies, was affected. She then and now wanted everything to be fair. I could tell she sometimes felt guilty enjoying snacks he couldn’t have. She sometimes gloated about it and then later felt guilty as well, which really seemed to me to be setting her up for future food issues. It all seemed complex, and I thought well let’s just go have a chat with someone in the know. The pediatric allergist, who has published in top journals and had a super busy practice in Memphis and who I otherwise liked, told me never in all his many years had he had any parent ask this for food allergies. He said he had occasionally referred kids for eczema that was disfiguring. He also said he had referred tweens/teens who weren’t taking their allergies seriously. He did end up giving me a name, but he made me feel crazy to be considering it. He said he didn’t think the psychologist would have any specific food allergy experience. Since we would have had to pay out of pocket, it didn’t seem worth it. We never did go and muddled through. He ended up with a great teacher who had lots of experience handling food allergies and was probably better than a psychologist in the advice she gave all us. But still you’d think it would come up. It’s a very foodcentric world.

    • Sarah says:

      Jennifer,
      There have been many recent publications on the emotional toll of food allergies on children and in some cases, there is a real need for children to talk these feelings through with someone other than their parents. If you were to ever feel like one of your children needed this in the future, please don’t hesitate. I think it can be extremely beneficial. I am happy you found a great teacher though, that really helps. I am also happy that you brought this up. I think in general, we, as allergists, need to be more aware of the emotional repercussions that food allergy has on the entire family. Thank you for your comment and for reading.
      Sarah

  17. Alexia says:

    I’m really happy that your daughter can eat eggs, it changes so much to food texture. I really like your post about how allergies affect how we and our kids see and experience ‘standard’ family life.
    And for Gino, I have a friend who son had all Top 8 food allergies (+ dozen more), with anaphylaxis, on neocate for almost 5 years (in France it’s state funded so the family gets it for free) and now, at 7, after 3 yrs of various food challenges, he’s past them all (except tree and peanuts), including milk, which he now drinks happily, even though 1 year ago, it would cause anaphylaxis! It also gives us some hope for our son and I thought I would share.

    Was your older son even over anxious about his younger siblings? I have a friend whose #2 child is allergic (not ige mediated but still, to all major allergens) and his older sister (4 now) has become very anxious about it and worries about him a lot, about the crumbs she may be leaving in the house etc…. The impact on these kids must be huge I fear and I would imagine reflect the parent’s attitude and behavior towards risk.

    Thanks as always for your insightful, outside the box posts!

    • Sarah says:

      Alexia,
      Thank you for your kind comment about my posts. I appreciate that.
      I also appreciate hearing about your friend’s son…Lucy’s challenge is tomorrow and I literally have hives on my arms and back I am so nervous about it. (Geez, anyone in my family atopic? :) ) Your story just reminds me that it can happen!
      My oldest son is definitely concerned about the safety of his younger siblings. We don’t allow him to eat any unsafe food in the house so he doesn’t have crumb concerns… but he definitely would if he were allowed to eat unsafe food in the home. He is very careful and I think being the oldest and also carrying this burden of helping to keep them safe will be a big part of who he grows up to be – for better or worse.
      Thank you, Alexia. I always enjoy hearing from you.
      Sarah
      PS – Did you ever get that post translated into French? Oui or non? :)

  18. Stephanie says:

    Your story touched my heart. Living a life that is filled with allergies for myself and my children it was hard not to get caught up in all the feelings you were describing. The lump kept creeping up my throat and I felt my heart sink with each sorrow you described. With kids it is hard to fully understand and I feel I know that because I go through it with my own kids. It is hard at times for me to understand and I am 34. Your child is right, it does not seem fair. You are doing a wonderful job being a mother and it appears you are raising some fine caring kids! No matter how they react with each new passing food allergy they will be there for each other!

    • Sarah says:

      Stephanie,
      Thank you so very much for your kind words. They really mean so much to me. We’ll see how it goes – challenge is tomorrow. Either way though, I hope you are right, that they will continue to support each other. My friend and I were talking about that today, how hard it is to truly be happy for someone when they get something that you wanted, and how rewarding it would be if you could really do that.
      Thank you again and I hope you and your children have a wonderful week.
      Sarah

  19. Angela says:

    Thank you for sharing – this story really hit home. My 4 1/2 year old uses their food allergy lists almost like a competition and I fear the day her little brother is able to eat something she cannot. She is proud she has fewer allergies, but his reactions are less severe, which she doesn’t yet understand. She’s cheered on her friend who has passed a food challenge, but I’m wondering if she will do the same for her brother. Only time will tell I guess.

