Last year, I had to drag my tearful daughter, in full costume, out of the Halloween party at her dancing school. She kept saying over and over through her tears, “But mama, I want to go to my party. I didn’t do anything wrong.” No, she didn’t do anything wrong. But she had to pay the price by missing the party. After I basically held her down to get her in the car seat because she was so upset, I drove away with tears of my own. I tried to reassure her that she did nothing wrong, but for a four year old to miss a Halloween party is devastating. As her mother, it was devastating to have to see her hurt by something she has absolutely no control over.
It started out so innocently. The sign-up sheet was circulated for parents to bring things for the party. I double and triple checked the food list. No peanut items were listed, so we were good, right? But the mom who signed up to bring pizza had a day of her own (we’ve all been there, so I totally GET it) … and the game plan changed. Instead of pizza, she came with peanut butter sandwiches. A last minute change was probably no big deal on her end – and admittedly probably all she could manage that day – but for our family this decision was huge.
It meant that the second those peanut butter sandwiches walked in the door, my baby had to leave. No, I don’t think she is a “special snowflake,” and she doesn’t have an airborne peanut allergy, but in a room full of four year olds hyped up for a party, there is no way I could keep her safe. I couldn’t prevent kids from touching her, her plate, her juice box, the door knob, the toilet paper … you name it. So we had to leave in order to stay safe.
At her young age, she doesn’t understand the severity of her allergy – like most people don’t. But this party was just the start to what I consider the worst holiday :: Halloween.
Halloween for All
Can you imagine after each and every house having to check your child’s bucket for a peanut candy and removing it? Can you imagine worrying what each child at the party opened and ate post trick-or-treating? And if they did open something with peanuts, then having to wonder what they touched? It is awful and terrifying and keeps me up at night.
It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to help keep an allergy kid safe, especially on Halloween. I know I can’t do it alone. I rely on family and friends to help me. More eyes and ears watching what she is eating is exactly how we will make it through the night. Declaring the Halloween party “peanut free” and ensuring that all candy buckets go directly in the car post Trick-or-Treating are ways that our village is supporting us (shout out to Wendee and Elizabeth).
The Teal Pumpkin Project
But there is a bigger way that the community is coming together to support allergy families for Halloween. According to the CDC, food allergies are up 18% from 1997 to 2007. So with allergies on the rise this is becoming a more common problem for families.
There is a new movement that puts a focus on inclusion for Trick-or-Treaters that have food allergies and not just peanut allergies. It is called the Teal Pumpkin Project, and it launched in 2014. As an allergy mom, I love this campaign as it asks the community to participate by offering non-food items to Trick-or-Treaters. We participated in the inaugural year and are really looking forward to year two. Because in just the first year of this initiative, 100,000 households across all 50 states participated. If that number continues to rise, we are supporting so many families by serving as their village.
If you want to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project, it is really simple and a great activity to involve the kids. They most likely have a classmate that has a food allergy, so this is the perfect time of year to discuss it.
Get Your Kids Involved
Have your kids join in the Halloween fun by decorating a teal pumpkin for display on your porch or simply print out the flyer to hang up outside, thereby marking your house as a “safe” allergy house. We bought a fake pumpkin from Target. We painted and glittered it teal so we can use it from year to year.
When you are at the store getting your candy, also pick up stickers, bubbles, glow sticks or some other non-food item. In the Halloween sections of most stores, you can pick up trinkets in the same aisle as the candy, orientalmerchandise.com has a great section online, or check out my Halloween post from last year for a list of suggestions.
Still on the Fence About This Allergy Business?
If you are not in the food allergy circle, you may not realize how scary of a night Halloween is. (Also, see last year’s post from me on this very topic.) If you are still on the fence about participating, I want to share this with you.
Someone once told me that she donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital each year because she didn’t have a sick child and need their services. She was paying a healthy child tax and that was her way of being thankful she didn’t need their services and paying it forward.
I love the concept of the healthy child tax. It is so simple and so positive. So this Halloween, I beg you to stand with the allergy moms and families. Show your support for the moms and kids dealing with allergies daily. Be a part of the village for food allergy families. Support the Team Pumpkin Project and pay your healthy child tax.