Newsflash: Your Kids Can Still Have Birthdays Without Possibly Killing Mine | Ask Your Dad Blog

Friday, February 21, 2014

Newsflash: Your Kids Can Still Have Birthdays Without Possibly Killing Mine

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)

Newsflash: Your Kids Can Still Have Birthdays Without Possibly Killing Mine


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.

18 comments:

  1. I think because you are so close to the issue, you're going to read the original article with a certain filter. However, as a outsider with no children, I think you failed to recognize some of the author's opinions that are actually in line with your own. Further, I would think that treating all dietary requests from parents the same as life threatening allergies (which seems to be happening in the author's situation) would actually be more dangerous for a child with a serious allergy.

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  2. Ok, let's set tree nuts aside in their own special category because I am perfectly fine dealing with a nut allergy and it's fairly simple to avoid sending nut snacks in.
    But if you have parents asking for things where there isn't an actual allergy, then it starts getting difficult for the other parents to comply. Also, if your child has several allergies to common things, there comes a point where it's not only easier for the other parents, but also provides you more piece of mind to just provide your own child their special "safe" snacks.

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    1. Ok. I'll bite, Anonymous. I was fortunate not to have any of my 3 kids allergic to anything- so I didn't get it- until years later when I saw my 6 year old niece RUN IN TERROR away from my Thanksgiving buffet because there was a bowl of peanuts on it. Over reaction? Have YOU ever not been able to breathe? Feel your throat closing up? The fact is- to some people just being around or exposed to these alergins can be life threatening, if not simply frightening. Is it really worth bringing this stuff to school if it is this dangerous to ANYONE? Are you that frikkin' insensitive, because it's not your kid? I hope it never is, your kid, your grandkid, anyone you love. For your sake.

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  3. I see both sides on this issue. My son is extremely allergic to peanuts and mildly allergic to tree nuts. Double whammy as his allergist put it. We discovered the peanut allergy last new years after him only having 5 pieces of Muddy Buddy chex mix. One panicked momma and an er trip later we knew that our lives would be changed for forever in terms of food consumption. As my son gets older, he will be faced with the inevitable task of going to school, where he will be exposed to other children who do not have a severe food allergy. He may even eat something not knowing he can't and we will have to deal with that at some point.

    Every child who has a life threatening food allergy should be given special treatment when it comes to ensuring their life. (Carly's point)If other children have to forgo then that's the way it has it.

    But on the other side, yes it does suck that's the way it has to be but you even said that for life threatening allergies, its necessary. Going forward as a parent, who is obligated to purchase treats for the class, maybe you should be working with your child's school to prepare a safe foods list so that your choices will be easier. Instead of complaining how difficult it is for you to find something.

    But what it really boils down to is that our schools need to implement a way of determining who really has a food allergy and who doesn't. Oh wait here's a great idea, add it to the yearly school physical. Families with food preferences will just have to let their children indulge in over processed food every once in a while. It's not like it's going to kill them.

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    1. Are you dense?

      Here you are, trying to appear "objective" to a case where people ought to get upset about than trying to give any fuel to people who praise behavior that gives any one the right to judge anyone for their medical condition.

      Because this is what this is. A medical condition that could likely kill you if you even had a little bit taste of the food your doctor adviced you to stay far away from.

      Wanna hear a "funny" story? My brother has nut allergy, and always died twice. Once because he accidently ate something with nuts in it, and the other time was because of some dense parent, who decided to disregard his allergy by bringing homemade cookied to his class, with nuts in it.

      Hell, the moron didn't even find it wise to even apologize after his teacher had to rush out of the classroom, not knowing what to do, because my brother was choking, with clueless classmates watching him, to find the nearest phone to call the hospital. It was resulted in one of the messiest quarrel between that kids dumb parent and ours. With his teacher between them scared shitless.

      Now try to imagine this situation, three-doubled. How many kids would die?
      My brother almost did. It's not to say that anyone else could. And it isn't just nut allergy, but all kinds of allergies.

