Since day one, we've talked to DJ about his peanut and tree-nut allergy. Given his young age, at this stage we're really just trying to install an understanding that he can't eat nuts and that he has a very serious allergy. Nearly every time I'm cooking, I re-read labels in front of him and tell him how I'm making sure there are no nuts. We do the same thing in the grocery store, and I make a big deal about showing him that I'm checking all food to make sure it's safe.
Because he is so very young and rarely out of my care, there is an almost non-existent risk of someone feeding him. Still, lately, I've started trying to explain how he can never take food from others, saying he must say no and that they must 'ask my mommy first'
Recently, when I asked him what he would say if someone asked him if he wanted to eat nuts, he veered off course. Normally, he promptly replies with our practised answer "No nuts, I'm allergic" But this time, he said "Yes, nuts are yummy yummy. I like nuts."
I quickly snapped back that he must never eat nuts, and holding his pudgy little hands in mine, I told him he could become very, very sick, even die.
I'm almost embarrassed to write this post, thinking about my over-reaction and how I may have frightened DJ. Of course, he doesn't understand death. Our beloved 14 year-old American Eskimo Stella recently died, and he tells me nearly daily how is going to hug and kiss her better.
This article I just read in Allergic Living struck home. Clearly, we will have to find ways to make DJ understand just how serious his allergy is while not making him over-anxious.
Over the last year we've really learned that this allergy is manageable. With a little research, vigilance and communicating the right balance that will keep him safe yet still let him enjoy life is sure to be a challenge.