Sleepovers are central to social life when you’re school aged. How do you cope when your child invites a FAF (Food Allergy Friend)? Amy relates her experience and provides resources for this rising dilemma.
Slumber Parties – An Essential Part of Childhood!
As any young girl will tell you, slumber parties are the stuff of life. There’s actually not a lot of slumber at slumber parties. Games are played, movies watched, and “personal clothing items” frozen. It is in the chaos of the slumber party that memories are made and friendships forged. And of course, the most important element in a slumber party is the food.
Food… ah food! As a mom of two, I can’t tell you the vast quantities of food that have been consumed at our slumber parties. It truly boggles the mind (and breaks the bank!).
All that chaos, of course, must be funded and planned by the unsung hero of the slumber party – the mom!
When my kids hit the age where slumber parties became a necessary part of the weekend routine,
I remembered my own slumber parties – filled with silliness & singing, Twizzlers & Twister; movies & manicures – and I was bound and determined to give that experience to them.
I took on the role of Wonder Mom and made sure that the cupboards were stocked, the game pieces were all in place, and the right movies were all in the queue.
I patted myself on the head and ate an extra piece of well-deserved chocolate. For this Wonder Mom, everything was going to run smoothly….
And then my daughter made friends with “Kelly”.
What Happens When Your Child Has A FAF (Food Allergy Friend)
The thought of Kelly coming over made me break out in cold sweat. Kelly wasn’t a mean girl. She didn’t teach my daughter bad words on the bus. She wasn’t part of a gang and didn’t sell crack in the fourth grade bathroom. No…. Kelly was a FAF – a Food Allergy Friend.
Food – you know, the most important element of a slumber party? Yeah, that was going to be an issue.
For my kids, there was a very special dish served at slumber parties. We called this “junk food salad”. To make Junk Food Salad, they took a rather large mixing bowl, and blended popcorn, M &M’s, chocolate chips, mini- marshmallows. Sometimes crushed graham crackers. Chocolate syrup. Doritos. Basically anything in the cupboard that they could find. They would dish this out all night, in ever increasing hyperactive doses, until their general level of hyperactivity led to a 4 a.m. crash.
Junk Food Salad was wonderful (and a wonderful memory). But Kelly was allergic to most of the items in the salad. Kelly was allergic to most of the items in my pantry.
I thought I was Wonder Mom. But Wonder Mom was wondering about these food allergies – I knew nothing about them. Sure, we’d dealt with seasonal allergies before, but stuff was about to get real. Kelly had an Epi-Pen. So when she said she couldn’t have tree nuts or peanuts, I knew that it wouldn’t be good enough to tell the girls not to serve Junk Food Salad to her. She couldn’t touch the food. She couldn’t touch anything the girls touched with their germy, grimy, allergy infested hands. If she did, she would die.
As you can imagine, that was not a pleasant thought for Wonder Mom.
Do I give my kids actual salad instead of Junk Food Salad? Somehow that wasn’t appealing to my ten year olds. Do I refuse to host a wonderful, obedient, kind friend because her allergies cramped my style? That wasn’t appealing to me. Somehow I had to find a way through.
Learning the Ropes
I leaned on Kelly’s mom to teach me the way:
At first she provided food, so I could get used to what would be safe.
She showed me how to read food labels.
She showed me how to wash my hands and surfaces to prevent cross contamination.
She showed me how to use an Epi-Pen.
In the end, we made it through, and the girls & their friends got used to the ‘food allergy training session’ as another essential part of their sleepovers.
As Kelly got older, I didn’t have to worry as much. Kelly was aware of what she needed in order to successfully navigate social situations and could monitor herself to a point.
Was everything perfect? Oh no!
One time, despite our best efforts, Kelly had an allergic reaction at our house. We never found out what caused it, but because of our vigilance and training, we were able to handle it appropriately, and in the end, thankfully, she ended up being okay.
It might have been a temptation to avoid a relationship-building activity with a food allergic child, but my daughters would have been robbed of a good friend, and Kelly would have been robbed of a normal childhood. In the end, I’m so glad I faced my fear.
You may be fearful of your child’s FAF (Food Allergy Friend). Let me encourage you to ove
rcome your fears. That FAF may just turn out to be your child’s BFF!
Want to Learn More About Creating a Safe Environment for Your Child’s FAF?
Here are a couple of great resources for you to check out!
- AllergyHome.org: Provides a handbook for preventing cross contamination
- Mayo Clinic offers a great article on food labeling laws, which will help you sort out safe products when you’re shopping
- Better Batter and Amazon both offer great deals on allergy friendly food items