From all sides

There’s a quote attributed to Maya Angelou that goes something like this: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” It resonates with me because it’s my goal to never stop learning, to never stop doing better, to always seek to improve and expand my knowledge. That’s not to say I’m aiming for sainthood, because, really? I just don’t like everyone or everything. But what it means to me is that I do my best with my knowledge, and when I learn more, I try to do better. Does that make sense?

A specific example of this is my attitude around food allergies. I’m the allergy blogger for the Yummy Mummy Club, and I got that job because we’ve been through the ringer with my son’s food allergies. The first 18 months of his life were brutal, to be honest. It was scary, frustrating, unnerving, humbling and awful dealing with his symptoms and allergy diagnoses. But before then? I admit to being less than sympathetic to people with food allergies. I really didn’t understand them at all. Let’s just say I’ve been schooled. Oh, have I ever been schooled.

A blogger recently wrote a letter to parents who complain about food restrictions in schools, and I posted it over on my YMC blog because I felt many of the points were fantastic. The response from readers was mixed. It surprised me because I was suddenly being accused of being a bully, and of being on my “high horse” expecting the world to protect my child. My response to those negative comments was in a post entitled Tell Me Again Why My Child’s Life Doesn’t Matter. It’s still being read a month after posting, and the debate is still on.

I’ve since learned about kids with sensory issues, for whom peanut butter is one of their only options, and I’ve amended my views a little. I mean, that’s truly awful and so frustrating to deal with. That’s beyond dealing with food preferences, those are issues that cannot be controlled any more than my son’s allergies. But you know what? The parents of those children are sympathetic to my kid’s needs. They’re the ones saying they’ll do anything to accommodate allergies. They’re the ones empathizing with our frustrations.

It’s the parents whose kids just don’t feel like eating anything but peanut butter who are enraged. It’s the ones questioning why the majority should have to accommodate the minority. The ones saying they’d send peanut butter to school to spite “bullies” like me.

And this makes me so incredibly sad for our world. You would really threaten the life of a child over this? Over a sandwich? I would have hoped that instead, you’d have an intelligent dialogue with people who deal with these threats in order to learn, to grow, to empathize and do better. Like I am trying to do with people who really, really, super badly want to send peanuts to schools.

But what do I know? I’m just a bully sitting up here on my high horse hoping today isn’t the day my child dies.

Mason at 14 months being rushed to hospital after a reaction to tilapia.
Mason at 14 months being rushed to hospital after a reaction to tilapia.
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31 thoughts on “From all sides

  1. it is funny, because i have had the same interactions…the very people we may inconvenience the most – other parents with kids who have special needs – are often the people that have the most empathy. it makes sense. i hate to say it, but those lucky parents who have no health issues to worry about with their kids are just speaking/acting/thinking from a place of healthy kid priveledge. i hope they never need to be in our shoes…but damn, i wish they would open their hearts a bit.

  2. Oh sigh. I am an aunt of a child with egg and tree nut allergies. It doesn’t seem to register as high as peanut allergies in school but it is just as serious (and the now 10 year old girl has spent many visits to the hospital with life-threatening reactions). So…I get it. And it frustrates me too, for both sides involved.

    Here’s my kids with no allergies or sensitivities but plenty of opinions. I wish, often and always, that I could provide a nut snack to my very athletic kids. I don’t at school, but I go beyond that to certain other places like the rink, where it’s not enforced. Why? Because I get it. It could be my child who would react negatively to a crumb. I could be my niece…

    Having said that, I do find myself shifting slightly as the kids get older. My 6yo girl licks stuff….so I keep nut products away from her when she is in places where other kids congregate, even if it’s not the rule or enforced. My 8yo…isn’t so much into touching or hugging or licking (lol)…he is a kid who can handle a nutty granola bar after hockey on the way to the car.

    Do you see what I’m saying. He’s diligent to not leave crumbs because he is aware, and respectful, but at the same time wants and needs the nut product for protein reasons after hockey and can manage it in the so-called real world. Still, he doesn’t eat it in the dressing room…

    It’s a slippery slope. 🙂

    Javamom from

    1. My son was anaphylactic to eggs (and is still to tree nuts), so I totally understand that, too. It’s even more difficult when the serious allergy is something sort of “off the radar”, so I feel for your niece, for sure.

      My daughter eats nut products, and we do have nuts in our house, actually. We’re just really careful about clean up so there’s no contact for my son. I get it. I do.

      And I appreciate every single time you decide not to send products to school, or every time you express sympathy for us. It means a lot. 🙂

  3. I have posted this before but it boggles my mind that parents don’t understand the allergy issues that some kids have. My kids don’t have any allergies so I don’t know a lot of the things that go into dealing with it but I am shocked a parent wouldn’t want to help another parent. My kids don’t complain about not getting peanut butter (which they both love) in their lunches because they have NEVER had peanut butter in their lunches. They just know it is an at home food and not a school food. I accidentally sent honeynut Cherrios to school instead of the normal ones and I felt horrible when I realized and called the school to make them take them out of my sons lunch before another kid got them.
    How can we not all try and protect kids from things that can KILL them when it is so easy to do!

    1. I really don’t understand. I’d protect another child, why don’t people feel the same? My own daughter misses peanut butter and complains she can’t have it thanks to her brother, so we have other things for her when he’s not around. Why does it have to be SO difficult? 🙁

  4. I’m not a mother, nor do I plan to be, but as an adult I couldn’t imagine bringing food that might kill someone just because I feel like eating that thing today. That is what these people are saying and when you put it in plain English it kind of sounds insane doesn’t it? Alex, I’ve known you for a couple of years now and while you’re a strong woman and a fierce protector when it comes to your children you’re the furthest thing from a bully. Keep blogging lady.

