Dear Nicest Dad Ever,
We've only met a few times, and I probably couldn't pick you out of a carpool lineup. But tonight, Dad, your 4-year-old's birthday party invite showed me what real empathy looks like.
The thing is... I DREAD taking my son to birthday parties.
Don't get me wrong. The parties are always first-rate. Over-the-top, actually. (Seriously, tone it down.) My son geeks out over the abundant superheroes and Disney characters. The arts and crafts and clever activities. The bounce houses and goodie bags. He even adores that darned Chuck E. Cheese and his creepy musical henchmen.
What most people doesn't realize is that I spend the entire party subtly scanning the room for potential allergens and making sure I have my kid in my line of sight. His reactions are so serious that even a tiny particle of nut or soy can send him to the emergency room or worse. He's 4, so while he's fully aware of the dangers, he can't always protect himself. What looks like a sugar-cookie can actually be a literal death-trap to him, and sometimes even well-meaning adults will assure him that something is safe when it's not. And because he looks, plays, and giggles like every other 4-year-old, it can be hard to keep top of mind that he faces a serious danger on a constant basis because the thing that is so severely toxic to him, is completely edible to everyone else.
When that cake comes out dressed up in candles, I always say a little prayer that he'll stay "cool" when every other kid takes a bite... and he has to eat the lame treats from home that I've toted along. Even when I try extra hard, my goodies usually don't hold a candle (see what I did there?) to the super-delicious party fare you've got going on.
And although I wish I were a better person, I have to be honest. Sometimes I get jealous looking at all of those other kids eating birthday cake without a care in the world. My little boy has to be vigilant and self-disciplined, and I have to be an advocate and an ingredient-obsessed maniac. All the time. The world isn't going to cater to our special needs, and if I mess up, it can be life-threatening.
That brings me to you, Dad. After we RSVP-ed to your little girl's party, you called my husband on the phone, and told him how excited you were that my son was coming to your party. That you planned to hire someone to clean the house for nuts before the event, and that you wanted to know where you could buy a nut-free cake. That you wanted to review every snack and food item in advance so that my son could "just have fun and not have to worry at all."
Seriously? Who are you? The greatest person on earth?
I know to you this is just a small gesture of kindness. But to me, this is friendship at its finest. And even though the special house-cleaning probably isn't necessary, the fact that you thought about that is uniquely sensitive.
I know every parent has their battles to face, and this is going to be one of mine. My son is the love of my life, and I worry for his safety. Probably not enough. I worry for the stress this causes his little heart... and mine. I can't imagine what it is going to be like to go to a birthday party and just celebrate.
As for you, Dad, I can't say thank you loudly enough. Thank you for understanding that my kid just wants to have a blast at your party without his mom following him around. Thank you for thinking to call us. For making this not-a-big-deal. For making this the first party in a long time that I'm RSVPing to without any hesitation.