Egg and Peanut and Sesame, Oh My!

Picture of Stacey Pinilis, LCSW

Stacey Pinilis, LCSW

Psychotherapist and Parenting Consultant in Montclair, NJ

I remember it like it was yesterday, yet it’s foggy because I was a young tired mom of three kids under six. It was also more than thirteen years ago and a bit of a traumatic event. My bouncing baby boy blew up like a balloon after eating a few bites of a scrambled egg for dinner. With pudgy hands he grabbed at that poison and rammed fistfuls into his toothless mouth. He chewed it up like a little old man as cute as can be. Until he was swollen, red and covered in hives.

The pediatrician instructed me to give him Benadryl and call the allergist for an appointment in the morning. All these years later the advice might be different, but thankfully the Benadryl worked. After a sleepless, worried night, I made the allergist appointment. Ethan was allergic to eggs.

For two years we learned how to cook everything without eggs. He was young enough that he did not mind having his own cupcake at parties and playdates. He carried an Epipen, Benadryl and later an inhaler in his preschool backpack or my pocketbook. I got used to holding my breath and simultaneously trusting he would be safe. I refused to let myself go into catastrophe mode and was sure he would outgrow it. Sure enough when Ethan was three he had a blood test which showed that he was no longer allergic to egg. BUT he was now allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and sesame. And so our allergy journey continued.

Our normal changed. The food we kept at home changed. Our experience in restaurants changed. Our vacation planning changed. Our ideas of playdates, parties, school snack, sleepovers, holiday gatherings and camp changed. We needed to be mindful and prepared ALWAYS. We needed to speak up for Ethan, advocate, explain, teach and in some cases demand that he be safe and included.

This was not easy for me to do. I needed to look within and cultivate new skills, learn to trust myself, speak up and face potential conflicts. I need to let go of the shy, people pleaser I tended to be. I am not alone in my experience. Dozens of allergy parents who walk into my office share similar stories and learn to develop similar skills. We have no choice but to be conscious of our own anxiety, our own issues with people pleasing on the one hand or anger on the other. We are forced to be on a path of self evolution for the well being of our children.

Allergy parents are used to living in a state of fear and the unknown, so for many parents this Pandemic is nothing new. We need to draw upon our resilience, our anxiety tools and our trust in something bigger than ourselves that everything will be ok. We may even feel better having our kids at home during this time because we know they are safe.

We all fall upon a continuum of anxious feelings that can change day by day or even hour by hour. If I can offer one bit of advice as we near the hopeful end of this Quarantine is to remember how strong you really are. Remember all those times you needed to dig deep within for your child. All that strength does not disappear. Call upon it now and decide to step into your strength and your power. Remind yourself — I got this. The stronger you are in your own self, the safer your child will feel.

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