Until recently, I haven’t exactly felt like a parent.
I know that I am one, clearly, since I happily live that reality every moment of every day. But just because I do all the things a parent does, does not mean I feel like a parent. I often feel like I’m still 20 years old and a little bit naive, and if I’m really honest, most of the time I’m in a bit of shock that anyone trusts me to know what I’m doing around here. What we know to be true doesn’t always feel true, I guess.
For me, a week ago, finally, I felt like a parent. Didn’t you? All because of this little girl and a long-awaited appointment to confirm our suspicions.
Calling on a friend early in the too-early morning for a last minute favor and dropping off a slightly confused little girl at her house, and meeting you in the waiting room, not fully prepared for the gravity of the news we would soon get.
Holding a scared and angry toddler as she clung to my neck and pierced me with her deep blue eyes, imploring me to make it stop.
Blowing on the welt that came screaming to the surface after the little pokes were over.
Singing silly songs with all the motions without feeling awkward or self-conscious or the least bit aware of the nurse that sat quietly in the room with us, monitoring our little girl’s progress.
Offering what little I could to appease her – crackers, water, hugs, books – as we waiting to hear what the red blotches actually meant for our daughter, for us.
Steadying my heart and keeping my cool as the doctor let us know our child is one of the statistics now, and while she may indeed outgrow her peanut allergy, she also may live with it her whole life.
The weight of my responsibility for this child, for these children, settled itself on my shoulders that day in a new way, and I felt both love and fear course through my veins in a way I’d never experienced before.
As we walked back to the car and eased that exhausted little girl into the familiarity of her car seat, I realized how fast one’s world can change. I know that sounds dramatic, perhaps even verging on hysterical, but it’s the truth. That appointment changed things.
Early this week, a full week later, I tried to put the doctor’s advice into practice: Be prudent. Be proactive. Don’t live a life motivated by fear. But just seven short days into all this, I see how that could easily happen, and I’m struggling to figure out how to make sure it doesn’t. Fear has been whispering to me, telling me lies about how life for Mia – for all of us – is going to change for the worse, and how nothing I do will make anything better for her because bad things happen despite anyone’s best efforts. Random, cruel, horrific things that no one can foresee or stop. It plays with my mind, and I see how parents can err on the side of overbearing because they probably feel like to be anything other than crazy overprotective feels, well, wrong. Uncaring. Negligent.
But the truth is that even though all that is true (random, cruel, horrific things do happen, don’t they?), the thing fear fails to mention is that even though I’m not in control, Someone else is, and to be overprotective is me trying to usurp the power that isn’t mine anyway.
I thought about all this as I read nearly every label in our pantry on Monday morning. I panicked at breakfast because I couldn’t find anything “safe” to feed Mia. Just about everything that was the easy road to take for breakfast – the loaf of bread, the box of cereal, the breakfast bars – bore warning labels that they could contain trace amounts of peanuts or tree nuts, or that they were made on shared equipment as peanuts, or made in a facility that processes peanuts. I couldn’t decide where to draw the line between being overly cautious and prudent, so I did the only thing I really know how to do: I reheated leftover broccoli cheese egg cups, sliced some strawberries, and gave Mia a breakfast she favored over boring old toast anyway.
And as she ate, I stirred together a fresh batch of those little egg cups, and as they were baking, I realized that the only thing I really can do at this very moment is to say no to the fear, and stop giving it a chance to say anything to me. Change my thinking. Renew my mind. Sort out the things I can control (like reading labels more carefully, stocking up on EpiPens-just in case, and amp up my efforts on the homemade food front) from what I cannot control (like whether she’ll ever be exposed to peanuts someday at school or camp or a friend’s house or college – you know, someday in the hazy future). And anyway, my worry won’t add a single day to Mia’s life, so no matter how prudent or proactive we may be as her parents, ultimately we are not the ones in control – God is.
Even though it doesn’t always feel like the truth, I know that it is.
And really, that’s what matters most, right?
Broccoli Cheese Egg Cups
These are mini quiches, really, made without a crust and baked in smaller, kid-sized portions. Both of my girls devour them, fully aware that they are chock full of broccoli (a miracle, in my opinion). It’s the mustard that makes this recipe extra savory, I think. My favorite is Thomy Delikatess-Senf, a German mustard with far more flavor than American yellow mustard, but I’ve had wonderful results with Dijon mustard as well.
7 large eggs
3/4 cup milk (I used 2%)
2 T good quality mustard (like Dijon)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 T dry minced onion
1 1/2 cups shredded mild white cheese, such as monterrey jack
2 cups steamed, chopped broccoli
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Start by preparing the broccoli. Peel the stalks of two small stems; steam as desired. After they cool a bit, chop into bite sized pieces.
While the broccoli is cooling, prepare a 12-cup (or two 6-cup) muffin tins. Grease each cup liberally (or line with greased baking cups). These things stick!
Then, beat together the eggs, milk, mustard, salt and minced onion. Stir in the cheese and broccoli. Pour the mixture evenly into the muffin tin(s).
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the eggs are set and golden brown.