Last week I wrote about all of the food and prep work it takes to travel with your food allergic child (see Here). This week I’m writing about a more emotional side, about the constant worry of being in a strange and uncontrollable environment. Our hotel room becomes a safe a haven where our son can be safe from the outside world, but once we step outside, there are thousands of people around us who neither know nor care that he has life threatening food allergies. Unless I put a sign on him or get a bull horn, they will never know.
I posted a picture the other day from our amusement park trip of pistachio shells on the ground. These were also littered throughout the sand on the beach. I have no idea when pistachios became the “portable food”, but they seem to be every where. Maybe I just never noticed it before because they weren’t a threat to me or my family, but now I see them every where. I’m still not sure how you open them on the beach with sandy hands. It can’t be yummy. Yet there they were.
Also on the beach: Broken eggs. Like someone took a container of a half dozen eggs and just cracked them and left them lying there in the sand. Who brings eggs to the beach? I don’t know, but someone did and the broken eggs, shells and insides, were scattered on the beach.
These things were easily navigated. We just moved away from them and tried to inspect the beach around our blanket to make sure it looked relatively clean. As long as there were no obvious signs of things our son is allergic too we felt pretty safe.
One afternoon, the Little Man was napping and Hubby gave me break and said he’d stay with him and let me get some reading done by the pool. It was nice to have some time by myself and since I didn’t have to watch children, I was doing some people watching. What I observed was a family (mom, dad, little boy about 2 years old, and some random aunts, uncles and cousins) swimming in the pool and eating a giant family sized bag of Chex Mix in the pool (they were actually IN the pool). The little boy, over a period of 45 minutes, dumped about half of the bag of Chex Mix in the pool. No one bothered to fish any of it out. My son is allergic to wheat, rye, barley, egg, milk, peanut, and tree nut. All of those, minus the egg and rye, are in Chex Mix. So what would that have meant for my son had he been at the pool at this time? Would the water have been contaminated for him? Maybe just in that area? Would the water have diluted the allergens enough that it would have been ok? Would he have just had a contact reaction? They were sitting in the shallow end by the little kids slide were my son liked to play. I guess I would have just pulled him and took him to the beach. Was I the only one who noticed the mess in the pool? Would I have even noticed the mess if my son didn’t have food allergies? As I left the pool to see if nap time was over I had to step around a big pile of Doritos that some one had dumped on the ground and just left there. Another food allergy land mine.
The whole trip was one observation after another. People sitting next to us at the pool eating sandwiches over our pool chairs where our towels were sitting, giant gobs of ice cream on every bench of the boarwalk, little kids eating goldfish crackers and wanting to play with my sons sand toys. The list goes on and on. Of course the Little Man was oblivious to the whole thing because of his age. As his parents, we were on guard constantly and it was a little hard to relax. Thinking of him going through his whole life this way made me sad. Of course he’ll know nothing different. This is the way it’s always been for him and it’s the way it’ll always be. I also couldn’t help looking around and wondering what other people and families were going through. And what behaviors or actions that I was doing that was making them nervous or putting them on guard…. And I didn’t even know it.