When my now twelve-year-old daughter was one month old she had her first severe allergic reaction after breastfeeding. The first year was all about figuring out all of her allergies and modifying my life to keep her safe. The hardest part wasn’t all the food changes but figuring out what triggers her reactions. When my seven year old was born and was diagnosed with a few allergies it was easier to manage because we were pros at that point. Our home is our allergy friendly place and managing food allergies is our responsibility.
I quickly realized that the world outside of our home would be harder to take on because most of the world out there revolves around food in some way. Thankfully, I like a good challenge.
I do not expect the world to bend to accommodate my daughter’s life-threatening multiple food allergies, but I do hope that she finds more compassion. We opt out of a lot of birthday parties, family gatherings and play dates or we bring our own allergy safe foods and figure out how to politely excuse ourselves. I host most sleepovers, play dates and gatherings because it’s just easier to do it all rather than put the pressure on anyone to make it work. My kids don’t complain because it’s not the end of the world if we can’t participate in everything.
That’s how we roll. That is how it’s been. Halloween is no exception.
Halloween is our favorite holiday even if it’s all about the candy that, at one point, my daughter could have none of and my son had little options. Dressing up in costumes is a fun time. We like to act silly. We love an excuse to hang out with friends. If my kids didn’t have food allergies the candy still wouldn’t be the main focus.
We trick or treat even if 90% of the candy we get is not allergy friendly. We can trick or treat for HOURS! A friend asked me once why we even bother and I said, “Uh… because it’s a really fun time to run around dressed up??”
We introduced the “Halloween Fairy” into our homes many years ago. I found out last year that some call this the “Switch Witch”. We trade out candy the kids can’t have or the surplus of what the kids shouldn’t eat and the Halloween Fairy brings better goodies instead.
Last year the kids left out a little bit to the Halloween Fairy and donated the rest to a local women’s shelter. They initiated that suggestion and I was proud.
We are always super safe when we trick or treat. My daughter carriers her “emergency bag” filled with all medications she needs including her epi-pen and I have extras on hand. I sort out the candy first making sure nothing is open that contains her contact allergies. It’s a process but it’s so routine that no one feels weird about it.
I’ve been asked before if my kids ever get upset that they can’t eat all the candy they collect and it’s honestly never been an issue. It simply is what it is and I try to not focus on the CAN’T and focus on the FUN.
When they were younger I would see the enthusiasm on their faces when they went to a house that had a non-candy treat or a piece of candy they could have. My son still does a little dance and yells “Yes!” when this happens. Yes, it would be nice if this could happen more often but we would never expect or want a fully “allergy friendly” Halloween.
Why wouldn’t I want a fully “allergy friendly” Halloween? Because A) it would never happen B) It doesn’t mean our fun times would be better because we do just fine as is and C) The Halloween Fairy does like the chocolate bonus hehehe – But in all reality, you can’t have perfection so why would I expect that for my kids? Nah, perfection is boring. I’d rather learn from the small bumps in the road and imperfections and have fun anyway.
Every year I’ve seen a little more non-candy treats when the kids unload their Halloween loot. The kids, allergies or not, love these. The increase of non-candy goodies may have to do with food allergies, or other dietary restrictions or maybe being over the amount of junk food the kids get. No matter what the reason we really do dig it.
But, just because Halloween won’t be completely allergy friendly doesn’t mean we all can’t try a little. For those of you who want to try it, check out the Teal Pumpkin Project by F.A.R.E. – Teal is the color for allergy awareness AND it’s my daughter’s favorite color.
The concept is simple… Paint a pumpkin teal, print a flyer to raise awareness and have food allergy friendly treats available for Halloween. Kids who have food allergies will be able to see what houses have allergy friendly treats with no tricks for them. When you are out shopping for Halloween goodies why not look at those stickers, glow sticks, plastic rings, pencils or non-food items too? Don’t want to replace all your candy? That’s cool… why not have candy and a bowl for kids who can’t have candy?
The Teal Pumpkin Project is something that gives people the idea of offering non-food treats only or having a separate bowl for those with food allergies. It isn’t about replacing all candy but creating more awareness and inclusion. No, food allergy parents across the world are not expecting EVERYONE to do this and eliminate candy and the new Halloween color to be teal instead of orange. But, it may make a handful of kids feel special and included. Where is the harm in that?
We are going to paint some mini pumpkins teal, give them to neighbors, teachers, family and friends with information on the Teal Pumpkin Project. If people choose to offer up some stickers, glow sticks or bookmarks in addition to (or instead of) their candy, then RAD!
If not… then we are still gonna have fun.
If you decide to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project as a result of this please let me know! If you post a picture on Instagram I would love to see it and so would my kids. We are hoping to encourage a lot of people to jump in on this and see more teal pumpkins around
*This post Halloween, Managing Food Allergies and #TealPumpkinProject. was originally on Don’t Speak Whinese and used with permission.