I'm Not A Helicopter Parent, But My Child Still Has A Food Allergy

by Jorrie Varney
Originally Published: 
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My four-year-old son has a food allergy, a peanut allergy to be specific. You’ve probably noticed that peanut allergies, along with numerous other food allergies are a thing now. I don’t remember a single kid from my childhood who suffered from food allergies, but today, you can’t swing a peanut butter sandwich without hitting a kid with a food allergy.

Statistics show that one in 13 kids have a food allergy—that’s two per classroom. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports food allergies in children increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011.

That’s a big jump. A big, obnoxious, “you can’t send your kid to school with peanut butter” jump. And truly, I’m sorry. I know it’s an annoying inconvenience—I get it. It sucks for you, and me, and for all the kids who are basically ostracized and treated like weirdos, because they have a food allergy. Ugh, so annoying, am I right? Wait… is that an awful and inappropriate thing to say?

YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT IT IS. Because being annoyed by anyone’s medical condition is fucking absurd.

I can already hear the arguments from naysayers. Save your breath, in the short time that I’ve been an allergy parent, I’ve heard all the opinions and theories about my son’s food allergy. Some people, many more than what seems rational, assume if your child has a food allergy, like mine, it’s because you’re a helicopter parent who keeps your kid indoors, bathes them in hand sanitizer, and makes them wear a bubble-suit when they leave the house.

Well, I’ve got bad news, my kid eats dirt and licks shopping cart handles, just like yours. I’m no more of a helicopter parent than I am Peter Pan. Hell, I’m one of those rebel parents who gave my kid peanut butter before the recommended age. I ate peanut butter sandwiches throughout my pregnancy, and while I was nursing, and my kid still ended up allergic to peanuts. Sometimes shit just happens, and sometimes that shit is a food allergy.

I would classify myself as an adventure parent, I don’t know if that’s a real thing, but in my mind it’s basically the opposite of helicopter parenting. I let my kids go out and experience the world, even the scary parts. I’m not sending them into dangerous situations, of course, but I let them get dirty building a fort in the woods, spend a whole day swimming in the lake, or building crappy wood projects with real tools.

My kids ride four-wheelers, run barefoot outside, and handle bugs, frogs, snakes, and other critters they find in the yard. I let them learn some things the hard way, because that’s what life is about. You can’t learn everything by being told what will happen, sometimes you have to scrape your knees.

I assure you, my kid doesn’t have a food allergy because he’s living in a bubble. He’s a wild child, and I strongly encourage his wild, sometimes reckless nature. And when you hear me ask if there are peanuts in the cookies, it’s not because I’m an uptight prude, it’s because we spend enough time at the ER, and I don’t feel like going there today over a fucking cookie. It’s really not a hard concept to grasp—fire is hot so we don’t touch it; peanuts might kill us, so we’re going to pass on the cookies.

And while we are talking about seemingly obvious concepts, here’s another one: Unless you are a scientist, who spends their days researching food allergies, spare me your theories on the topic. I don’t care what you think causes food allergies, especially if you don’t even have a child with a food allergy. I don’t care that your friend’s brother is allergic to peanuts, and has never been to Iowa. Not going to Iowa didn’t cause his peanut allergy, nor did any other nonsensical connection that you may be trying to illustrate.

Actual scientists are researching food allergies every day, and as it stands they have their own theories and recommendations. Unless you have a flying DeLorean that can transport me back in time, it doesn’t really matter what caused my son’s allergy. I truly hope they figure out the cause, so future kids don’t have to deal with this—I want nothing more, but as for my kid, it is what it is. I teach him about his allergy, so he can avoid it. I ask questions when necessary, because I don’t want him to die—he was hard to make and I’m pretty fond of him.

I’m not a helicopter parent — I’m a parent just like you, who happens to have a kid with a food allergy. I wish more people understood that.

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