The survival guide for parenting with allergies

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood  of Chicago with Professor Foster (his “Brown Mom” wife), and their daughter Viva, who speaks for the trees. (And the trees say, “Hide.”)

Call it the story of a man laid low by hubris, of flying too close to the sun. I’ve never been allergic to anything my entire life, and so, I always believed that allergies were just a character deficit on the part of the allergic. “Your problem, you Sickly McGees,” I thought to myself, “is that you just don’t want to NOT be allergic to things.”  Like The Secret but with histamines, I thought that if people just made a bulletin board with pictures of them breathing freely while running in the woods, the universe would reward them with no allergies, like it had me.

Then I turned 40, and the bottom fell out.

Now I suddenly realize that when people’s eyes swelled up around cats or they wheezed in the spring, or they recoiled at the site of a peanut, that they weren’t just trying to detract attention away from my sparkling conversation, but they really did have allergies.

This year, according to a CBS news report that quoted researchers at Rutgers, might be the worst season for allergies sufferers EVER. Not lately — ever. The funky pacing of last winter means that trees that should have gradually pollinated since early spring are all going at once, resulting in the yellow-green cloud that has fallen over Chicagoland. You know in The Lord of the Rings when the trees get angry because the angry armies of pig guys are cutting them down, so they uproot themselves and go kick the stuffing out of Count Dooku? That’s what is happening now. The trees are angry about our contribution to global warming, so they are using the most offensive weapon they have, pollen, to try and kill us—especially me. Give them time, and they’ll start chucking apples.

I don’t know why the trees hate me specifically, but they do. As Clint Eastwood once flatly warbled in Paint Your Wagon, “I talk to the trees, but they won’t listen to me.” I’ve begged for reprieve, but I’ve gotten only more pollen and a few branches on my Honda.

I’ve even tried to run away from the wind like Marky Mark did in The Happening, but it didn’t work. I guess I’m not from a funky enough bunch.

What makes this especially tough is that many of us have to parent through this “pollen explosion.” We have to go to parks, climb trees, plant gardens, walk down the street, breathe the air … you know, parent stuff. Dealing with your child’s allergies is its own problem—one I might cover soon—but right now, I’m trying to be an effective Dad whilst choking, wheezing and itching my way through this bizarro, Shel Silverstein experience in which the trees AREN’T HAPPY.

So here are five tricks I’ve learned for playing with your child while losing the battle with angry Ents:

1. Ain’t too proud for meds

I didn’t believe allergies were real, so I didn’t believe the drugs were effective, either. Although I’m still not “Claritin clear,” putting various meds in your house, car, bag and in hollow rocks in your landscaping will help you if you suddenly find yourself near plant life with your lungs closing up.

Oh, by the way, a new research study at the University of Washington says that both Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton have active ingredients that could potentially cause irreversible dementia. So while taking your drugs will allow you to play with your kids this spring, they’ll also cause you to forget them entirely in a few years. You’ll have to decide for yourself if the investment is worth it.

2. Be like Bubble Boy

Use “recirc” on your car, keep your windows closed, and, if possible, play with your child while wearing a specially made spacesuit like John Travolta in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Kids love space stuff.

3. Hang around people with more allergies than you

You know all those coughing, sneezing, blinking, wheat-avoiding animal haters you have eschewed for much of your life? Gooba gabba, gooba gabba, you’re becoming on of them, and that means you are starting to complain, as well as make gross mucus sounds. Hang around with those more afflicted than you so that you aren’t the one asking to come home early from the outdoor concert or calling the police on the neighbor’s yard waste fire. Let your sicker friends do it.

4. Mark your child clearly

You might want to put them in hunter orange or wrap a big feather boa around them or put deedly boppers on their heads because when your eyes film over and swell, it’ll be tough to see which kid at the park if yours. If, on the way home, you find that your child is pulling extra hard against your hand and protesting leaving the public space extra loudly, you might want to feel their face or smell them to make sure you aren’t blindly dragging a neighbor’s kid to your vehicle. People rarely forgive that kind of mistake.

5. Consider freezing yourself and waking up in a treeless future

Don’t move to the desert—the desert states are running out of water and are chockablock with elderly Tea Partiers. Dinner is at 4:30 p.m., and you’ll soon only be allowed one shower a year on your birthday. Instead, consider leaving your child to discover a space colony like in Interstellar or have your head frozen like Walt Disney, so you can be thawed in an era when they have found a cure for allergies or for trees, and certainly a cure for having had your head cut off and frozen.

It’s too late for me. The trees was won. Go on without me. But go knowing that, before those deciduous fiends do you in, they at least taught you a lesson that it’s nature’s world, and we’re just wheezing in it.

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