Can Opener: My sister Ava is a food allergy advocate

My younger sister Ava is one of my fiercest advocates.

My younger sister Ava is one of my fiercest advocates.

Let's celebrate brothers and sisters who advocate for siblings with food allergies

When you have a food allergy, you aren’t the only one who makes sacrifices. Family members who advocate for you also go without, many times receiving little or no credit. When it comes to family members making accommodations, people often shrug off their good deeds: “Well, that’s what family is supposed to do…” But the truth is making constant sacrifices is easier said than done, especially with something as prevalent (and yummy) as food.

Of course parents are expected to make sacrifices. Parenthood and sacrifice go hand in hand. That’s the job of a parent. They’re adults. They signed up for it.

But siblings?

One of my fiercest advocates is my younger sister, Ava.

Even though she doesn’t have any allergies, when she’s home she eats as if she does. Every meal. Every day. No tree nuts. No dairy.

And not just meals. Special events too. Her birthday parties — even the ones with lots of her friends — are always dairy and tree nut free. Growing up, when she'd return from Trick-or-Treating, she would trade in her Halloween haul for a haul of safe candies that my parents pre-purchased. I’m sure some of the sweets she had in her plastic pumpkin tasted far better than the ones we received, but I never heard her complain. And she never said anything negative either when our Easter baskets lacked a chocolatey punch!

When my family is out together, she’s always aware of my feelings. At restaurants when I’m there, she “avoids the obvious,” which means she’s not going to worry about every specific ingredient or how an item is prepared, but she’s also not going to be asking for extra cheese on top of her burger.

What makes Ava’s sacrifice more authentic to me, though, is that growing up, she never threw my allergy back at me. Too often, I’ve discovered over the years, people will make sacrifices and then either directly or passively make you feel guilty or remind you of the sacrifices they made. Ava never has. Never once. And she never will.

Of course, when she is out with her friends and at school, or if I’m not with my family when they go out, she eats whatever she wants. Extra cheese all the way! We encourage it.

I don’t have a choice when it comes to eating certain foods. But I often wonder how difficult it really is when someone who can eat any food, chooses not to simply to accommodate someone else.

Usually a little sister depends on her big brother for many things. It’s just how it is. But this is one big brother who relies on his little sister. And she delivers flawlessly.

This week’s Can Opener award is for my sister, Ava, and for all the brothers and sisters out there who advocate for siblings with a food allergy on a daily basis!

Do you know a sibling who advocates for someone who has a food allergy? I'd love to hear about them!