The short answer is, my wife had a baby (duh). But being an ‘Allergy Dad’ is not something most of us would pick. It is generally thrust upon us regardless of any other plans we’ve been making for our lives. It is scary, challenging, and frustrating among many other things.
The good news is, it IS possible. Food allergies become part of your life. And being an ‘Allergy Dad’ is now something I wear like a badge of honor.
Here’s how I became an ‘Allergy Dad,’ and some tips to help you do it too!
The trick is not to overthink this one. I mean it in the literal sense of physically being there. As in doctor’s appointments, allergist appointments, G.I. appointments. Skin tests and blood tests etc. Anything and everything you can physically get to (especially early on) GO!
This is incredibly important not only for showing your support to your partner and your family, but it is also beneficial exposure for you to hear what the doctors have to say yourself. Be the second set of ears when everyone is exhausted, and you’re trying at 2:00 am to remember that one thing the doctor said would help calm those angry hives.
Know your action/response plan
Similarly, this goes along with the ‘Be There’ section. But if you’ve done the first step and been to the doctors’ appointments, and know the allergens, you all can work through this step together much more comfortably.
It is vital that every immediate caregiver has and knows what the action plan is if your child has a reaction. We have made 5×7 laminated notecards with all the essential information on it, and everyone in our family has one, along with his school, school nurse and teachers.
A topical skin reaction is different from an ingested food anaphylactic reaction, and they both require different remedies.
There are resources available in many places, but this one will give you some tremendous, base-level knowledge around food allergies, and this one will give you some tips to daily living with food allergies.
Having your action plan in place ahead of any major incident is the key to some level of contentment, and confidence in your child’s safety.
Let go of the ‘Fixer.’
At the core of most men, is the desire to be the protector, provider, and hero. This will undoubtedly be one of the hardest challenges as a new Allergy Dad. The realization that food allergies cannot be ‘fixed.’
You can’t DIY your kid’s immune system. And no, it isn’t fair.
So, if you can’t fix it, then what do you do? All the things I’ve mentioned so far in this post are a great place to start. Add to the above points a level of patience, that you never thought possible, and you’re well on your way.
While you can’t ‘fix’ your food-allergy child, it doesn’t mean that they’re broken. You can certainly still have an incredible relationship with your child, and be their superhero. You just have to think about it a little differently.
Find Your Village
The adage “It takes a village to raise a child” is especially true for allergy parents. The more in-depth meaning behind this African proverb says that an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment.
Surround yourself with people who want to be a part of your child’s life. These people will quickly stand-out as they will be the ones willing to do some research on their own. They will want to learn what your child’s food allergies are and the best way(s) that they can help keep your kid safe.
They won’t roll their eyes when you have to pass on an invitation because you know you can’t control enough of the variables to be able to ensure your child’s safety. These are the people that will be there with you on your journey. You will need them.
This one is last because it is simple, critical, and often tricky to execute well. People always talk about a ‘mother’s intuition,’ but this is very real for fathers too. Trust your gut, and say something when you have concerns. I’d rather my good-intentions ruffle some feathers than have something horrible happen because I didn’t express my doubts.
Be it to your spouse, doctors, teachers, nurses, social workers, it doesn’t matter. It’s always better to voice those thoughts and be able to talk through them, rather than say nothing, and let it stew in your mind.
This is where you get to be that strong advocate for your allergy kid. Help educate other people about food allergies, and create an overall better and safer environment for them to live and grow.
Most of all though, when you tuck your child in at night, and they give you a kiss and whisper “I love you, Daddy,” you’ll have earned your cape that day.
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