We camped every summer growing up in a federal park which was the natural habitat of black bears. While they typically were removed from the populated areas, there were plenty of warnings against accidentally enticing bears. Food was to be stored in your car, not your tent. Garbage was to be disposed of in bear safe receptacles. Fines were lodged against anyone found not being “bear safe”. The local tourist shops even featured shirts “Please don’t feed the Bears!” And it’s tempting to want to feed wildlife in order to get a closer look.
Grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and even siblings are notorious for bending the rules around babies solid food intake. Everyone has a story of an uncle who fed them ice cream at 4 months old, or a grandparent who let them lick some whipped cream off their finger at 6 months. Usually not mentioned is the parent fuming in the corner.
After about the one year mark, the story changes a bit – the grandparent feeding the grandchild banana bread for breakfast, sneaking them extra cookies before bedtime or buying them chocolate at Christmas.
These stories usually end with little drama. After all, it’s an issue of poor nutritional decisions made infrequently enough to impact growth and development. Family members generally don’t knowingly endanger the next generation.
As a parent of a child with allergies to a very common ingredient (eggs), we never let C out of our sight during meal times with family. While my parents know to check labels, and my in-laws know to check with me, Scott or I take full responsibility of feeding C. And since most people don’t realize just how many things have egg in them, we only give her foods we have prepared, we have watched be prepared or we can read all the ingredients to. This kind of peace of mind often comes at the expense of feeding ourselves as we are much more hesitant to take people up on the offer to feed C while we eat. Once C is fed, and then we are fed (and we’ve cleaned up her mess the best we can), we can start to relax.
At a family gathering this past weekend, we learned that even being that careful isn’t careful enough. As we were saying our goodbyes, a kindly grandmother type (whom we had never met before that day) gave C a little squeeze, complimented her big beautiful blue eyes and said “now don’t let your mom know I fed you chocolate” before slipping away into the crowd.
My heart stopped. My throat seized up. My eyes widened. I mentally went through the meal hoping there was chocolate somewhere other than the cookies or cake, both of which were confirmed to contain egg. Of course there wasn’t. How much did she have? When did when even have it?
Yes, it was obvious that C was fine. She, in her overtired, overstimulated state, was breathing well enough to squawk loudly and angrily at anyone trying to give her a hug. There’s been no obvious rash 5 minutes before when I stripped her to change her diaper. Chances were that whatever she ate was not enough to cause an issue.
But for two hours, I watched her like a hawk. I triple checked that we packed her auto-injector. I cursed this woman whose name I had already forgot, and whichever family member passed my child off to her knowing full well every one of them that I handed my daughter to knew her allergy.
We’re two months away from seeing the allergist, so at least we’ll have a better idea of her allergies and their severity before the next family gathering. We can formulate new plans. We can educate more people. And we can make our own tshirts that read “Please don’t feed the baby”