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  4. Wow, I can't believe this is even an issue. Who wants to endanger a child-- whether it's your's, mine or the mailman's. My daughter's class is full of allergies, sensitivities and preferences and, yeah, I accommodate them all, because I'd like ALL the littles to enjoy themselves. I'd hate to be the jerk who makes someone's child feel left out or-- god forbid-- endangered. Seriously, who is okay with that?

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  5. Thank you for this, my daughter has a contact allergy to peanuts - she just has to touch it, not consume, and it's medication/EpiPen and a trip to the ER. Scary stuff. She's in a nut free class room, and sits at a nut free table at lunch. I do send in a list of "safe" treats for any parent who is interested. You don't have to buy "special" foods, Oreo's, Goldfish Crackers, Rice Krispy Treats etc are "safe". She goes to birthday parties and knows to politely say no thank you to cake. What hurts is when I overhear a parent say about any allergic child - "she ruins parties for the whole grade" or "why don't they just home school her". Really? Are you so selfish that you don't want your kid to be friends with mine because they can't share a pb & j? It's not ok to bring a knofe or a gun to school, and for my kid, that's what a peanut is.

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  6. You know for once I am so NOT with you on this. Seems like you just want to be offended to be offended- like you turned off your listening ears. ALL throughout the article she said "excluding life threatening allergies" you know what that means? She wasn't talking at all about your niece who COULD die. She's talking about people who have allergies that are more an annoyance- like the child gets diarrhea (dairy) or gains weight (wheat) if they EAT it. My cousins kids also had bad reactions to food dyes- like super hyper, so they didn't eat it, but they didn't make their friend's parents buy different cakes, they just scraped the icing off. No biggie. And to be honest I agree with Carly Morgan on that. If your kids allergies are not life threatening all the other kids shouldn't have to change THEIR diet because your kid might have some diarrhea if they eat diary.

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    1. That's ok! I'd be bummed if you agreed with me all the time. Great comment. I'll try and leave a more detailed reply when I'm not on mobile. Your dissent is welcome and appreciated!

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    2. I came over to the comments section to say just this! I'm usually with you John, but on this one it seems that Carly completely ignored the fact (as was stated over and over) that Carina wasn't talking about life threatening conditions. Carina most definitely cares whether your child lives or dies, and states it many times. As Carina says intolerances and life threatening allergies are not the same thing and shouldn't be treated as such in a classroom. Carly's response makes it out like Carina couldn't care less if she kills someone else's child, and that's not fair.

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    3. OK, here's the thing. I called the piece tone deaf, and I stand by that. Carina wanted to be edgy, so I tossed in a sensational title to accompany hers. Here is the part of her article where she discusses peanut allergies:

      "To a certain extent, I get it. When I was in high school, a girl in my town died from eating a few bites of a Twix bar that happened to contain traces of peanuts. Many allergies can be deadly, even in tiny increments. If a child in the same homeroom as my son could go into anaphylactic shock and die due to allergies, I think we have a communal responsibility to keep him or her safe. I would never endanger the life of a child over a peanut butter cookie; that would be ridiculous."

      That part is great. She had me up until there. But here's the thing, it's not two sides of a coin with allergies. It is not life/death. There are differing degrees, and Carina is not a doctor. How in the world is she going to judge the severity of a child's allergy? How does she expect a school to? Allergies are a moving target. Why shame an allergic child or their parents, when they are just trying to do what is best. And why get pissed when a school wants to call it safe by just saying "Don't bring allergens." The school isn't saying "Don't have birthdays." It is saying, let's play it safe and not bring in products that kids are commonly allergic to.

      There are PLENTY of ways around this without shaming kids with allergies into proving that their allergy is important enough to be acknowledged. We're going to be having a birthday party for Duchess this summer, and our invites will have a note and phone number that explain that accommodations can be made for any kids with allergies. I don't mind picking up a gluten free cupcake so my daughter can invite her gluten free friend to her party. I'm not going to call and ask her parents to confirm if their kid's allergy is severe enough to warrant my accommodation. I am going to trust their judgment, just as I hope someone would trust mine if I were in a similar situation. I sure as heck am not going to uninvited the kid or cancel Duchess's birthday.

