Dear Miriam | Food Allergies Nothing to Sneeze About

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Dear Miriam,

The kids on my block play together frequently, and one or another of them will often go inside to get a snack to share, something like a big bag of chips, or a sleeve of cookies, that sort of thing. My son has food allergies, so he knows not to take these shared snacks, but he feels left out. The only way I’ve found around this is to come outside before anyone gets hungry with a plate of cut up fruit or allergy-friendly crackers to give to all the kids. Unfortunately, this is getting expensive.

Can I talk to the other parents on the block about also providing allergy-friendly options for all the kids so they can eat the same things together?


Allergy Mom

Dear Allergy,

One mom to another, let me say that there are an uncountable number of ways to experience heartache next to, alongside and with our children. The conscious and unconscious ways that kids hurt each other’s feelings are a painful reality. Feeling left out is awful. Watching your beloved child experiencing being left out is often unbearable. Worrying about your kid potentially eating something he shouldn’t in order to fit in is terrifying. (I know you didn’t even raise this possibility in your question, but look where my mind goes.)

All of the above are big and challenging emotions. Compare those feelings to spending extra money to alleviate these other scenarios. Is it frustrating? A huge headache? Finally unmanageable? Define the scope of just how bad it is for you to be the sole snack provider. If you can’t do it, you can’t do it. But if you can, I think that is the smoothest solution to the main problem — your son feeling like he fits in at snacktime.

If you can’t provide the snacks, or if the frustration around the situation is, understandably, causing you too much stress, then consider your relationship to your neighbors. Are there one or two other parents you already know reasonably well? Could they be on your team, so to speak, around allergy issues, without having to involve all the parents, including those you may not know as well? If so, start there and ask if they’d be willing to provide snacks that meet your son’s needs. Then, at least every few days, there will be a shared snack he can eat.

Given the informality of these block hangouts, I’m not sure there even would be a coordinated way for you to get all the parents on board with your son’s needs. And, further, I’m just not sure it’s practical. I can easily see parents saying that sounds like too much of a hassle, or feeling concerned about being responsible for your son’s health, and deciding to opt out of sharing snacks altogether. Having your son be the reason this all ends would also not be a positive social situation.

Of course, the counterargument is that parents make these kinds of accommodations for day care and school situations all the time. The difference there is that a teacher or site director checks all the snacks and knows every child’s individual restrictions. On the block, no one is accountable in that way. Any allergy parents reading this should feel free to tell me I’m off base with these suggestions.

Ultimately, though, this phase of shared snacking probably won’t last all that long, and if you can buy in bulk the cheapest allergy-friendly option you can find, it’s a worthwhile investment for everyone involved.

Be well,



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