Tuesday, December 28, 2010
In fact, I love the cookies, the candies, the sweet and elaborate creations that come from the kitchens of those amazing people who manage to carve out time during the busy holiday season to slave over double boilers and bubbling confections. YUM.
But with Jabber's confirmed peanut allergy and both kids untested for all the tree nuts, I sort of find myself hating these goodies, or at least hating the danger and uncertainty they add to my son's life.
The thing is, we don't know--and I'm hoping we never find out--what will happen if Jabber eats a peanut. We carry our epi-pens and antihistamine and keep our house safe from cross-contamination. We set up health plans in the school and accompany him to birthday parties with his own safe cupcakes. But even with all our preparations, there are so many things that could go wrong, so many variables we can't control. And that's scary.
Christmas Eve, for example. Jabber feels safe with all his family around, and I looked up and found him eating one of Grandma's sugar cookies. Instantly, I jump up, confiscate the cookie, track down the plate he got it from, and inspect it for nuts. Sure enough, there were peanut-butter cookies sharing the plate, but my mom assured me that she had personally chosen a cookie that wasn't touching any of them. How sure am I that the cookies hadn't shifted at some point? How do I tell my son, who is insisting he feels fine--and of course he insists, since those are good cookies, and everyone else is eating them!--that I don't feel comfortable with him eating it? How do I explain later, when my grandma offers both boys cookies from another plate, that they aren't allowed to eat any of the treats? How do I keep him safe from this entire family of people, all of whom are now potential dangers, walking around with peanut-butter cookie crumbs on their clothes, peanut proteins on their hands?
It's hard to find the balance between keeping my child safe and depriving others (demanding that everyone wash their hands and all surfaces they have touched, locking the unsafe foods that people slaved over in a forbidden cupboard?) It's hard to explain why we won't let Monkey eat any of the foods, either, even though we're not sure if he's allergic (why risk it?) It's hard to speak up, and it's even harder when it's not family.
At one point during the festivities, another child was eating a slice of potica at the "kid table", where Jabber and Monkey were eating, too. I watched the crumbs going all over the tablecloth and imagined how someone could scatter those little walnut particles all over the living room with one unthinking movement as they collapsed the card table and got the room ready for present opening. I thought about how my kids could be sitting there on that deep shag carpeting, opening their gifts, and have a reaction to the tiny allergens. And it was so sad to have this delicious food suddenly turn in my mind to a very frightening enemy, as I carefully gathered up the cloth, washed the table and chairs, and double-checked that the bottle of antihistamine was handy. What if I wasn't there? What if I didn't see the potica, or know that it has nuts in it?
How many people in Jabber's life will be walking around completely unaware of the fact that their food is potentially dangerous to him? Is this any different from the hundreds of thousands of other dangers that could befall my children? I'm not trying to be overly dramatic in this post, but I know parenting is a fearful journey for everyone--there is only so much we can do to keep them safe, and it only gets harder as they get older and move away from our control. Sigh.
I don't hate Christmas cookies. Thank you, to all those wonderful people who stirred and dipped and frosted and rolled and sprinkled and arranged their holiday sweets. They were delicious. And I'm just a little bit glad that they are gone.