I could’ve killed my boy today.

My head hurts from crying. I feel sick to my stomach.

I could’ve killed my boy today. My sweet 3 year old peanut/tree nut allergic boy.

I gave him Honey NUT O’s cereal. Me. His mother. The person he should feel safest around.

The morning was crazy. Three kids in the morning is crazy. Two that need to get into costumes for a Halloween parade dials the crazy up a bit more. No one wanted to eat the breakfast I was giving them. I grabbed a banana and a handful of O’s and put them in a bowl for him. I walked back into the kitchen. My oldest got up from the table for the millionth time and came into the kitchen. I was busy crabbing at him to get back to his breakfast when he says “Mom? Should Theo be having this? It says Nut on it?”


I look at the box, run to the table and grab the bowl away from him.

I pick up the box and read the ingredients. The second to last ingredient is Natural Almond Flavor.

My chest starts to tighten. What have I done?

I look over at Theo, my husband is sitting with him now, and he’s fine. We stare at him for a few minutes. He’s fine. I turn away from the other kids and tears are streaming down my face, silently. Then my oldest comes over and says “Don’t worry mom, I don’t think he ate any. He’s fine.” A few minutes later my daughter is comforting me, rubbing my back. He’s fine, she checked for me she says.

These kids. They slay me. They look out for each other. They love me even when I mess up in the biggest way possible. These. Kids.

So I know you’re asking yourself – “What the hell was that cereal even doing in your house you stupid, careless, awful mother??”  Well, I bought it. I brought it into the house.

Just the day before with Theo at the grocery store. There we were the two of us looking at the cereals. I remembered we hadn’t had Honey Oaties in a long time. I asked him if he wanted some. “Yes!” he squeals. I reach for the cereal brand we usually get and turn it to the side. I scan down to the bottom of the ingredients for the bold Allergens: statement. It says wheat.

(Which begs the question why wasn’t nut listed in allergens? Natural Almond Flavor can mean a lot of things. Natural vs. Artificial. Extract vs. oil. Natural would have one deducing that it’s made from almonds but it could be made from peach pits. Could be. Because it wasn’t listed in the allergens it must be derived from something other than almonds. I have a call in to the company so they can explain that to me.)

Satisfied. I throw it in the basket.

Here’s the thing. It wasn’t the Oaties brand that we usually get. It said NUT right at the top of the box, but for some reason I was SO SURE this was the kind of cereal that didn’t have nuts that my brain didn’t even process the word NUT. I hardly glanced at the front of the box. I was SO SURE. I didn’t even read the list of ingredients, only the allergen statement. I was SO SURE.

I am embarrassed, ashamed, horrified, terrified.

Living with a kid with a food allergy is like walking around with a loaded gun just hanging out near your child ALL THE TIME. This time though, this time? I was the one that handed him the gun.

I am shattered.


I thought I was vigilant before this. I thought I was careful. Always checking. Always looking for the food that could poison my baby. I was always on the lookout. I could blame the migraine I was having. I could blame my tiredness. I could blame my blurry vision. I could make tons of excuses. I just wasn’t on my game. I let my guard down for a moment. I got lazy. Lax. Comfortable. It was my fault. At his age his safety begins and ends with ME. I failed him.

He’s never had a reaction to anything besides an actual peanut. I find solace in that in a very strange and dangerous way. Sometimes in my head I think “Well it was just made in a facility that ‘also processes, made on shared equipment’, etc. He’s always been fine with that even before his emergency room trip, he’ll be fine.  And yes he might be fine. Like today, he was fine.

The devious devilish thing about these food allergies is that no two reactions look the same. It might not have to be an actual peanut next time. We might not have time to get to the ER next time. Next time. Because these children are surrounded by or near their poisons on a daily basis. There will be a next time. So I will wipe my tears, buck up, and promise my lovely boy to do better.

I share this as a reminder to my fellow allergy moms – Don’t let your guard down mama bears. And if you do, please be gentle with yourself. I’m having a hard time with that right now. I just keep muttering “He’s fine.”

This thing. This food allergy thing, is NOT for the faint of heart. There are lots of things about parenting that terrify me, but this allergy thing toys with the darkest parts of my brain on a daily basis.

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  1. God bless you. Mom’s make mistakes. We are human. Even though we try to be superhuman for our children. Thank God he is fine. You will be fine too.

  2. Barbie Lynch /

    I just wanted to say that we make mistakes…my friend Sarah shared your story. I am a mom that has a child with many life threatening allergies so I know how you feel, there are many of us out there that know how you feel. We have all done it, all on accident. My anaphylactic to egg daughter was given “french vanilla” ice cream by my hand. I had such guilt that I could have don’t that but then I realized that feeling this way isn’t going to get me anywhere. Now I am more vigilant, and ask at every ice cream counter to see the packaging. When I got it I thought it would be fine since we have been giving her ice-cream her whole life, this time was different. I am now that lady that asks, and people may get annoyed with me but it doesn’t matter. Your son was fine, your kids sound amazing, remember you are the one that created those children that were so empathetic to the situation, you are obviously doing a great job.

    • ViolaCay /

      Barbie – you are so kind.

      The ice cream parlor really is an evil place for kids with food allergies isn’t it? I once got to the bottom of the black raspberry ice cream I was eating only to fins a spoonful of peanut butter something ice cream. Imagine!

      I have finished beating myself up over this but it was certainly a good wake up call.

      The most amazing thing to come out of this whole thing was those other littles and how they stepped up for him, and for me.


