When I had my first kid, I had this general mantra for parenthood: “Just don’t be an asshole.”
It applies to parents, to kids, to kids’ friends, family members…
Whatever unique twist my kid decided to put on his life, whoever he wanted to be, or be with, or how he wanted to make a living, or chose to exist in his community, my basic, most general desire was “Don’t be an asshole.” I thought that was a pretty good baseline.
My ambition was, and still is, to raise tiny humans who become good, caring people. I feel like it’s a completely reasonable and totally attainable goal. There are A LOT of ways to hit that mark. Just. Don’t. Be. An. Asshole.
I used to feel pretty good about this. I was on a good high horse about how noble and open-minded a parent I was. It helped me be calmer and less anxious. It also helped me let go of all the bull shit and pressure that gets heaped on new parents.
It helped me wrap my head around the fact that my kid would be ok. He could scrape his knee. He could be bad at stuff. He could be weird. He could fail and flounder. He could be a lot of things. The bare minimum requirement was set.
Kid number two however, has shaken a few things up, and getting to know some other parents of kids with severe allergies has changed that baseline; added a current that runs through everything else.
Just don’t die.
Through whatever twist of fate/genetics/hormones in the water/crops grown in pesticides/breastfeeding just a little too much or too little/waiting too long to introduce foods/introducing foods in the wrong order/that reno that we did when she was an infant/watching too much Buffy while pregnant/looking at the moon while Saturn was on the cusp of something something…(they really don’t know), my daughter has these allergies.
While we’ve come into this situation at a time when the science around food allergies is gaining momentum and awareness of and options for people with food allergies are expanding, it’s all still very young. There’s a lot they don’t know and there aren’t many clear answers.
We haven’t used the auto injector yet, but with her combination of allergens, I do not doubt that we will at some point. There is no guarantee that what’s made her throw up in the past won’t close up her airway the next time she encounters it.
On a day-to-day basis I am suspicious and scared of the playground, the shopping cart, the well-intentioned ladies at the grocery store bakery who offer my kids a free cookie, and anyone who looks after her. I have to be. We have to be. We have protocols for public surfaces of all kinds and protocols for the house. We have protocols at family gatherings and protocols for family members. It’s not an over-reaction. What most kids slam back after school while watching Paw Patrol with a side of cookies, is literal poison for mine.
Every day I send my kid to her grandparents or to daycare or I see a pizza party at the local park and without fail, “Just don’t die.” flashes through my head.
I don’t care if my kid ever tastes ice cream or brie, pizza or Reese Peanut Butter Cups, Thai food or sushi. Those things are magical, but she’ll get by on meat and potatoes.
I don’t care (too much) about her having something that will make her different from her peers. If it’s not this, it’ll be something else. That shit is character building.
I don’t care if she has to grill cooks and servers about what they put in their food. I think we should all ask those kinds of questions, but that’s a post for another day.
I do care about her having a full life without fear or anxiety about food.
I do care about chance encounters and cross-contamination.
I do care about getting my daughter to a point of tolerance, where she can move through the world and survive it.
Just don’t die. Then, don’t be an asshole.