Having the day off from work today, I took my son to Shoprite. Since TJ is currently allergic to many common foods that fill these aisles, I do take extra precautions. (For awhile, during the winter, I would not bring him to any stores with food by myself. I was still very fearful and not ready yet.)
However, we always go grocery shopping together now. I do follow certain precautions though because I find comfort in being over-cautious.
- Of course, I carry his Auvi-Q/Epi-Pen
- He sits in a shopping cart with a cover over it that I bring.
- I put all of the foods he is allergic to far away from his reach. (I even put yogurt, creamer, and milk for my husband under the cart.)
- I always bring water, Puffs, or toys to occupy TJ.
- When bagging my items, I bag all dairy objects in a separate bag.
If the cashier wants to bag herself or himself, I ask if she or he can do #5. Bag separately. No one has ever had a problem with this before today. This morning when I almost forgot that I had yogurt on the bottom of the cart, TJ reminded me by pointing to it, saying “Uh oh.” Therefore, I apologized and gave it to the cashier who had just started scanning up my items.
I asked, “Can you please bag the yogurt in a separate bag?”
Giving me a look already since I had almost forgotten them on the bottom, she questioned, ” Why?”
Even though I should not have had to explain, I responded, “My son has an allergy to it and so I try to be extra careful.”
Her responses baffled me and yet again reminded me that too many people out there are still ignorant in regards to food allergies. “He is allergic to the container?”
Because I suddenly felt a strong urge to hold back how angry and upset I was, I smiled instead and replied, “He is allergic to dairy. Yogurt is dairy. So, no it’s not the container; however, containers can open by accident which has happened to me before with yogurt. So, we bag separately.”
Oh and she did not stop, “I never heard of anyone being allergic to yogurt.”
I informed her that, “Actually, milk is one of the top 8 food allergies and top one for children.”
(In America – I know that these top allergens are different in different countries.)
This is the type of ignorance that I wrote about this week. Education is the key to opening minds and then hearts. In the past, an experience like this would have made me break down crying in the car on the way home and then run to my husband about it, probably still crying. It sounds dramatic but it is scary. However, something has changed and is continuing to shift in me through all of this.
Instead, I am hopeful that either this worker will think about what I said or maybe the people who were close by and heard our conversation, learned something by it. (It wasn’t exactly a quiet conversation…ha) However, even if no one else learned anything, I did. I learned even more about this role of being TJ’s advocate and because of that alone, our faith goes beyond ignorance so we smile on.