We had painted them the night before at a Teal Pumpkin Project party where my adorable son had declined an interview with the newspaper reporter. Okay, so he didn’t decline per-se, but he did run around like a crazy person out of the reporter’s reach. Potato, potato(e).
But the night before I sat down with him for an interview to prep him for the possibility.
I started easy, “Honey, what does it mean to be allergic?”
J.C. said, “I can’t eat peanuts, tree nuts or shellfish.”
I went straight for my go-to questions when I’m interviewing at a story for my station, “How does it feel to not be able to eat those foods.”
He looked at me blankly.
I realized almost immediately that at just 3-years-old he hasn’t had to feel anything about it. It’s just the way things are. There’s no pain of being left out, teased and picked on for something out of his control.
I rerouted my pre-interview.
“Would it be good if people handed out toys instead of candy on Halloween?”
“Because toys aren’t made of peanuts,” he pauses for a minute and continues, “Wouldn’t that be crazy if toys were made of peanuts? Then I couldn’t play with them.”
He starts laughing.
Yes, my love, it would be crazy if toys were made of peanuts.
But in all of this I realized – this is exactly why the Teal Pumpkin Project matters. As you may know at this point, the project asks homeowners to hand out a non-food alternative to candy (think stickers, vampire teeth, bubbles) on Halloween.
During our interview I realized J.C. hasn’t had to feel left out.
He hasn’t had to come home with a bag full of candy that he can’t eat as he watches a sibling devour every piece. He hasn’t had to look inside the bowl of candy his friends are reaching in and say, “Anything without peanuts?”
He’s been protected from that world of being left out – with the safe cupcakes I bring to parties and candies I have on hand at church.
Sadly, I can’t protect him forever.
At some point, it’s going to sting to the core when someone laughs at him when he tells them he has a peanut allergy. He’ll hold back tears when they call him a nerd and say “THAT SUCKS!” as they munch their Payday bar explaining how good it is. Or just be flat out bummed when his bag of treats is reduced to 1/3 of what he collected.
OR – there’s the alternative. The alternative where he doesn’t have to feel all of that. It’s practicing inclusion on Halloween night. We offer a treat that won’t trick those with food allergies. A treat that allows my son to go door to door collecting something he won’t have to throw away at the end of the night.
He won’t have to be afraid of losing his life for one candy-filled holiday. He won’t have to be teased for skipping house after house.
He’ll just be.
He’ll just be the way he is now, where he feels just “fine” about his allergies.
That’s why this matters. It matters so the 1 in 13 kids with food allergies, can be just like the other 12 for one of the most fun nights of the year.