Every now and then, I find myself crying in the most unusual places -- the refrigerated aisle of the grocery store, a fancy restaurant, and this month is was at the Parent Faculty Organization (PFO) meeting at my son's school.
Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with Ben's allergies that seemingly innocuous tasks send me tumbling into Pityland. The task at hand that set off this latest round was taking a sneak peek at the calendar of coming school events.
Every event -- even movie night -- had food associated with it. Because of my son's extensive food allergies, it means every event must be navigated so that he can participate fully and safely.
It is exhausting. I am packing lunch every single day and fixing dinner every single night. Birthday parties always mean a call ahead of time, not just for RSVPing, but for grilling the family about what kind of food will and won't be served. Simple play dates with friends turn into min-lessons about allergies, reactions and medicines. Going off to school in the fall means hours of preparations, meetings and follow ups.
Just when I am knee-deep in pity (for myself and my son), I get a lifeline ... a wake up call ... some perspective.
Yes, our life is shaped by allergies, but overall it's a good life. My son is health and happy and pretty well-adjusted. He dances, plays soccer, fights with his sister and complains loudly at having to clean up.
Although there will be challenges as he grows up (what will dating bring?), he has the capability to be and do whatever he wants. We might always have to do a lot of prepartion for the "normal" things in life, but at least we have the means to be able to do those things. There are lot of conditions in life that would be more challenging and disabling. I just have to remember that.
Being part of this support group helps me to remember that. Because of my participation in POCHA there's always someone to call -- someone who listens to my current crisis and offers advice (when wanted). And there is always someone to help pull me out of Pityland.
Living with allergies has taught us a lot about advocating and educating others. It has taught us how to speak up, even when we're uncomfortable. It has taught us not to be afraid of being "difficult." It has taught us how to reach out to others and work towards accommodating all individuals, recognizing everybody's needs.
It's okay to experience pity for outselves or our children from time to time. It's okay to recognize that life can be hard and is not fair. But it's important for the entire family that pity is short-lived and recognized for what it is.
Pity can't be the overall operating mode -- or we let the allergies win. Instead, we have to work to make allergies just a small piece of who are children are. It doesnt -- and can't -- define them.