  3. Hugs to you! Remember we are all human. Thank goodness you ate a great mommy and taught your older child well to be on the look out. It’s clear you are raising smart, compassionate and caring kids.

  4. Nicole /

    You aren’t alone. I still feel sick to my stomach after topping of my milk allergic child’s soymilk with regular milk. (we have one child with food allergies and one without allergies-neither me or my husband has food allergies and yes we have her allergic foods in the house. We use it as a teaching tool– just
    b/c it looks the same it’s not! And until that day last yr we’ve been EXTREMELY careful not to mix or contaminate) I could have killed her that night, luckily she was fine after throwing up. And we were on the phone with the dr until she did. And looking back I should have given her the epi….
    Since then I’ve made sure to slow back down and really focus on ingredients and watching

    extra close to make sure shes getting the safe items and not allergic ones. She’s a great advocate for herself and still asks if it’s soymilk a yr later when I give her a cup of milk. It’s totally crushing and still feel sick to my stomach when I think if what I did! But I’m thankful that she was okay.

  5. Oh, we’ve all been there!!! It’s always when I’ve gotten a little too comfortable, no reaction in ages…and just when we let our guard down- BOOM! Another reminder we can’t EVER let our guard down. You’re a good mama. Hugs.

  6. Thank you! I’ve been in this place and have to remind myself its a balance of safety and sanity in the fact that I’m human and will not always do right despite my efforts. God has them in His hands!

  7. Dawn Moore /

    You’re not alone! When my now 7 year old was 3 and had known allergies to soy, peanuts, tree nuts and dairy, I accidentlly fed him a spoonful of the yogurt I was eating while I was feeding him rice cereal. How does one accidentally feed their own child something? He seemed fine initially, but within 20 minutes he had hives and was vomiting. A rushed trip to the ER and a dose of epinephrin later he was fine. Me, not so much!

    I am SO vigilant in reminding caregivers, teachers, etc. about his allergies and I am the one that screws it up?!?! i beat myself up for a long time over that! But we’re human and it happens!

  8. Brenda /

    Hugs to you Mom! I did the same thing with buying monster cookies a few years ago. It looked just like the chocolate chip cookies I bought before. My three boys were making a bunch of noise in the grocery store and I did not catch the “Peanut Butter” listed. Then that night I gave one to my PA child and we were at the ER twenty minutes later. Talk about guilt!! I was a wreck and beat myself up about it for a long time.

    But the silver lining…. We all read labels several times over, my older kids have learned to read labels (I always double check), and they are silent and still when they see me reading a label. They also used to get upset when I would inform them that we couldn’t buy something but we always looked for an alternative. Now they understand why and do not get upset if they can’t have something. They also get excited when we find a product that is safe for him.

    Bless you and I hope you can forgive yourself and turn it into something positive. I love that your children comforted you.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing. I am a mother with a child who has severe multiple allergies. Some on an Anaphalaxis level. I am always on my guard like you said. Still there are times I miss something. Recently, I realized a rice flour, and baking soda brand I’ve been using all these years, was made in a facility that uses nuts. My heart sank. Just because the company sells gluten free products doesn’t mean it’s nut free too. It hurt me but like you, I realize all I can do is my best. Of course our childrens’ lives depend on it

  10. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I have had a similar experience, and the guilt I felt was immense. My sister in law hosted Thanksgiving and made special potatoes for my FA son. I plated up the kids’ food and we said the blessing. A few minutes into the meal I realized I had given my son the wrong potatoes. I panicked. Luckily he hadn’t eaten any. But it was an eye opener for me. What a terrible feeling to have as the mother. God bless you!

  11. Rosanne /

    Thank you so much for posting this. Hugs to you and stop feeling guilty! My 12 year old son is allergic to apples. We have to read labels very carefully because even with foods he used to eat, now they are adding apple juice to sweeten them instead of sugar. It makes it so hard! Keep up the good work!

  12. I to can relate. If you haven’t been there as a parent to a child with allergies you most likely will be one day. I beliwve these slips are to shake us from complacency and bring us back to our cautious reality. Hugs.

  13. Takes courage to put your own vulnerability out there. From one “food allergy mom” to another, you have my total support. We’re all human. Thank you for sharing your story…will keep me vigilant, but with the greatest compassion. We love our kids & would be perfect when it comes to caring for them, but we’re human. Sending you lots of love.

  14. Thanks for sharing this. I did something similar to my daughter who has a peanut allergy. It’s so hard.

  15. JenniferC /

    I needed to read this today. I feel like I am not vigilant enough in protecting my peanut allergic daughter. We have this enormous extended family. Every holiday party at our house at least one or two people show up with a nut dish. It isn’t for my lack of talking about it. Our local elementary school does a better job of respecting the food allergies than our own extended family does. Every holiday becomes a stressful thing where I have to choose between advocating for my kid’s safety or “causing a scene.” I am not confrontational by nature. I am not enough of a “Momma Bear” because I am so wired to defer to these out-of-town elders. I can’t bear the thought of my child dying from an accidental exposure. She’s had three exposures, her mom her dad and her grandmother– the three in the world she is closest too. Either I live in this suspended state of anxiety and awareness, or I am in a fog taking her safety for granted and relying upon the vigilance of others who may not be so vigilant. Anyhow, I know just how you feel in this essay, even though this is from several months ago.

    • ViolaCay /

      Thanks Jennifer. We need to be ever vigilant and ever kind to ourselves when we mess up!

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