According to Wikipedia, “Ignorance is a state of being uninformed (lack of knowledge) The word ignorance is an adjective describing a person in the state of being unaware and used as an insult to describe individuals who deliberately ignore or disregard important information or facts.”
With that being said, I do not mean any of this as an insult, instead it is meant in a way that will educate others so that TJ can enjoy a safe, healthy life like he deserves. While food allergies and eczema do not define TJ, it is important that others understand how they currently affect his life.
Yes, if you are allergic to milk, it is not just milk you avoid, it’s the millions of foods that contain milk too. It’s cheese, it’s yogurt, it’s goldfish crackers, it’s endless foods….You don’t know how many times people innocently have made related comments to me like the one above. I challenge you to read some labels and you’ll be surprised as to what you find.
I get it. I totally get that sometimes people would rather not know of all the dangers to save themselves from the worry…the pain… the possibilities… the reality. I get it because sometimes I have found that not knowing is way easier than facing reality. Heck, I use to think it was super cute that TJ would reach for my pizza on Friday nights and often debated letting him touch or lick it. At five months, he was so curious and interested; therefore, I felt like he was very ready to start solids. That was my own ignorance. Something always held me back from allowing that though. That was my mommy’s instinct.
However, in the world of food allergies, ignorance is deadly. In the past, I have read, heard, and even thought to myself, “this is a little much” when asked to comply to a related request. In those times no matter how much of an empathetic person I am, I was ignorant. I chose to text on my phone and half listen during meetings about food allergies and EpiPens. That was not okay. Just like it is not okay to “multi-task” during any talk, meeting, or workshop about anyone’s health and safety especially when people’s lives depend on it.
Since some of my earliest childhood memories, I admit that I do have a tendency to worry and overreact at times. I admit that what many people may have viewed and may still view as overreacting and being dramatic is really my passion and voice shining through. I don’t know how to take on something without putting my heart and soul in it. With protecting my son, ignorance, even for a second, thinks that I’m being dramatic. It’s not drama, it’s about safety, it’s about life.
As parents, I am learning that part of us will always worry. We will worry in moments our children are near and those times that they are far. When we survive their first day of preschool, then we will come to all the other firsts. First day of kindergarten… First day of middle school.. First day of high school… First day they drive … First day of college… First date… There will always be a new first which will bring on a wonderful new stage of this journey; however, with it will come a new reason to worry. I get it and I am ready for it. The part of it that I wish wasn’t working against us is the ignorance.
Now, this ignorance that I worry about is more than just the people who roll their eyes behind my back or talk about how I need to relax. It’s more than the people who even though they may not mean to be, are and have labeled me as “the crazy allergy mom,” thus, labeling TJ as the adorable guy with overprotective parents. It’s more than that. To be honest, that’s not that ignorance that really terrifies me.
- Instead, it is the person who believes that not washing their hands one time before feeding TJ is no big deal…
- It is the person that believes giving him a kiss on the cheeks after eating lunch before brushing their teeth is not going to do any harm…
- It is the person who thinks allowing him to use the finger paint for a “quick” art project is okay…
- And the scariest one … The person who thinks that TJ eating one Cheerio or goldfish that he found hidden on the ground is no big deal especially if he doesn’t have any initial reactions. In that case, because his known allergies are present in that one tiny piece of food and allergic reactions can be delayed and sooooo unpredictable, according to his Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan, someone must administer his Epi-Pen or Auvi-Q and call 911. Reactions don’t have to be immediate but action must be in order to save lives.
I pray that although ignorance exists everywhere, that I am helping to educate others by breaking down these walls and opening eyes and hearts instead.
I pray that you battle down that ignorance and allow your mind and heart to really listen, to really understand, to respect. When you are sitting in the next meeting at work learning about safety procedures including signs of an allergic reaction and administering an Epi-pen, ignorance is torn apart a bit more when put your phone down for a minute and truly listen.
When you are informed that your child’s school or classroom is peanut and tree nut free, Ignorance is battled away if you ignore those “another crazy allergy parent.” When you hear anyone or read of people still sending food that may contain nuts in or admitting that they don’t really check labels like their daycare asked them to, ignorance is slapped in the face when even a parent who does not have any children with food allergies speaks up. Or, when the teacher checks the food labels in the morning and calls for a replacement lunch.
When you start to write off listening to any talk about allergies because you understand how annoying they are since you have always had seasonal allergies, ignorance begins to be erased when you acknowledge it’s more than these seasonal allergies.
Last but definitely not least, as I sit in my school’s Epi-pen training at the start of this school year, it will reach me in a way that it has never before. It will bring me back to TJ’s first taste of yogurt and to his anaphylactic reaction that happened instantly. In that moment, my own ignorance was exposed as I was forced to defeat it in just a moment. In a moment when I did not know what would happen next as we rode in an ambulance to the hospital. In that moment, my life was forever changed. It’s not only my job to advocate and protect TJ, but also to educate and defeat the ignorance that exists about the world of food allergies. I pray that you will think twice before dismissing a letter from school or a meeting at work. Instead, I pray more people will listen with an open mind and heart.
The reality is this is more than just TJ’s story, it is the scary truth of food allergies. Anyone can develop a food allergy at any point of their lives. Therefore, the first step is to put your ignorance aside and allow yourself to become educated.
One of my favorite quotes is the one above. It talks about the importance of being empathetic and kind always because you never know what the person next to you is truly battling. While I try to live my life according to that advice, there are some battles like food allergies that are out in the open. With so much information to share about it, a person like TJ should never have to battle against people turning their heads to it. Please don’t let my son’s battle be your ignorance.
As always, thank you for reading my post. As we continue to educate others, we smile on…