Allie Bahn and her dad have food allergies in common. To protect his little girl, her dad risked his own well-being by sampling all her food first. Here is their story.
Mutual adoration is the essence of our father-daughter bond. My dad and I are truly the best of pals. We chuckle at the same jokes, share the same ridiculous superstitions, and are each other’s biggest fans. Was this profound connection formed by our love for laughter at the strangest of things, the endless Dr. Seuss bedtime stories he would read to me nightly as a child, or the moment he became my “taste tester?”
Being the first daughter, granddaughter and niece in my family, love was abundant for a baby girl with chocolate eyes and cherub cheeks. But, at just ten months old, the journey of life long food allergies began, adding a new protective element to our father-daughter bond.
Although there are no concrete answers, but a plethora of theories, the odds are pretty highly in favor that my allergies were a predisposition through the lovely genetics of my father. My dad grew up with severe allergies to peanuts and tree nuts. As a kid, he would opt out of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and trade for something that didn’t make him sick. He didn’t know anyone else with food allergies and the extensive precautions I grew up taking, he did not know to take. Research around food allergies is an ever-growing need today as they become more prevalent, but at that time it was pretty much nonexistent. My dad’s first experience at an allergist was for a severe asthma attack at age twelve, another genetic miracle I acquired.
Taking on the role of fatherhood with the utmost diligence, my dad would find any way that he could to protect his now toddling daughter from her life-threatening food allergies. This included becoming my “taste tester.” Few but the queen are fortunate enough to have someone willing to test the unsafe waters of food so meticulously. After learning the ingredients should be safe from allergens, a routine would follow. First there was the “touch test,” and if he passed that, he moved on to the “taste test.” If that was a go, he decided it was safe for me. This process basically encompassed touching the food on his skin, then after a few minutes trying a small bite. My friends still recall this process at birthday gatherings and dinners out.
As I entered into adolescence with greater independence and far more food allergies, I had to rely often on the taste testing strategy my dad had taught me. Although this method is not considered foolproof by allergists, since you never know where in a dish cross contamination may lie, it helped me to navigate through those beginning years of eating independence. One of the significant problems with food allergies is that the only way to stay safe is to refrain from eating the allergens. This is a far trickier task than most expect. Although many parents are often weary of their children leaving the nest, mine never hindered my desire for independence and need to discover the world, but embraced my curiosity and courageous ways, despite an exceptional amount of life-threatening food allergies.
My dad truly understood the powerful impact a father can make in the eyes of his daughter. He was by my side through some of the scariest asthma and food allergy moments. It was his confidence in my ability to stay calm, respond swiftly, and learn from all my experiences that was the best gift he could give me. My dad and I are not only each other’s partners in crime, but cheerleaders through life’s most challenging adventures.
Now as an adult, I can truly appreciate my dad’s strength as a supportive parent during a time when few understood food allergies. I can only hope that any future children I have will miss the allergy gene. If they don’t, at least I have learned from the best of them.
Photo: Flickr/Michael Verhoef