By Robin Comey
Our family loves trick or treating. Our kids really do. We live in a close knit neighborhood, houses elbow to elbow, the streets full of wandering families. In this beach front community, it’s a last vestige before we hunker down for the winter. We go out in groups of at least 25 kids, ages 0-12 with accompanying parents shouting out “CAR!” as we make our way through the narrow streets. It’s a pastime none of us miss out on unless we have a sick kid relegated to answering the door in their jammies. Leaving our food allergic son behind never even crossed our mind.
Being that I am on what seems likes every single food allergy related Facebook page, my newsfeed is jammed with the Teal Pumpkin Project. To give credit where credit is due, Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee (FACET) began this movement and then Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) with their enormous arms embraced the concept and, well, the rest is history. According to the FARE website, the Teal Pumpkin Project is designed to promote safety, inclusion and respect of individuals managing food allergies – and to keep Halloween a fun, positive experience for all. I see a lot of coverage on it, but then again I am most likely to see it, I’m just not sure the exposure on non food allergic families. Oh, and I love removing the food.
So here’s the scenario each halloween for my PN/TN legume allergy kiddo. Our mob arrives at your door, 10-15 kids navigating stone walkways and stairs in a hinderance of a costume. My son gets to the door and it’s like someone hit slow motion. Other kids may look at the halloween decorations, the lighted pumpkins or the dressed up ghoul at the door. His eyes lock in on the bowl of candy. I know all kids are into the candy, but clearly you have to admit, it’s not as scary when your life is in your hands. What is the right choice? Is there another bowl on the table over there with any other choices? He’s walked away from a bowl of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Baby Ruth’s more times than we can count. Even if there was something else in the bowl that he could eat, he wouldn’t dare get near it.
This year….well we’ll see…because you can never tell where a kid’s head is at when it comes to his safety and his developmental understanding of his food allergies. But last year, to his credit, he was very clear at each door. “I’m allergic to peanuts.” (Of course the Mom in me is saying “Not just peanuts, ALL nuts!”) But he knows that. He just forgets to mention it sometimes.
And yea. To those neighbors that think that he’s taking a little bit extra time to pick out the candy, he’s worried. He doesn’t even want nuts in his bag. He doesn’t want to take them out of the rotation at the end of the night. If someone throws something in his bag, he alerts us right away and we have to remove the offending candy bar right there on the darkened street. He wants exactly what he wants and nothing more and nothing less. I love that about him.
We have a wonderful ex-home daycare provider, Betty, that for years we hoof our way over to knowing that she will give him tattoos or stickers, especially put aside for him and his friends who also have food allergies. She has kept many food allergic kids safe over the years. We all flocked to her as a safe place for our kids, with someone who got it. I have actually, at times, felt a little sorry for the neighbors who didn’t have a nut-free candy option for him. They certainly didn’t mean they want to harm to my son by providing a bowl full of peanuts. I get the feeling it’s sometimes the only time of the year people get to say, “I love this candy, so I’m sure the kids will love it.”
Well this kid loves halloween. He loves dressing up. He loves wandering the neighborhood in a frenzy. And, yes, he loves candy. He loves choices more.
So back to the Teal Pumpkin Project. I have not yet told him about it really. When I mean really, I mean not at all. It might be that I don’t want to get his hopes up. I mean how many people will stray out of their comfort zone and age old habits? We’ll just have to see. I’ll just be so happy when I see one pumpkin in teal or a sign. I’m know it will be at Betty’s house. Then I’ll tell him.