It’s interesting how naive you can be about something until you’ve got first-hand experience from it. That can be said about me when it came to the seriousness of food allergies and other food-related issues. I had heard about people who got sick from being near peanut butter — even just smelling peanut butter. I knew people who had “bad dairy allergies” and I grew up diagnosed with lactose intolerance so I thought I kind of understood what food allergies meant. I didn’t give much thought to it, beyond that. It didn’t affect me and as far as I could see, it wasn’t that common. For school, I was allowed to pack whatever I wanted— there was no peanut or nut ban school board-wide, and I didn’t fully grasp what the “big deal” was.
When I had to go gluten-free, it started to make more sense to me. While I won’t immediately die as someone with anaphylactic food allergies may, coming into contact with gluten (even a bread crumb) can have real and serious consequences When my kids started school and their diet changed to remove their own food-offending items, learning that their school was totally peanut- and nut-free was not difficult for me to understand. While my children don’t have issues with peanuts or nuts, gluten is a real concern,but not immediately life-threatening, like peanut allergies often are.
It is easy to look past something when it is not something that you need to worry about. If your children don’t have allergies, understanding the need for such a widespread food ban may be hard to understand, but certainly not difficult. The following are common phrases that have heard other parents say when it comes to talking about someone else’s kid’s food allergies:
1) “Kids with food allergies should sit at their own table or a separate room.”
A few years ago, and for many schools still, children with peanut or other food allergies were forced to sit at their own table, apart from the possible offending foods. It was the way it was done. Today, many more schools are placing a school-wide ban on certain food items, like peanuts, which are not allowed in the school or anyone’s lunch. While I can see how this may be a struggle for a family who has never had to concern themselves with reading through ingredients, the idea of segregation is not the answer. The separate table puts a target on the children with allergies, pulls them away from their friend circle, and many kids find it embarrassing.
2) “They will have to learn to live in the ‘real world’ someday”
This one drives me the craziest, and I hear it often when it comes to food allergies and school policies. Parents don’t or can’t understand the serious reasons many schools are placing a nut-ban on the entire school and while it can be a little challenging, their child deserves to be safe over your slight inconvenience People compare it to sheltering kids and making things easier for the families with allergies, while making things harder for the families who are allergy-free, but it’s not about sheltering, it’s about keeping kids safe. Kids don’t know everything they need to know to keep themselves safe right away — they learn it at the pace they learn everything else. They will grow to “live in the real world,” but first they need the safety to be able to learn what they need to know to make sure they are safe.
3) “Why do I have to go through the hassle for someone else’s kid?”
There are many people who can’t seem to look past their own situation and it’s not a nice looking quality on anyone. Would you want to send your child to school knowing that they could die from the smallest amount of a certain food product? I am going to go out on a limb and say — not likely. While these nut-bans may be a slight inconvenience when you have to slap a piece of cheese into a sandwich instead of peanut butter, it is certainly not a big deal in comparison to those kids who could be seriously injured or die. School is a right all kids should have — life-threatening food allergies or not.
4) “It’s just strict parenting.”
I’ve heard this from doctors and other adults when I talk about the dietary restrictions my own children are on. It’s not about being strict for the sake of making up my own rules, but when it comes to food allergies and my kids’ safety, you better believe that I am going to follow the necessary precautions and be that strict with others doing the same. It’s far more than any control issue and while parents who are raising kids with food allergies may seem “extreme” to you, trust me, I bet they wish they didn’t have to deal with it either.
5) “I’m sure it’s not that bad.”
It can be hard to understand that a small bread crumb or smelling peanut butter can be as threatening as a loaded gun for some children, but it’s true. Most parents aren’t trying to overplay the serious situation, and children for certain are not playing it up to be larger than it is. Just because you may not understand it, does not make it untrue. Having this type of attitude is what leads to kids “teasing” and “bullying” kids with food allergies by feeding them their offending food — which never really ends well for the child. Compassion people — we teach it to our kids, so show it.
6) “I am sure they will outgrow it.”
You know, it can happen and it has for some kids’ allergies, but this is not always the case. There are people who believe that allergies are developed because of over-strict parents who don’t “expose” their children to certain foods. While some kids could outgrow the allergy, it certainly doesn’t make it any less serious now and the precautions that need to be taken now.
7) “It’s not my problem.”
I worry about my daughter not being invited out to places when she grows up, because of her dietary restrictions. So far this hasn’t been an issue, but there are people who are under the impression that it’s easier to not invite someone than to modify what they’re doing or serving. If we all just sat around saying “it’s not my problem” no one in the world would be safe, happy, thriving or healthy.