      So yeah, I get that the original piece comes from a place of frustration. And I get that there are some parents out there that self-diagnose allergies based off of anecdotal evidence and that they may or may not be right in the decisions that they make about their kid's diet. But at the end of the day, we’re all parents, we’re all doing the best that we can, and I'm not going to risk it, and I don't expect the school to. Birthday parties for everyone!!

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    4. So me again, "Anonymous" from before... There is an EASY way to prove that children have allergies, its called have the parents bring in a doctor's note. Its not shaming the child. The child won't even know their parents did that. Do children know/care that their parents bring in their vaccination records? Is it shaming a child that they HAD to get vaccines because they are not superman? No? Good. Then its not shaming a child that the doctor writes down what they are allergic to, their reactions, and what the school should do if the child IS exposed to the allergy- heck I bet that is ALREADY happening for any real and not imagined allergies. As a new parent if my child was allergic to something I would do that without being asked- as I want the school to be well-informed in case something DOES happen.

      If its not serious enough to get a doctor's note, then the individual child can decide if its worth it or not- like when my little cousin decided he wanted a cookie, even though his mom was out of "milk pills" so he would end up on the toilet- but it was worth it! He made that very clear, BEFORE he had the cookie, and he didn't regret it after. He didn't always make that choice but he understood what making the choice meant (which is important!)

      And as far as your comment "Birthday parties for everyone!" You missed her "Some schools have even gone the route of banning all classroom birthdays and celebrations, which is ridiculous." Doesn't sound like they are offering parties without food as alternatives, just no parties... :(

      And "I would surely consider bringing an extra allergy-free item to the class for a child, but depriving all the other children for the sake of the one hardly seems fair (excluding life-threatening circumstances)." I think the point here is that its not so bad bringing in food that is special for one child say Dairy free, and bringing another item of food for another child say glutton free, but trying to find something both dairy AND glutton free (so both kids eat the same thing) and then buying that food for everyone (way more expensive since its dairy and glutton free) is going over the top. Its ok that the larger group of kids gets one dessert and the other two children get different desserts.

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    5. John, including a disclaimer in your invitation to accommodate the 0.6% of your daughter's friends who have allergies is pretty insane.

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  7. Both my kids have food allergies. Are they life threatening? I don't know. Do I really want to find out by letting the kiddos have peanut butter cookies at someone else's house, or school? Not really. It's not worth it. So I suppose I'm the pain in the ass parent.

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    1. Just asking, but why wouldn't you take them to the doctor to find out if they are life threatening? I would expect you'd want to know to be prepared. Otherwise, are they really allergies or just something your kids don't like?

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    2. This is one of the dumbest things I've ever read. Apparently it's easier just to be the pain in the ass parent.

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  8. I love this! I'm glad she took the time to respond and it's dead on.

    We're lucky that we don't have sever allergies, but there is NO reason to every intentionally leave a child out. What's more concerning to me: why aren't we encouraging fruit or veggies. I've met very few kids allergic to watermelon, grapes, strawberries or carrot sticks. Why can't we teach our kids that fun bags, of fresh ingredients (or even stickers, pencils, bouncy balls, or balloons) can be just as exciting as the neighbors double fudge, nut filled 1,000 calorie brownies.

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  9. My son is very lactose intolerant. ..like excruciating pain intolerant. But it never in a million years occurred to me to expect other parents to serve party food just for his needs. We're also vegetarian as a family. So for every party, I talked with the hosts. And then I sent in dairy free treat that was as similar as possible to what they were serving. Chocolate Tofutti to replace chocolate ice cream, etc. Ditto with providing grill-friendly veggie burgers or veggie dogs do my kids could enjoy the cookout. But I see it as MY responsibility. ...not the hosts. Of course life threatening allergies are different. But when it comes to the rest...do it yourself. ..without expecting the world to accommodate. THAT is a life lesson kids do need to learn.

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