When she was 7 years old, Jaimie, who was active in ballet, informed me that she wanted to audition for the associates program of Canada’s National Ballet School. I gave the worst parenting advice; I told her that many people audition and don’t get in and that we shouldn’t bother. She said she didn’t care, she would just try again the following year if she wasn’t accepted.
I was humbled – more so when she auditioned and was accepted the first time. My daughter is now in the seventh year of this program.
Jaimie was the child who was not invited to parties because parents were afraid. When she began to speak in school, she explained to her friends that we have a safety plan. To this day, she always brings her own food, which means that nobody needs to be concerned about preparing food for her.
Our safety rules have never failed us. The key one for us has been: No Epinephrine = No Food. Regardless. At friends’ places, parties or celebrations, Jaimie only eats food from home.
My daughter’s most severe allergy is to milk. At her first dance studio, we requested a milk-free environment for a few hours each week. A father, a dentist, told me to withdraw her from the studio as we were inconveniencing everybody. At a recital, a parent ignored the milk-free request, and spilled dairy-filled coffee all over my child’s costume. In the washroom, I overheard mothers complaining about the difficulty of the allergy rules. I interrupted to explain just how difficult it was for these children to live with allergies.
On her own, Jaimie decided that she would overcome the selective mutism. Painstakingly, she has practiced, pushed herself, persevered and blossomed.
She still has her 31 food allergies. But two weeks ago, when I dropped Jaimie off at high school, she saw one of her friends up ahead. She called out to her – loudly – with all the other students around.
It was the first time I had ever heard my daughter use her voice loudly in public. I cried with pride, all the way home.
Lisa Nackan and her family live in Toronto.
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