This morning, the mother of a boy in Bodie’s class sat next to Bodie and asked him what she should bring next week when she is parent helper. She wanted to make sure to bring a snack that would be safe for him to eat. I was incredibly appreciative of this gesture. Most of the parent helpers in Bodie’s class have always made sure to bring a safe snack for Bodie.
Two weeks ago, Bodie’s teacher texted me that there was a Birthday the next morning and that they would be bringing in cookies from a local bakery. My heart sank as I did not have time to bake a sugar cookie and frost it for Bodie. All I had were Oreos. Moments after my heart sank I became a little angry. Why couldn’t she bring Oreos like all the other parents have when their kid has a Birthday? Why didn’t she think of my son and his food allergies? But then if I had made a fuss about the cookies, then I would have guaranteed ourselves on the DO NOT INVITE list for Birthday parties. We may actually already be on most peoples list because of how many food allergies he has.
Last night, I emailed the mother’s in charge of the Valentine’s Day party and asked what the food will be for the party. They said cupcakes. Thankfully, I have plenty of time to make sure Bodie has his own cupcake for him on Wednesday.
There is a roller coaster of emotions as a food allergy mom. There is some management that comes with food allergies and making sure your kid gets to have yummy food at the party along with everyone else. Some fellow parents get it and accept it and automatically have food allergy safe food. While others simply don’t remember. And then there are some that despite knowing of the food allergies in the classroom simply will not be bothered or inconvenienced with them.
So far, Bodie is the kid who does not care that he eats something different from others because of his food allergies. I ask him if it bothered him that he had to eat pretzels while everyone else eats Cheez-Its. Every time, he says he doesn’t care and it doesn’t bother him. I am thankful that it doesn’t but I fear the day it does.
My question to parents is, what if it was your child being excluded on a regular basis? What if it was your child that had to sit at a separate table during lunch? What if your child ended up in the hospital every single time they accidentally ingested the allergen? Society as a whole does not like inconvenience. Society as a whole struggles with empathy. I see this issue on a regular basis while dealing with food allergies. I read the comments of someone admitting they send their child with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich even though their school is peanut free. I read those comments and I panic for the day my son enters elementary school.
Now we have a movie that brings food allergies into the media. Peter Rabbit hit theaters this past weekend and while most families have loved the movie, there are many food allergy parents who have an issue with the movie. In one scene, there is an attack on someone with a food they are allergic to. To the point that he has to use his epi-pen on himself. Many food allergy parents and their kids will not be seeing this movie, for fear it will create anxiety for those with food allergies. There have been instances of food allergy bullying in schools so to see a movie with this action has many parents upset.
I saw a comment thread on a Facebook group where most moms said, who cares use it as a teachable moment. This is a great point and to be honest this is probably something I would say. The food allergy mom in me screams WHY, why would they do this? Why would they even use food allergy bullying in a movie? Food allergies are hard, complex and scary. Food allergies are literally a matter of life and death. Could there have been a better way to depict a teachable moment? Most kids don’t even have their epi-pen handy which is a whole issue in itself worthy of it’s own blog post.
Food allergies are not an inconvenience, they are a matter of life and death. Food allergies are far more of an inconvenience to the person who suffers from the allergy along with the parents. Remember this the next time you send snack to the school or the next time you draft invitations for your child’s Birthday party. Take the teachable moment from the movie a little bit further when you host the next Birthday party or provide a snack for the next classroom. You’ll not only be teaching your child about food allergies, but also empathy and thoughtfulness.