The sound of the ice cream truck reverberated through our community, and instantly all of the kids began screaming and shouting in pure excitement. I don’t blame them. Still, as a grown adult, when I hear that music, I associate it with delicious summer treats, neighborhood camaraderie, smiles and laughter.
As a kid, there was nothing more exciting in the summer than to hear an ice cream truck in the vicinity, sprint inside to plead for money, and then track it down.
Since having a child diagnosed with food allergies, so many things have changed. Now, I experience anxiety and fear in situations that only ever brought joy to my world—sports events, birthday parties, play dates with friends, traveling, and, of course, that sound of an ice cream truck.
As a parent, you only ever want your child to be happy, feel included, and to be safe and healthy. Food allergies present daily obstacles that make me question if my child can be any of these.
I looked at my son’s sad and frightful expression as he watched all the kids jump up and down while chanting, “Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream…” in high-pitched, jubilant voices. We made eye contact, and I knew at that moment we were both hoping for the same thing—a safe choice on the menu. Most of the time, there isn’t. But, that small chance there is, it makes a world of difference in his life.
The uphill battle is that unless you live with these dietary restrictions, you just don’t instinctively think about that kid who may feel excluded, disappointed, or disheartened—all feelings that we strive to limit in our children’s lives and experiences.
So next time you feel you are doing any ordinary activity, as candid as welcoming an ice cream truck to your neighborhood, think about how it may impact other children. Is it inclusive for every child? Is it safe for every child?
Each child is special in his or her own way. Let’s embrace our differences, and make sure to consider all needs and feelings!
Exclude the food not the child!