If you care about your kids, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the responsibility – of keeping them alive, of keeping them safe, of teaching them not to be cruel. The world is full of infinite potential for disaster, and if you allow anxiety and paranoia to take over, it can paralyze you and cripple your kids’ development.
The good news is that most of the stuff you fear probably won’t happen! Most of it is purely theoretical, and if you use your best judgment and common sense, odds are you’ll do a fine job of protecting your kids. But some fears are legit, and require extra vigilance. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you!
Especially when your kid has a food allergy.
Tuesday, in the middle of our thirteen-hour drive home from visiting Mom and Buried’s family in South Carolina, Detective Munch threw up.
Until that point, the drive had been going very well, and we were on target for an early arrival. And then we stopped for lunch, and a short time afterwards, vomit ensued.
He doesn’t get car sick all that often, and that made the entire experience even worse than it sounds. Because what if he wasn’t getting car sick at all?
Puking sucks, especially in the car, for a variety of reasons. Not least of which was having to pull off an exit for an unscheduled stop in the middle of a long road trip! We had to change his clothes in a sketchy gas station bathroom, dismantle the booster seat, wipe down the inside of the car, spray air freshener to prevent a family-style Barf-o-rama. But all that inconvenience paled in comparison to those few moments of sheer terror when I thought my son might have somehow ingested an errant tree nut.
My 7-year-old has a tree nut allergy, which means he can’t eat any nuts. We’re lucky it’s not a peanut allergy (peanuts are a legume!), which would both eliminate a convenient source of protein from his diet and make everyday life a lot harder for him (peanut-based foods and oils are a lot more prevalent than tree nut based stuff), but it’s still something we need to be aware of. The one time he accidentally ate a cashew he had an instant reaction; his throat tightened up and he quickly vomited as Mom and Buried and I panicked about whether or not to deploy the Epipen for the first time.
We ended up not using it, which was the wrong move according to the doctor we spoke to as the “incident” was winding down. She said that next time it happens we should inject him immediately, and that if there does come a next time, it will be worse. That was a fun conversation: impending doom mixed with insane guilt. Yay parenting!
Two-plus years later, we still have yet to use the Epipen. We’ve thus far escaped a “next time.” But we are painfully aware of his allergy; it’s always on my mind. So when he started throwing up in the car, it was the first thing I thought about. Which is stressful and terrifying and probably necessary.
That day in the car, I tried to get him to talk to me, almost mid-puke, because I wanted to know if he could talk – or if his throat was constricting in anaphylactic shock. I asked Mom and Buried what he’d eaten, even though I knew there was no way his fast food chicken nuggets had cashews or walnuts in them, and I tried to remember where our Epipen even was.
Turns out we didn’t need it; he was able to respond to me, once the multiple torrents of vomit – seriously, there was a lot of vomit! – finished spewing from his face-hole, and he recovered pretty much immediately.
Just a few minutes later, we were able to laugh about the whole thing, despite the fact that I was shaken up. His tree nut allergy terrifies me, but that’s a good thing.
The fear keeps me on guard.
It was a false alarm, this time, but one of these days it won’t be. One of these days he’s going to eat a tree nut, one way or another, and when he does, his reaction is going to be worse than it was that first time. And if we don’t act fast, he might not have another one.
This time he’d only gotten car sick, which: gross. But also, thank god! Being afraid for your kids sucks, but sometimes it’s necessary, especially when they have a dangerous food allergy.
Fearing the worst may actually help prepare you for it, if and when it comes.