I read a post from a woman whining that she and her child are being punished having to accommodate kids with food allergies. She doesn’t think it’s fair to have to cater to this “allergy insanity”–some kids like hers don’t get to have their heart’s most desired treat in a classroom celebration, and parents like her are put out because they have to think of alternate solutions that can be eaten by everyone. In her post Why Do Your Kid’s Allergies Mean My Kid Can’t Have a Birthday?,she laments the good ol’ days of being able to take homemade treats in to school made with “fresh butter, sugar and yes, real flour with real gluten in it.”
Her poor kid. Poor her.
I disagree with her, natch … and here’s why:
These kids with food allergies that we’re being asked to accommodate are in school–where they’re required to be, where they shouldn’t be ostracized and left out, where we want them to feel safe. Bringing in delicious cupcakes covered in fluffy frosting and fun sprinkles is fun for everyone–except the kid who doesn’t get to have them. Even if the kids with the allergy have an in-class stash of safe food to eat while everyone else enjoys cupcakes, it still sucks. Because a fruit roll up just doesn’t cut it when you’re watching your friends dig into a scrumptious treat that you don’t get to have–for no fault of your own.
Let’s say I take a bouncy house to school for my child’s birthday because it’s her favorite activity. Unfortunately, your kid has severe asthma and can’t participate. According to the logic above, I could just tell your kid “you can watch all the other kids jump around and play–you won’t feel left out because you can color this picture of a ladybug. It’s the same.”
Can I do that? Yes. Will that kid be safe and not do anything that would hurt him? Yes. Would I be an asshat if I did that? Yes.
Our kids don’t head to kindergarten thinking that sharing sugary birthday treats is a rite of passage. It’s only a big deal because we parents make it that way. Sure, sharing something on your birthday can be fun, but it doesn’t have to be food. Your kid can pick out their favorite book or a fun game to share with the class–Legos, Lincoln Logs, board games, blocks, puppets, a bean bag chair for the reading area, pencils, erasers, stickers. There are countless things that are fun for kids and make a child feel special … all without excluding anyone.
But, if you have your heart set on sending food, here are a few suggestions that are typically safe for everyone: sliced apples, grapes, bananas, strawberries, carrots, potato chips, raisins, suckers, popsicles, fruit cups, capri sun, juice boxes, hugs, or orange juice.
The disgruntled woman makes sure to point out that she wouldn’t take in treats when kids have a life-threatening allergy, but it comes off like she’d hate to have some kid’s death on her hands more than she’s genuinely sympathetic. I mean, if the kid’s just going to have a rash or stomach ache, it’s not that big an issue (to her). They should just deal with it (she thinks). And the fact that we’re intentionally excluding some kids from an activity is just part of life and they should get over it because we shouldn’t have to cater to everyone (as long it’s not her kid, I’m sure).
The whole thing about being life-threatening or not really bothers me … as if causing people pain and discomfort is ok, just so long as it doesn’t kill them … WTF??! People with food allergies have a variety of reactions including rash, itching, swelling, hives and stomach aches. Those with Celiac disease (like my daughter) who can’t have gluten, get “just a stomach ache” and it’s taken lightly because you can’t see it. What’s actually happening is her immune system is attacking her intestinal tract, basically shredding it from the inside. When that happens, aside from the excruciating pain, it puts her at higher risk for developing anemia, infertility issues, arthritis, liver disease, and cancer–just to name a few problems.
Although consuming gluten won’t cause her imminent death, it will certainly impact her quality of life … and for this woman to shrug it off is infuriating. I’m sure it’s easy for her because she’s not there when my daughter is writhing in pain. She doesn’t have to see my little girl curled into a ball crying because her latest reaction is so painful she can’t stand on her feet or bend her fingers because they’re so swollen. But, hey, as long as her kid got to have his birthday cake at school, it’s all good, right??? (Oh, the sarcasm!)
The line that pisses me off more than anything else in her sob-fest is this: “my kid shouldn’t have to forgo his birthday cake because yours can’t eat it.” Let’s just be clear here: telling your kid that s/he doesn’t get to have their favorite treat for the eight hours while they’re at school does NOT mean they can’t have a birthday or have to forgo anything.
As a matter of fact, from the second they walk in the door after school until the second they put their head on their pillow, you can have them jam their face full of the most gluten-filled birthday cake topped with whipped egg icing and peanut sprinkles while chugging down a gallon of milk if that makes you happy. And if / when you have a birthday party for him, you can let him eat sticks of butter dipped in peanut butter and rolled in flour if that’s what you want to do. NO ONE IS STOPPING YOU FROM HAVING ANY DESSERTS OR TREATS AT YOUR KID’S OWN BIRTHDAY PARTY. Have whatever you want. Go fucking nuts.
If my daughter were attending your kid’s Gluten-Dairy-Peanut-Egg-a-palooza Birthday Party, I’d send food she can have. It’s my job to make sure she has food that’s safe to eat when I send or take her somewhere. But when you’re talking about bringing that same AllergenFestival into class knowing full well that you’ll be excluding her and any other number of kids, you’re an Asshat. Whining about how much of an inconvenience it is for you to have to consider others? That makes you an Asshat Extraordinaire.
I don’t expect everyone to cater to my daughter and her dietary needs when we’re going somewhere, but I also don’t expect people to be intentionally inconsiderate either. I’ve taught her about all the things she can’t have. She’s learned what to look for when reading labels and she knows it’s better to be safe than sorry–if she’s not sure about a particular food, she doesn’t eat it. I’ve taught her to look out for herself and how to be prepared. And, unfortunately, I’ve had to teach her that some people are just selfish douchenozzles who complain about having to accommodate people with allergies and other health issues like hers.
To this mother, and all the other assholes like her that grumble about how hard it is to “cater to” kids with food allergies, I offer my (sarcastic) sympathies.
The next time I have to take my daughter for her biannual 7-vile blood draw to make sure that everything is okay, I’ll think about that poor woman and that one day she had to struggle for a couple of hours thinking of an alternate treat for her kid to take into class. The next time I have to watch my daughter have a bone scan to make sure she hasn’t developed osteoporosis at the age of 13, I’ll think about that poor woman and that one day she had a hard time coming up with an acceptable treat to accommodate ALL the kids in her son’s class.
Every time we go out to eat and have to ask multiple questions that usually involve talking to a manager or chef, or the times we have to leave a restaurant because they don’t have anything for my daughter to eat or I don’t feel confident they understand the precautions that need to be taken; every time I send my daughter to a friend’s house to play or stay the night and I spend time putting together food for her to take and worry about her having enough to eat; every time we plan a road trip or vacation around making sure she’ll have safe food options, I’ll think about how hard it was that one fucking day when this poor mom had to be bothered with making sure every child in her kid’s classroom was included in the fun of a birthday celebration.
For every time I have to address people who feel kids like my daughter are such an inconvenience, I’ll think about how hard it must be to live every day as a self-absorbed, inconsiderate asshat.