Your child has just been invited to a birthday party and you have no idea how to manage this. Can your child go? And be safe? And have fun?
This is a question I’ve asked myself many times. I know that we get invited to a lot less “play dates” and parties since finding out about Lacey’s allergies. I’ll cover this in another post. While I am always overjoyed by the gesture of being asked to go to a party it is an instant minefield in my head about how this is going to work logistically. The main aim is for my daughter to feel included, have fun, and be safe.
This is what I did for the birthday party Lacey attended today.
Prior to the party I called my cousin to discuss the type of party, the number of people attending and what food would be available. These were my main concerns. I figured I could then make a decision, based on the answers, about whether or not it was manageable for me. I have to consider that I usually attend these on my own with Lacey 2 and Konnor 1 so I have my hands full to begin with. Today I also had the help of my teenage boys, Jordan 14, and Rhiley 12.
Firstly the party was at ten-pin bowling so while I knew the venue would be catering, and I could request specific items to a certain degree, I also knew that children couldn’t eat or have food while bowling. I was still uneasy about this, however, we discussed that the kids would bowl before eating and we grouped my daughter with her cousins and older brothers who are all fully aware of her allergies. I also knew I would have my trusty wipes out to wipe down the area before starting and each ball as it came up the chute on my daughters turn. Crazy much!
Then I was worried about the number of people attending the party because it is incredibly difficult to remind more than a handful of people at a time how to manage your daughter’s allergies. “Please don’t touch her, please wash your hands when you’re finished eating”. I feel like a broken record constantly. Anyhow I knew that it would mainly be our family and only a handful of people other than that. Most were adults and could therefore help to remind the children. My cousin was also willing to be my voice as I didn’t want to be harping on at people I didn’t know. This made me feel a lot better knowing that we were working together to keep her safe.
Now food. There is always so much beautifully dangerous food at a birthday party. So ten-pin were giving the kids hot chips, party pies and sausage rolls. I decided we could work with this since Lacey is just recently allowed to eat hot chips. I could have checked the packets of the other food with staff but I decided to just go with the chips. The staff happened to be incredibly helpful which is always a bonus. Prior to today I had found out what other things would be there as snacks and did up my own party platter for Lacey and her younger brother to pick at. The cake was easy to avoid as none of my kids have ever been remotely interested in cake of any kind. I positioned my kids at the opposite end of the main food, sat one on my lap and one next to me. I was going to have a small gap between Lacey and another child but her brother sat next to her instead. It felt amazing to have her sitting at the table joining in instead of a highchair away from the others (which is how we have managed things in the past)
There were a couple of other activities like pass the parcel. My cousin was not intending to have any food items in it so that was easy. In the pinnata, however, there was a mix of wrapped lollies and toys. We knew Lacey, 2 yrs old, would want some of this action so we positioned her at the back when everything came out and gave her a cup so her hands were already full then got my teenage boys to grab all toys for her, no lollies. It was a little bit of a risk, but we took it, knowing that there were many adults in her way to stop her getting the lollies.
All in all the day was a huge success. While I did spend some of it on the edge, some of it feeling totally exhausted, I also spent its being overjoyed at watching my daughter be normal for a change.
There is so much to be gained by inclusiveness!
There may be times where the conversation with a host won’t go well or staff members at venues won’t be confident in catering and based on some or all of these things I may not be willing to take her to every party she is invited to. You will also need to decide the risks associated with each invitation and whether the benefits outweigh them.
Here’s a summary of what you can do to get all the info you need to keep your child included, having fun, and staying safe:
- Call the host early on to thank them for the invite and use the opportunity to discuss your child’s allergies
- Find out how many people are likely to attend, do you know any of them?
- Is the host willing to help explain to their guests your child’s requirements on the day?
- Can the host cater for your child without it being too difficult for them? If not can they give you a list of foods so you can prepare similar safe treats in advance?
- Can the host tweak any of the activities so that they don’t exclude your child? Offer easy solutions so the host doesn’t get overwhelmed with your child’s needs
- And maybe most importantly while they are younger can you hang around to help?
- Finally do you have an Allergy T-Shirt to help identify your child at the party? If not check out my shop of Bright, Functional, Stylish, High Quality Kids Allergy T-Shirts that I designed myself