Birthday parties are often the bane of a food allergy parent’s existence: While wanting your child to be a full participant and enjoy the experience like other children, you also need to protect them from exposure to their allergens, which may abound. It’s often a tricky tightrope to walk, even in the best of circumstances.
Which brings us to this installment of our “You be the Judge” series, where we present a food allergy-related scenario and invite you to sound off by sharing your opinions and expertise.
This time, a woman posting to reddit as u/macncheesewketchup relays her frustration in a post entitled: “AITAH? Tried my best to accommodate family food allergies.“
We’ve referred to the “AITA” subreddit before where this story was recently posted. AITA is short for “Am I the A-Hole,” a subreddit (discussion group) that provides a medium where people question their behavior and readers vote.
Here is the post, noting that BIL and SIL stand for brother and sister-in-law respectively:
A few days ago we had my kid’s birthday party at our house. My BIL and SIL have two kids, a few years older than our child – they were all invited, as they are invited to everything we host. But their kids have food allergies (nuts and sesame), and that can make it hard for them to eat out at places. They usually don’t attend any family events & use that as the reason. We live 15 min away but don’t see them much. My husband (DH) and his brother have a decent relationship; they talk every day in a group chat with their friends. I am not friendly with his wife, my SIL. We just don’t have much in common. No animosity there, at least on my end. Never had a falling out or any problems. I invite her to brunch and things, but she never comes.
I sent out invites to the party a month prior. BIL replied that they would attend, “pending the menu”. No instructions on what we could or couldn’t have. They go to other kids’ parties all the time – we were just with them at one and the kids ate pizza and cake. So we decided to order pizza and hoagies with seedless rolls to avoid sesame. Another family member made pumpkin muffins and chocolate chip cookies, and we had a charcuterie board and fruit. DH listed the menu and sent it to BIL a week before the party. He approved and said they would definitely be there. We ordered cake, but BIL said they would bring their own allergen free cupcakes for the kids. Before shopping, I researched what crackers to buy for the charcuterie board, and DH met with the hoagie place manager to make sure to avoid sesame.
The party started, and BIL called DH to say they would be late and asked him to set aside pizza for them “to avoid cross contamination”. DH explained there were absolutely no nuts or sesame, but ok. When they arrived, they walked past the food and BIL and SIL began arguing quietly. SIL did not greet me or my child and went to sit down by herself.
Everything seemed great. Their kids ate pizza and their cupcakes. I noticed my SIL was gone for a while, but I was so preoccupied with doing activities with the kids that I forgot about it.
The next day, several family members called me (all different conversations) to talk to me about SIL. They said she was complaining that there was no food they could eat. She left my house to get a salad for herself and came back to eat it (ok, whatever). Someone asked her why she didn’t want any food, and she allegedly said, “There is sesame everywhere. We can’t eat any of this.” Family assured her there wasn’t and explained the lengths I had gone through to ensure no allergens were present. She said she still didn’t trust me. DH cousin got a juice box for their daughter, and BIL and SIL allegedly freaked out that there could be sesame oil on the cousin’s hands, so she couldn’t put the straw in the juice box for their child. SIL said, “We shouldn’t have come.”
AITAH here? Is there a way I could have been more accommodating? I don’t want to be the reason we can’t all have holidays together.
Now, we all know that cross-contact is a concern when food allergies are involved, especially at a birthday party where kids are likely to get food everywhere. That said, there’s a lot to unpack from this incident.
The poster and her husband were concerned for the nephews’ safety and took measures to avoid all products with sesame and nuts; check. They provided the inlaws with the proposed menu well in advance; check. The inlaws accepted the invitation and brought their kids; check. And they brought along homemade cupcakes to avoid potential cross-contact issues that might occur with a store-bought cake; check.
So now we turn to you, our readers — knowledgeable in all things food allergy — and ask you to render your opinion: Is this simply drama on the part of the sister-in-law or is there more the poster should have done?
You be the judge and sound off in the comments section below.
And for context, please tell us what you’ve done when faced with birthday parties your kids with food allergies were invited to. Were the hosts accommodative? How did you respond?