The Allergic Parent Coach
Samantha Yaffe’s frank take on motherhood with allergies
Last year, out of nowhere, Lucas started to complain about wearing his EpiPen to school. Until that point he’d been pretty cooperative about it, choosing instead to grumble about bedtime, mealtime, Wii time, his little brother, the fact that our living room is not a basketball court and everything in between.
“This too shall pass,” I was hoping, though just beneath the surface I was fretting, suspecting that my second biggest fear as an allergic parent was starting to unfold in front of my eyes. Until now, I was always so proud, and comforted, by how well Lucas handled his identity as an allergic kid, how seldom it was that he’d take issue with all the special vigilance involved in his care.
I suggested different ways to wear his EpiPen belt, and even bought him a new type of carrier for a little bribery action. Quickly, his complaints escalated to full-blown crying jags before school, refusals to get dressed in the morning and ultimately a refusal to wear his EpiPen altogether.
“Why do I have to wear it?” he’d cry, whine, yell. “I’m the only one. I hate it. I hate having allergies…”
“Lucas you know you have to wear it. You’re not the only one. It’s there for an emergency. Just like your seatbelt. It’s a safety issue. It’s the school’s policy,” I’d say in various combinations, trying to keep my calm and remain consistent like a good mother.
My heart was breaking all over the place: I wished he didn’t have to wear it either. I wished more than anything that we didn’t have to worry about life-threatening peanut, tree nut and egg allergies. I wished I could make it all go away, but I couldn’t – and can’t. I had to stay strong and unwavering for him, for me, for all of us. My approach, however, was anything but working.
This is when I ended up at Beverley’s house. Beverley is Beverley Cathcart-Ross, a well-known educator and counselor, and the woman I now call my parenting coach. It is with her sage advice and keen understanding of the inner mechanics of my little boy, whom she has still never met, that Lucas and I were able to get past our first “why me?” moment in our allergic journey.
What’s more amazing is that it happened in a flash – the result of one very potent line Beverley gave me to say: “If I had a magic wand, I’d make it all go away.” It’s true, it’s sympathetic, it’s non-negotiable, it has the added value of some fantastical imagery. And it did the trick. He not only wears his EpiPen again without complaint, he’s the first to remember it when, on the rarest occasion, others forget.
He knows why he has to wear his auto-injector.
He’s been told from the beginning. What he needed
to know is that his feelings about it are being heard.
What Beverley pointed out was that my previous and repeated response was nothing but “waa waa waa” to Lucas (remember the adult voices in The Peanuts cartoon?). He knows why he has to wear his auto-injector. He’s been told from the beginning of time. What he needed to know is that his feelings about it are OK and being heard. He knows that now, thanks to that perfect little line, which by the way, works wonders in many moments of adversity with both my boys. That and: “I love you too much to fight with you.”
Another thing Beverley reinforced is that I’m raising my children to be adults. As such, it’s important to think about, and even commit to paper, my long-range goals for them. Some of mine, which are common to most parents are: independence, self-reliance, responsibility, conflict resolution and self-respect.
According to Beverley, once you’ve figured out what life skills you want you kids to possess by the time they’re, say, 18, you must continuously ask yourself whether your actions, decisions, whatever, are working toward or against them.