Unless you live under a rock, in a bubble or do not speak to anyone other than your cats you will realize by now that food allergies are on the rise. If your child doesn’t have food allergies and is in school then chances are they know someone who has food allergies. Food allergies at birthday parties can be scary for both the host and guests but there are a lot of ways to party without incidents!
The first step is simple and I am going to quote Jules from Pulp fiction here: “Nobody’s gonna hurt anybody. We are going to be a bunch of little Fonzies. And what’s Fonzie like? … He’s cool.”
Just. Be. Cool.
I can’t emphasize that enough! Stress, worry, irritation and resentment are just going to piss you off more. No matter if you are hosting a birthday party for your kid or your food allergic child is attending a birthday party one thing is obvious… everyone involved should be there to celebrate.
Yes, food allergies can cause discomfort, pain or even death. The guilt of something going wrong is terrible for everyone involved. Creating a shit-storm of bitchy doesn’t do any good.
The next step in being cool is all about communication.
What are the allergies? Talk about it. Reach out! Don’t sit there and stress. Let the allergies be known or ask what they are. You will go into this blindly if you don’t open up your mouth and talk! Once you know what the allergies are…
Can alternatives be offered? If it is a milk allergen is it cool to not offer goldfish crackers and provide wheat thins? If it is a wheat allergen what about corn chips? Also, gluten free pretzels taste just like wheat pretzels. What about the cake or ice cream? Popsicles are a just as, if not more, satisfying treat. Can rice crispy treats be made along with the cake if that is a safe alternative? Are the parents and hosts able to work together to figure out a menu? Want to get really ambitious? Try making something the kids can all enjoy, no one is left out and it tastes fantastic like the Betty Crocker Gluten Free cake. That is if that mix is a safe alternative.
My daughter was allergic to so many foods that we would go to birthday parties with a mountain of rice crispy treats made with vegan margarine! Guess what was gobbled up faster than the cake?! I would always offer to bring snack alternatives if the host was willing to let me provide that. Sometimes they were… sometimes not. Either way is great! As a parent with a child with food allergies it’s best to always pack your own food, just in case, to have alternatives. Mistakes can happen. Someone could have overlooked an ingredient and the last thing you want is your kid standing there hungry! Be cool.
How severe are the allergies? Some kids are so severely allergic that they cannot even be in the same room or come into contact with the allergen. My daughter is one of those kids but has improved over the years. Her extreme sensitivities don’t prevent us from making the most of every party. We just modify our time at parties. We play, hang out and as soon as something really dangerous is served we politely exit.
If you or one of your guests is in this situation talk about it. Can food be kept to the absolute last part of the party? If food is going to be served halfway can the activities be done upon arrival so the kids can enjoy the fun stuff together? We have gone to parties for less than an hour, made the most out of it and my kids know that they always have a special treat waiting for them in the car. I’ve even made our own goodie bags… just in case.
In addition to talking to the adults in charge make sure you communicate with the kids! Kid’s need to be prepared and have an understanding to unique situations. I repeat “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit” so often that my kids chant it along with me. It sucks to see any child left out but sometimes it has to happen but it does not have to be the end of the world. I will find out every detail I can about a party before taking my kids to it because that is my responsibility. Before I host a party I find out any dietary needs before I meal plan because that is my responsibility. Everyone having a happy time is more valuable than food.
But, what if something goes wrong?
It is a huge responsibility to take on food allergies. Mistakes can and will happen. Children with allergies should always have their medication and epi-pen on them if needed. Parents who are welcoming children into their homes who have severe allergies should educate themselves on what to do in an anaphylaxis emergency. Sometimes runny and puffy eyes will be the extent of a mistake. You just never know. If a mistake happens again everyone needs to remember to be cool during and after. Walking away with bitterness, guilt or pissy feelings isn’t going to do shit. Plus, kids feed off of those emotions so lock that away for their sakes.
What if you just can’t figure it out?
Is it too much stress? Will it create resentment? It’s okay to decline an invitation or tell a guest that you are freaking out and set up a birthday playdate outside of a potentially chaotic situation. Yes, it is disappointing for a child to miss out on having a buddy attend their party or your child not being able to join in on the fun but there is always another day.
What if the other person just isn’t being cool?
Well, that is a simple answer. Then don’t bother trying. Some people suck at dealing with stressful situations because its not worth the risk. Sometimes the best of efforts, alternatives, timing and being cool still ends up not outweighing negativity. Some people are going to see it as a burden or an annoyance and that just isn’t worth it. So, be cool and find something else fun to do with your kid(s) and don’t stress it.
About Leila DontSpeakWhinese
Leila, aka The Ninja, is the advocate for all things not whining. Parenting is fun when everyone stops b*tching! She is the Mom of a big blended family of four awesome kids. They ninja kick through life together. Oh and she is a total jackass.