"I have two little boys who would love you forever if you could line them up with some orange-pineapple Splash!"
Instantly, I was transported to a warm kitchen in snowy Minnesota, having just spent all day in a frosty car with my parents. My uncle was telling me that all I had to do was give Skippy a treat and she would love me forever. I could not have been more than 6 or 8. I remember giggling as I took the dog biscuit from his hand. I assured my uncle that Skippy would already love me forever because I had fed her during our last visit. Still, I was as delighted to give Skippy her treat as she was to receive it. The moment that my uncle would share the secret to winning Skippy's love was a much anticipated introduction to every visit. Even when Skippy's hair turned gray and she spent more time sleeping than nuzzling up to me, I still looked forward to that moment during each visit when I could once again earn her eternal love.
As I reflect on this memory, my emotions are aswirl. Babies learn very young that Food Is Love. In the early days, nearly every cry is initially answered with the offer of nourishment. Babies eagerly drink down the love while mothers' hearts swell in the process. As babies grow older, the message is reinforced. Grandmothers bake cookies. Grandfathers sneak the baby his first taste of ice cream. The message is very clear.
"Food Is Love"
|Image Courtesy of Tina Phillips|
Stock Photo - image ID 100143596
When my children were babies, food was love. But after a while the strain of identifying food allergens, reading every label and always being on alert for an allergic reaction resulted in a shift of my opinion. Food was not love. Food was evil! Any adult feeding my child without my express permission was committing an act of war.
Very often in the allergy community, we trade stories about extended family members who just don't get it. You know the people I am talking about! The aunts, uncles and grandparents who just can't get past their "food is love" training for long enough to consider replacing a weekly trip to the ice cream shop with a weekly trip to the park without feeling that something is missing. They try to share their Food Is Love message with our allergic children, and we become rightfully upset. We zero in on the dangers of food, and we see our loved ones' obsession with food-related activities as insensitive. We sometimes do not recognize that our extended family is also hurt in these interactions, as we have essentially told them that they are not allowed to love our allergic children.
It is very easy to become entrenched by our own emotions about food allergies. My child has food allergies. My child's food allergies could result in premature death. Therefore, food is not love. Food is evil! But is it really? Does it have to be all or nothing? Or could my fingers have delivered a new message tonight?
What if we take the allergen out of the picture but we leave the food? Or at least the idea of food? Last year I wrote Not Just a Cookie. Tonight I suggested that some orange-pineapple Splash would bring eternal love. Maybe food is not love after all. Maybe...
"Safe Food Is Love"