To some, this may have appeared as just another generic Happy Halloween post.
To me, this post meant something far and above that.
Last night, Dan Smyers (of Dan + Shay, who are of course playing our Live. Life. Love. Concert for Suicide Prevention in December) posted an Instagram picture with his wife Abby. And while the picture was lovely, the message was way better.
So, a little back story on why this post honestly made me choke up a little bit. We found out shortly after his first birthday that our son Jackson has a peanut allergy. He also had an egg allergy, although thankfully he's grown out of that.
The peanut allergy is becoming pretty common, but what most people don't understand is that it's not just as easy as "okay, well don't feed your kid peanut butter". There are products that are made in a facility or even on the same processing line as peanut-based products, and therefore those are off-limits because he could have a huge allergic reaction, break out in hives all over his body, or worse go into anaphylactic shock.
Dinners at restaurants become a little more of a chore - we have to call ahead, make sure that the place is either peanut-free OR at the very least careful to not cross-contaminate. Grocery shopping becomes a little more of an adventure, but holidays? Holidays are the toughest - and none are tougher than Halloween.
Up until this year, it was sort of a non-issue because he was so little that he didn't care about trick-or-treating. But trick-or-treating is such a rite of passage for little kids that we didn't want to deny him the opportunity to go out in his costume and ring our neighbors' doorbells on Halloween night. But SO much of the popular Halloween candy is off-limits for him. Even plain M&Ms are a no-go because they're processed on the same line as the peanut variety.
Right now, we get to control trick-or-treating. He goes out with us to collect his candy (gloves are a must), and then we take out the ones he can't have and instead switch them out for toys, stickers, and fun treats. We also have a few AMAZING neighbors that are aware of his allergies and make sure to pick out safe candies like Skittles and Swedish Fish just for him. As he gets older, though, and wants to go out on his own with his friends, Halloween is going to become a more stressful process. We'll just have to educate him and hope that he understands his allergy and knows what to avoid.
Something has started to change the narrative, however, in the last couple of years. It's called the #TealPumpkinProject, and the idea is to provide a different kind of Halloween treat for kids with food allergies so that they can still be included in the festivities without the fear of coming in contact with food that's unsafe for them to eat.
It's not very well known right now outside of the food allergy parent community, but because of how common allergies are becoming, it's gaining more and more steam.
And then last night, Dan and Abby put out a teal pumpkin.
I'm not sure what inspired them to do so. I don't know if there's a friend or family member that has an allergy that made them aware of the significance of the teal pumpkin. But what I do know is that this represents something amazing - more awareness for food allergies and, perhaps more importantly, a movement towards making sure that kids with food allergies are included in activities and not punished for something that they can't control.
So, Dan, from an allergy dad - thanks to you and your lovely wife for a small gesture that can make big waves.