How To Make Sure Your Child’s Consequences Don’t Punish Him For Having Food Allergies

I should’ve known that putting the problem out there to a group of crazy moms – crazy like me, that is – might not produce the sweet encouragement I sought.

Food allergy supermom that I am, I make cupcakes and freeze them, so that before a party I can grab one from the basement deep freezer and my sugar-loving boy has a safe treat at cake time. The system worked beautifully for years, with the stash needing replacement every few months or so. Which was good, because baking, and especially frosting, cupcakes is not a pastime this particular mom enjoys.

And then: Diabetic Grandpa (also a fan of sugar, and the after-school adult-in-the-house) and Hungry Boy teamed up.

The next party day, I went down to the freezer and noticed a somewhat emaciated cupcake supply. Upon investigation, I learned the duo had turned the party cupcakes into a regular, quite regular, after-school snack.

A “just say no, Grandpa!” approach would never work. This is the guy once observed to run around the kitchen screaming, “Get him a cookie!! Hurry up and get him the cookie!!” to Grandma when toddler grandson was crying because he spotted a Chips Ahoy package just as his dinner plate containing vegetables – VEGETABLES! –  was set down before him.

So I approached the cupcake kid. With a reasonable plea.

“Honey…these are party cupcakes only. If you eat them when it’s not a party day, one day there won’t be one when we need one. Think about how you would feel then.”

“Yes, mom. Sure, mom. I get it, mom.”

Check the freezer next time, have the same talk. Rinse. Repeat. Add some lost iPad time to the mix.

birthday party food allergies

One day, exhausted by the routine, I warned him that the end was near. “Honey, I see you ate the second-to-last cupcake. We have a party this weekend. I don’t have time to bake new cupcakes. Do NOT eat the last cupcake.”

“Yes, mom. Got it, mom.”

The very next day, a freezer check revealed the end had indeed arrived.

What to do…what to do… It’s already so unfair that my kid can’t just go to a party and enjoy himself like other kids do, sneaking that extra cookie from the dessert table with a sly smile rather than anaphylactic activity. And not being able to enjoy a treat at cake time would surely mean a trip to Meltdown City. He loves a good party (that is, any party) so much, and this particular party will provide lots of beneficial social interaction with the cousins. Plus, he has difficulty with impulse control. It’s the way his brain is wired. He can’t help it. But if I bake him a fresh batch of cupcakes, the consequences will be nil, the lesson not learned.

I wasn’t quite at “I’ve got this.” Surely other food allergy moms could sympathize? Maybe they would even have a suggestion.

So I posed the question to the 3,000 friends in my fav closed Facebook group: “Should I give the boy one more chance? There will be a meltdown at cake time is there is no cupcake.”

The nutty moms lashed out fast and furiously. HE KNEW WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. NOW HE FACES THE CONSEQUENCES OF NO DESSERT. IF HE HAS A MELTDOWN, YOU LEAVE THE PARTY. Within a few hours, about 100 responses appeared, 90 percent of them revealing a show-no-mercy stance. (Plus one serious-can’t-be serious: ARE YOU FEEDING HIM ENOUGH? BOYS DO GET HUNGRY.)

Peppered in were a few helpful ideas: Let him bring a packaged treat, so he still has something but not something as special as the cupcake. Bake more, but make him help so he sees how much work it is. Next time, freeze them in an opaque container labeled BRUSSELS SPROUTS. (WINNER!)

I was up all night, the parenting criticism and options scrolling through my head. Come morning, I leveled with my son. “I’m not baking cupcakes before Sunday, so you’ll just have to bring a different treat instead. I know it will be hard, but this is what happens when you eat the cupcake supply. Next time maybe you can make a better choice.”

Later, I shared the problem and my thought process on the solution to the behavioral expert in our lives, not just an autism educator but a food allergy mom herself. And she gave me a double thumbs up: one for the solution for this weekend and one more for the future Brussels sprouts scheme. She also agreed on my idea for us to role play Sunday’s dessert time, with that packaged brownie to eat when he would surely prefer the cupcake.

Whew. “I’ve got this, I’ve really got this,” I thought, pleased with myself for my careful consideration of all possible options and making the right call. I had even survived the unexpected wrath of the fellow food allergy moms.

Twenty-four hours after the beginning of the whole debacle, sleepy mom with fried brain stumbles into the kitchen and sees “no big deal” dad, who is never in the kitchen more than 30 seconds, with electric mixer in hand.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING????”

“Baking cupcakes for him for the party.”

birthday party food allergies

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