    • Sarah says:

      Hello Angela,
      Sibling relationships are so complex. Some moments they are inseparable and having so much fun, and the next, I honestly think they don’t even like each other. The fact that food allergies don’t affect every child in a family the same is just plain mean. That’s a lot for them to deal with and because food is omnipresent, it is something that they have to deal with everyday. I am sure as your children get older they will be each other’s biggest cheerleaders. You’ll see :)
      Thank you so much for your comment and for reading.
      Sarah

  20. Kim Thiessen says:

    Wow, what a powerful post. I, too, have four kids – two with multiple life threatening allergies, one who outgrew her FPIES allergies and my eldest with no allergies. It is physically complicated, but oh so emotionally complicated as well. This is a hard journey for children to travel, but we do the best we can for them…in our case that means I bake everything! But for them, it is my joy. I see it as my call to serve my children, to protect them…

    Best of luck with the milk challenge – for all of you…

    Kim

    • Sarah says:

      Kim,
      Thank you so very much. Wow, we have a very similar families! There are so many ways this life is complicated, you’re right. I go back and forth on whether I am more physically exhausted or emotionally exhausted. Tough call :) I feel the same way about cooking now. I used to despise it and it now has become not only a necessity, but also a joy.
      Thank you for the luck on the challenge. It is tomorrow so we shall see. Whatever it is, it is.
      Thank you again, Kim.
      Sarah

  21. Christina says:

    Great post Sarah!

    I just wanted to share, that I know exactly how your children feel and what you are describing. My 3&1/2 yr old daughter is allergic to the top 8 while her 5 yr old brother has no food allergies at all. He also keeps an eye on her and protects her when around foods and unfamiliar places. In my situation though, I am the one that was disappointed and saddened when an allergy was found not to be an allergy any longer. We live in a small town, my daughter is one of only a handful of kids with allergies, and most of them only have 1 to deal with. After dealing with this alone for 2 year, another 3 year old in our town was diagnosed with all the same allergens as my daughter. The mom immediately contacted me for support and I was thankful to have her to chat with and share cooking ideas with and share my fears with. 4 weeks after the girls positive skin test, her RAST test results came back and determined that she was only allergic to 2 foods. When the mom told me, I was hit with emotion. I was so happy for the family, but yet I felt jealous, sad and alone once again.

    • Sarah says:

      Christina,
      Thank you so much for your honest and powerful comment. Food allergy puts children/siblings into situations that even we, as adults, struggle with. It’s the whole idea of, “Why me?” and “Why not me?” Such a difficult concept for human beings in general.
      You are not alone! I am here for you and we can swap fears and cooking ideas anytime!
      Thank you again for reading.
      Sarah

  22. Kristy says:

    Thanks for another great post! I am in the waiting game right now. I have a 3 year old son with severe peanut/tree nut allergies and a 10 month old daughter who’s just getting into real food. So far so good but that’s the way it was for our son too. Part of me just wants to know now if she’s going to follow her big brother but part of me wants to enjoy the bliss just a little longer. And if she doesn’t have food allergies, how is big brother going to react? I’m afraid I won’t let her eat nuts just so that he doesn’t feel bad. Ah, I’m sure I’ll figure it all out because as you pointed out in one of your last posts. . we often feel worse about our kids having food allergies than they do :) Thanks!

    • Sarah says:

      Kristy,
      Ah, the waiting game. I’ve been there. When you find out about your daughter, no matter what it is, you will figure it out!
      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your experiences. It means a lot to me!
      Sarah

  23. Teri says:

    I believe we don’t do nearly enough to address the social and psychological issues families with food allergies face. We send our troops to war and aren’t surprised when they come back with PTSD because they never know when they might be shot at. But allergic families have been drafted into a war in which something as innocuous as food can kill at any time. Yet there is little acknowledgement that this is traumatic and worthy of treatment, that managing food allergies requires a holistic approach that not only treats scary things like hives, but scary things like how to handle it when you’re watching a sibling covered in hives lying in a hospital bed unable to breathe.

    Because of our food allergies, my sister and were raised with a rock-solid understanding that people cannot and should not be defined by biological functions; that people deserve respect regardless of disability, dietary restrictions, or any other health issue; that pain is not a contest. I believe the single most important thing we can teach children–whether they have allergies or not–is to look at people as inherently valuable, with inborn dignity. I believe people > food. It sounds to me like you’ve been very mindful of teaching and encouraging your children along similar lines, despite the immense challenges you face managing each of your children’s individual situations.

    It can be hard because food is tangible and social, but I do believe we turned out better people for it. Children with food allergies or siblings who are allergic to food may grow up fast, but I believe that with the right guidance, they can harness the good things about having food allergies and being a little different–a strong sense of empathy, a solid appreciation for the complexity of the human body, a great medical background that might foster a desire to study medicine, biology, or any science (or at least become knowledgeable enough to help others, even as a layperson).

    Keep up the good work, here, because it sounds to me like you’re doing an awesome job. There are no easy answers for Gino or your whole family, but I can tell you from my own experience that having parents who are 100% behind you makes all the difference in the world.

    • Sarah says:

      Teri,
      Thank you for your comments. They are always very insightful and I think very helpful to other readers of the blog too. Thank you for taking the time to get this thought together so nicely. I agree that the emotional aspect of this disease is underestimated and needs to be continually addressed with our children. Open dialogue about anything with children seems to work the best!
      Thank you, Teri.
      Sarah

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