We recently learned that DS has several rather serious food allergies, which ultimately resulted in a very uncomfortable and extensive rash all over his body that recently became infected. He's had eczema since he was about six months old, and I've tried every possible external remedy I could before taking him to be tested for allergies. The poor kid has had itchy skin for months now, and I finally decided, after it took a turn for the worse, that no amount of lotions, ointments, or oatmeal baths was going to fix this particular problem. As it turns out, he's allergic to dairy, wheat/gluten, and tree nuts (on the food side) and cats and dogs (on the environmental side). Needless to say, such extensive allergies make it difficult to find foods that he can eat, and we've had to find a home for our cat. (To that end, she's gone to live with my aunt, who happens to be quite the cat-lover and only lives down the street from us, so we can visit her any time).
Anyway, the reason I'm sharing this with you is because the situation got me thinking about how DH's FOO might have treated our son's allergies, if we were still in contact with them. The conclusion I came to is that they probably would have treated his allergies the same way they treated everything else in life: inappropriately. I had this vision in my mind, of going to visit EFIL and L, and seeing them carelessly trying to give DS a food that he couldn't have. How NMIL might have handled it, I'm really not sure. The subject of FOOD always seemed to be her THING, if you know what I mean, and I'm fairly certain that she'd have felt stuck between her natural state of emptiness (in which no one's well-being came before her own) and her ever-present desire to keep up appearances. Her dilemma would have been in reconciling her lack of caring for our son with her desire to make it look like she does. Neither of DH's parents were close enough to us to know anything about DS's state of health, so it's likely that the only way they'd have found out about his allergies would be when we showed up to either of their houses with already-prepared specialty foods for our kids.
And what really got me pondering the whole "What Would DH's Parents Do?"
[WWDHPD] thing was the reality of how my own family reacted. In my FOO, there is no way that everyone wouldn't know about how our children are doing: mentally, physically or emotionally. My mother called everyday after we got DS's diagnosis to find out how he was doing and if he was feeling any better. Right now, he's in the middle of his antibiotic-rations that are helping to clear up the infection, and my mother and I have already discussed the situation, including what kinds of foods she can keep at her house that are safe for our children to eat. I also expressed to her that it was important to me that we try not to eat foods in front of him that he can't have (although we all know that isn't always possible, we are going to give it a try). She agreed, as I knew she would, and we discussed alternatives to favorite meals that we could have or bring whenever we go over for dinner (which is often). Between DH and I, we're already stocking our pantry with safe foods and re-thinking our daily diet so that everyone's nutritional needs are met without anyone feeling left out.
For the life of me, I just can't see DH's FOO approaching this situation, which doesn't have to be a big deal as long as everyone is willing to respect our son's needs, with the same amount of diligence or respect. Instead, I think they would have chosen to remain annoyingly ignorant (EFIL and L) and superficially considerate (NMIL). I'm basing this vision on the reality of our relationship with DH's FOO in early-to-mid 2010, when we were still in contact with them but didn't see them more than once every month or so. There isn't much standing in the way of my conviction that they'd have handled DS's condition inappropriately. I could see EFIL and L saying things like, "It's just ONE peanut, it's not going to hurt him!" I could see them offering ice cream to their guests, with little to no consideration that such an action would be rather cruel to a little boy who can't touch the stuff. I could see them offering up such insights as, "Well, he had a sip of milk one time and nothing happened, why couldn't he have some now?" They are the type of people who wouldn't have understood, wouldn't have respected our requests, and wouldn't have tried to, beyond a very superficial attempt. NMIL, on the other hand, probably would have run out to the local health food store any time we came for a visit, bought out the entire allergen-free section so that she could tell her friends just how much she cared, and then sent it home with us when we left, since we wouldn't be seeing her for another three months anyway.
When you compare that to the way my family behaves, it's like a whole other world entirely. I think the moment that really got me was when my mom asked my permission to give something to DS. There she was, having been a parent of young children herself, having dealt with very serious food allergies in the kids she watched at her daycare, and she was asking for my permission to give something to her grandson. It didn't hurt her feelings or belittle her self-worth to do so. It was just matter of fact: she trusted that DH and I are the experts and respected our requests for his new dietary needs. And beyond that, she cares. She just does. As it is NMIL's nature to be empty, it is my mother's to be loving and empathetic. She genuinely cares about the well-being of her children and grandchildren. It was this defining moment, this presentation of her love, that got me thinking about NMIL and EFIL's lack thereof.
As for DS, his skin has never looked so good, and he scratches less and less everyday. It always bothered me that no matter what I did before, he was always scratching his exposed skin with little apparent relief. It seems now that between the current antibiotics and our new diet, his skin is clearing up and he's experiencing some long-awaited relief.