Recently I shared a post called "Food Allergies Aren't Fancy" from one of my favorite bloggers, Carly Lane Morgan, about her family's struggles dealing with her daughter's severe nut allergy. Full disclosure, Carly is my sister-in-law and her daughter is my niece. I have seen first hand how difficult and emotional dealing with severe allergies can be through them. And yet, they have a lovely, kind, and wonderful daughter that, through Carly and her husband's diligent and endless work lives a normal, albeit nut free, life.
So, when this tone-deaf post titled "Why Do Your Kid's Allergies Mean My Kid Can't Have a Birthday?" by Carina Hoskisson came up on my news feed, I was immediately in defensive mode. Later, Carly and I were discussing the piece and she kindly agreed to write a reply for Ask Your Dad. The sensational title is mine, but the words from here on out are hers.
Love, Dad (John)
A Reply to "Why Do Your Kid's Allergies Mean My Kid Can't Have a Birthday?"
by Carly Lane Morgan
When someone asks the question, "Why should my kid have to eat nut-free snacks just because your kid has an allergy?" it is really tough not to have a knee-jerk reaction as an allergy parent. The first instinct is to clench the jaw, square the shoulders, and create a body block between your child and the adult who apparently doesn't care if they live or die. That's part of the reality of fighting live-or-die battles every day that you're in charge of a kid with food allergies. It all becomes a fight.
The thing is...I get it. It sucks that you have to buy special foods that aren't the foods you want to bring to school. Believe me, I know how much the special food shopping sucks. To be honest, even though I really wish you'd leave your resentment at the door, I feel it myself pretty often. I love peanut butter cups. I love pesto. I love getting Chinese take-out with all of the peanut oil and the cashew chicken and the walnuts thrown in there just for fun. So I have days when I resent my daughter's allergies. I love her, I'd do anything for her, and those selfish inner pouts only sneak up every now and then but I will admit here and now that sometimes the fact that I have to bake bread if we want to eat bread really just burns me up.
That being said, you need to get over yourself.
I don't expect you to live in a nut-free world because my kid can't have nuts. If I was the one with the allergy, I wouldn't expect you to accommodate me, an adult, although I would hope that you wouldn't do something so boneheaded as to gift me peanut brittle or eat mixed nuts next to me on an airplane. Even if you did, I guess I'd just think you were rude and then do what I needed to do to defend myself against your insensitivity. As a parent, though, you have a different responsibility.
Even if your child doesn't have food allergies, it's an absolute guarantee that your child will be around people with food allergies for the rest of his or her life. How do you want them to feel about those people? Do you want them to feel like people with allergies are a burden? That it doesn't make sense to even try to keep someone else out of danger (because, hey...survival of the fittest is an important lesson even in Kindergarten)? Do you really want your child to grow up thinking that maybe they should just bring an allergen in and if someone gets sick (or dies) from being exposed, it will just take that person down a peg because those allergy kids were feeling too special anyway?
You are the example. When you complain about my kid's allergies in front of your child, you're telling your child that my kid should be apologizing every day for something that she has absolutely no control over. When you gripe to your child's teacher or principal because you want to bring in yummy homemade cupcakes that will kill my kid, you're asking them to actively risk the life of a student so that they can teach the other students that it's fine to eat those risky treats as long as they really really really want them. And when you moan to the other parents and it gets back to me or even when you march up to me and demand to know why I think my kid is so important, you're actually telling me that my kid doesn't deserve to be in class or at school or on this planet as much as your kid does because mine is broken.
So stop. Buy fruit. Buy stickers. Bring bottles of water with funny labels to school with a smile on your face and let everyone know how you're totally cool with accommodating the allergies in the classroom. Realistically, complaining about it goes nowhere and does nothing positive so have your internal tantrums and then move on to your non-school hours full of homemade treats and pistachios. Lots of kids have food allergies and you'll just have to live with it. We do.
Carly blogs about her unexpected role as an allergy parent at Ever Clever Mom. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.