Dear food allergy parent,
I see you at new parent orientation. I see you sink down a little in your seat as the teacher tells the parents that this preschool is peanut and tree nut free.
I see your face turning red at the predictable onslaught of questions:
“Why does my child (or all other children) have to be inconvenienced for one child?”
“Is there even a child in this particular classroom with an allergy? Or are you making a blanket rule for no reason?”
“Why doesn’t the child who has an allergy sit separately from the rest of our children? They are the one who needs special accommodations. Not my child.”
“Why don’t they make a special school for children with allergies?”
“Why don’t they home school their child?”
“They are going to have to avoid this food their whole life. We aren’t protecting them by not bringing those products into school. They need to learn some time.”
Or, my favorite,
“My child ONLY eats peanut butter chocolate chip granola bars for a snack. There is not one other snack food in the entire universe that my child will consume. Without that granola bar, he will surely perish.”
I see you because I am you. My oldest child has a life-threatening food allergy. She is in middle school now, and we are so lucky that our elementary-aged son and our preschool-aged son do not have any food allergies.
I have not forgotten the terror.
We pursued a treatment option for our daughter’s allergy to help desensitize her immune system. That, plus her age, has eased our anxiety. Kids are not as grimy as they were in preschool. She understands cross-contamination and the importance of hand washing. She won’t eat any random food she finds (anymore).
But I remember being in your shoes. And I want to tell you: I will protect your baby.
I will defend your right to have your child safe.
I will not send any snacks or lunch items that may jeopardize your child.
I will speak up against anyone who says anything negative about you or your child.
I did not have this confidence when I was younger. I cried many times in my car after confrontations with other parents and teachers about my daughter. But I will not let you stand alone to protect your child.
I am on your team because believe it or not, your child is a blessing to me. To my children. To society.
Others may see an allergy as an inconvenience, but I am thankful.
Because of your child, my children have a chance to learn about caring for the welfare of others. They have a chance to learn how to make sacrifices of their own desires to help a friend be safe. My children learn compassion and empathy. They learn how lucky they are to be healthy.
They learn that they are not the center of the universe. (And man oh man, I need all the help I can get teaching them this!)
Once our tiny babes grow into middle-schoolers, your child will be able to keep himself safe more easily on his own. He will be able to navigate the world more safely with the lessons you’ve taught him about how to avoid his allergen, recognize reactions, and seek treatment.
My child will be a better person for having known your child because he will be able to navigate through his life as a kinder, more generous, and more thoughtful individual. He learned young that his desires are not more important than someone’s safety. My child will be a better person because of your child.
So, thank you. Thank you for allowing your child to share time with my child. His allergy is not a burden to us, it is a blessing. Thank you for helping me mold my children into the kind of adults who care about other people.
Together, we will make sure that both of our kids will grow up healthy and kind.
All my love,
Another Parent Who Loves Her Babies (And Yours)