As a food allergy mom, Halloween stresses me out.
We haven’t had to fully address it yet, since Mason is only 2, hates wearing costumes, and doesn’t like candy (or, really, hasn’t been exposed to it). But eventually, I know it’s going to be something we’ll have to deal with.
And I’m nervous.
Not so much about his safety—Halloween is just another day that we have to protect him from the dozen foods he’s dangerously allergic to. I’m more worried about him feeling different. Left out.
Who knows—maybe he’ll never be that interested in costumes. Maybe he won’t care that all his friends are running around the neighborhood dressed as ninjas, with pillowcases full of shiny stuff he can’t touch, let alone eat.
But what if he does care? And what about us, wanting to give our kid a normal childhood?
Will I have to run around the neighborhood the day before Halloween, dropping off allergy-friendly candy and non-food treats at houses for people to give him? Or will I let him go, and then make him give up his entire stash, except for maybe the Smarties, once he gets home?
It makes me sad thinking about it, and knowing that it’s just one of a million situations we’re going to have to learn how to navigate when he’s older (and even worse: ones we’re going to have to teach him how to navigate himself when we’re not around).
We’re kind of lucky, though, for two reasons:
–Food allergy awareness is blowing up these days. Everyone knows at least something about it, and schools are getting more proactive, cautious, and better informed all the time.
–General health awareness is blowing up these days. The real food movement, in particular, is gaining popularity like crazy, and more and more people are interested in candy alternatives for Halloween just for health reasons.
It makes me wonder if Halloween will look different in the coming years anyway?
One recent example: have you heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project?
The Food Allergy Research & Education organization is encouraging people to place a teal-painted pumpkin outside their door on Halloween this year if they’re offering non-food treats like small toys and stickers for kids with food allergies.
While I obviously appreciate the idea, I’m not sure if I’m totally behind it.
For one thing, I picture all these well-meaning families buying a pile of cheap junk from the dollar store, putting it in a bowl, and then having 1 kid out of 100 actually take one (and then break it or lose it under the couch by the next morning).
Plus, I don’t think it addresses the primary problem, which, in my opinion, is the “feeling different” thing. How is my kid going to feel when he goes to a teal pumpkin house and has to pick from the “special” bowl while all his friends dive into the chocolate?
To me, this is not an issue of safety. Most food allergy parents are super vigilant about what food goes near their kid as it is, and that’s only compounded on holidays. We’re not going to be sending our kids out into the neighborhood and just hoping that our neighbors have researched food allergies and have a plan to protect our kids.
The article about the Teal Pumpkin Project says, “If you don’t want to purchase non-food items, it is helpful to separate allergy-free candy from candy that may trigger an allergic reaction.”
Well, sure, but also…no. It is not the average person’s responsibility to protect food allergic kids—and I say that as a food allergy mom. For one thing, how many people even know what an “allergy-free candy” is? I remember how overwhelmed I was when I started reading labels for food allergens, and I would absolutely not expect my neighbors to learn all of that just for my kid’s sake.
Even if I sent everyone in my neighborhood a list of allergy-free candies prior to Halloween, that doesn’t feel fair. It’s just not their problem (lucky for them).
So what’s the perfect solution?
Curing food allergies, I guess…
In the meantime, all I’d really like to see from others is some plain old empathy.
–Not bad-mouthing families who choose to hand out non-candy treats (and especially not in front of the kids). A treat is a treat, and we should be teaching our kids gratefulness.
–If one kid in a group has to have his loot “checked” by Mom or Dad before he can indulge, having the other kids wait to eat anything until they get home too. Nope, it’s not fair—it’s just kind. And we should be teaching our kids kindness.
–Not suggesting that kids with food allergies just not go trick-or-treating. Please don’t make me explain why that is not helpful.
How would (or do) you handle Halloween for a kid with food allergies?
Do you think Halloween will change in the next decade? What might it look like?
What are some good candy alternatives for Halloween?