By Dr. Paul Ehrlich
In our book we talk about The Designated Parent Theory. This refers to what I have learned in many years of practice. Namely, that in families with severely food allergic or asthmatic children, having one parent take responsibility for management issues works better than being very egalitarian, and that Moms are better at this than Dads.
I teach my patients very early in their lives, usually before the age of three, that if they’re not supposed to eat something, they shouldn’t eat it unless Mom tells them so, which will help protect them from temptation from friends and grandparents, but also allow for the fact that kids do outgrow their food allergies. Among the kids, too, there are gender differences in how they receive this information. As they get older, I will sometimes say to a kid, “I’m a doctor. How would you feel about trying some (peanut, milk, egg, whatever)?” The boys say, “You’re the doctor. I guess so.” The girls say, “Not unless my mother says it’s OK.”
Well, life is stranger than fiction, even in medicine.
A little boy grew up with peanut allergy, and as happens about 20% of the time with peanut, he did outgrow it, but before Mom could tell him, she passed away. The next time I saw him, I told him he could now safely eat peanuts. At his next appointment, I asked him if he had done so. He said, “No. My Mom never told me I could.”
Then a couple of months later, I got a call from Dad. He said his son had started eating peanut butter. Why was it OK now? His mother had appeared to him in a dream, and told him it was all right. You can bet that I had tears in my eyes when I hung up the phone.
I doubt that this is what the poet William Butler Yeats meant when he said, “In dreams begin responsibility.” But it’s close enough.