Hold on tight, I’m about to sound real real crazy…
We decided last summer to take a big family vacation to Walt Disney World. At that time, we had not flown with Eva since her nut allergy diagnosis (although she had flown four times before then). Every time the possibility of flying came up, I mentally shut down and imagined her trapped in a steel tube with cases and cases of nuts eight bazillion miles above medical attention. Nope. Big cup of nope.
Unfortunately, driving from Utah to Florida would be neither fun nor economically advantageous, since it would require an extra week’s worth of travel time, complete with hotels and road meals and putting all of that work on our sad little minivan. So, if we were all going to go to Walt Disney World, it was going to have to be a flight.
Thus began a slow panic attack that stretched out over the last six months.
We did everything that we could to limit the amount of risk involved with Eva flying. We booked a non-stop flight (unfortunately a red-eye) on JetBlue and alerted them to her allergy so they could create a buffer zone (requesting that the people around us don’t eat nuts…no idea what happens if someone eats nuts anyway…). We also had her wear long pajamas, gloves, and a N95 particulate filtering mask to keep rogue nut proteins at bay. On top of all of this, we brought her car seat on board, Lysol wiped her entire seating area, and forbid her to touch any part of the plane.
Go ahead and judge. It’s ok.
On the night of her first flight, I was so out of my mind with worry that I was basically a raw nerve walking around. We actually had a very slow start because I forgot her inhaler at home and then I left my phone/driver’s license/credit card in the car out in the extended parking lot, forcing Kyle to take a shuttle to retrieve it. That’s where my head was at. I’m sure I wasn’t helping poor Miss Eva who had no memory of previous flights and probably wasn’t thrilled herself at the prospect of doing something that required a mask and gloves. Still, in my mind it was all going to be worth it as long as she got to Florida without incident.
She got to Florida without incident. The poor thing dozed on and off in her car seat, arms folded tightly across her body, and kept her mask on right until the end, even though it left deep red marks in her cheeks and on the tops of her ears. She had to have been uncomfortable and annoyed and maybe a little frightened, but she never complained or gave us any trouble (unlike her brother who proved to us that YES YOU CAN scream all the way from Utah to Florida in the middle of the night).
The sad-funny thing is that when we finally got to Florida after no sleep and a very stressful flight, she ended up in full body welts by the time we got to the resort anyway. It turns out that our car rental place didn’t do a very good job (if any kind of attempt) at cleaning their vans before sending them out and the whole area under the backseat was full of peanut shells.
I thought about this a lot while we were on vacation. I had turned myself inside out with worry, shielding Eva against every possible dangerous scenario, and at the end of the day she was at risk anyway from something I never saw coming. And she was fine. We saw her reaction, we took care of it, we moved on. Just like she probably would have been fine on the flight without all of our interference. Again, she never complained, but I still knew that I made the flight less comfortable (and probably more scary) by trying to build a bubble around her.
It’s not just the flight. So much of our life is about protecting Eva from everyday life because we don’t want something to happen to her. From homeschooling to never having a babysitter to not trying new restaurants to not letting her play on playgrounds if we can’t get to her quickly…she gets shielded from a ton of normalcy. And why? To keep her safe? Maybe…or is it just to make us feel better because it gives us something we do have control over when we have no control whatsoever over whether or not she has allergies?
On the flight home, she wore her gloves and her mask but I let her lift it occasionally to eat a couple of crackers. Mid-flight, with nobody around us eating and not a peanut in sight, the mask came off and we released her from her car seat, letting her sit on our laps so she could see the plane better. It was a long, rough, five-hour journey back to our side of the country, but she was excited to see everything that was going on and she didn’t have even the hint of a reaction. She was fine. And happy. And we took deep breaths and were fine ourselves.
I think that this experience is the beginning of the process of unclenching my fists and letting her go a little. It’s scary, but as she gets older I really don’t want to be the body block between Eva and the rest of the world. I saw Finding Nemo. I know what’s up.
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