    1. It sounds absolutely insane to me, honestly. But no, I’m not a bully. I’m many things (a bitch even), but not a bully. Thanks, Shan. xox

  5. Oh, jeez. I remember that day. I support you! I don’t even know why this is a matter of debate.

  6. Oh Alex that photo just stomps on my heart. And I don’t understand how any person who has ever loved a child could feel anything different. NEVER stop talking about this you brilliant and brave bully.

    1. Honestly, the picture still takes my breath away and crushes me, too. It was so utterly terrifying. Thanks for reading, Louise.

  7. Oh the Entitled Ones, why must they make life so much about them!?Because that is what it is, really. “It’s my life (my PBJ sandwich) and I’ll have/do whatever I damn well want and I don’t care what happens to anyone around me, they are NOT MY PROBLEM!” Sound familiar?

    Privilege comes in all shapes and sizes and for some that privilege is to be healthy and not have any food restrictions or life-threatening allergies. And like with most privilege, it is hard to see it from the inside. And then we get the “I don’t get why this is such a big deal” ignorance from those who refuse to put themselves in another’s shoes or at least ask about how it feels in those shoes.

    Gah! This frustrates me to no end and I have a family full of PB lovers, who all know how dangerous a peanut can be for a best friend, a beloved older cousin and lots of other friends at school and activities. If a 5 and 7 year old can be empathetic to others and understand this, why is this so hard for grown men and women to grasp??!!

    Ok, rant over. Keep this conversation going Alex. You are doing good work for all kids (and grown ups)!!


  8. Parents with special needs get it *because* we have kids with special needs. Mason has a special need too – to not be exposed to life-threatening substances.

    My son’s daycare has had an influx of kids with allergies in the latest round of new children. They’ve always been peanut free, but I think the need for caution is even greater now. Even if my son with autism and a limited diet loves peanut butter, I would never complain that I can’t send it in his lunch. I’ve seen too many people take steps to accommodate my son’s needs to be that insensitive. And, frankly, my son’s needs aren’t life or death. This absolutely boggles my mind. I’ve seen the stats for life-threatening allergies and the number may be small, but those lives matter no less than the rest of us. How is this even up for discussion?

  9. Thankfully we have no allergy issues in our home. I have no problem accommodating kids in our school for any reason beyond our control.(in this type of case it is preventing death, not just an accomodation.) It’s how we behave as a community.

    1. And I can tell you that the rest of us who (unfortunately) have to deal with allergies truly appreciate your help. 🙂

  10. My kids are 6 and 8. Both of them know that peanut butter is not allowed at school and why. They never complain about it because that’s what they know as a rule at school. My son tells me that some kids are bringing in Nutella sandwiches and thinks that he might fancy a Nutella sandwich. Then I have to explain to him that Nutella has a nut in it like peanut butter, then our next conversation is why some kids aren’t following the rules. From what I was told, the kids need to go down to the office and eat and the parents receive a phone call about the lunch they sent their kids. Besides the very extreme situations, it’s sad to think that parents don’t care if they send their kids with peanut butter because that’s what my kid likes! Ignorance is bliss I guess. My friends daughter is dangerously allergic to peanut butter and her school allows the kids to eat their peanut butter sandwiches in the library, the library?! Who has ever seen a kid meticulously wipe their hands and face and then wash their hands afterwards? I’m constantly telling my kids to stop using the table like a napkin, their shirt, their pants, you see where I’m going with this? By the time this kid has finished their sandwich they could be completely covered in peanut butter! Not to mention the peanut butter left over somewhere on the chair in the library or the table! It appears to me that it depends on the the principal on how strict they will enforce the no nut policy. For my kids school, I am happy with the policy, for my friends school, I am disgusted at the principal’s flaky compromise even though he is completely aware this could kill a little girl!

    1. Good point! It doesn’t really matter where in the school peanut butter or other nut-related foods are being eaten, there is still the risk of contaminating those who are allergic…all it takes for some of those poor children is to come into contact with a minute trace of these foods to wind up fighting for their lives. For any school to allow this is wholly irresponsible! And any parent who would place a peanut butter sandwich as a higher priority than the life of a child/children is just completely unconscionable, in my eyes. None of my three children has food allergies and I thank my lucky stars for that because I’d hate to have to leave them up to the mercy of such apathetic and heartless people. That saying, “There oughta be a law” couldn’t be more appropriate in this case, that way those with food allergies won’t have to be left to the mercy of those who place sandwiches above lives.

      1. There is something called “Sabrina’s Law” which requires schools in Ontario to have allergy plans, thankfully. But it doesn’t stop the ignorance, still.

  11. Bottom line, our children are our number one priority. While I’m blessed to have a child with no known allergies (touch wood), I am with you about getting other parents on board with safety first for our children. I’m the parent that tells other parents off for driving like maniacs at the daycare parking lot or racing to drop their kids off at school or pick them up. Really, their children’s safety is more important than mine child’s safety? Why can’t we work together and create a safe environment generally for our children? Unfortunately, we live at a time when people are incredibly selfish and it is all about them. We can’t give up though, for the sake of our kids! Maybe it is the kids we educate and they can train their parents ;)!

  12. You know having read a bunch of the other posts, the following argument could be made: Would you leave a loaded gun/weapon on the table for the kids to access? If not, what’s the difference between a loaded weapon or a peanut allergy. They both can kill in the wrong hands. No reasonable person would disagree, nor would they risk it these things getting into the wrong hands. You could almost drive the message home in a commercial if you could get sponsorship.

  13. What bothers me the most is not the fact that they have Peanut free schools but what about other allergies? My daughter has a severe allergy to peppers and they didn’t care at her old school. They even had a fruit and vegetable program and even though I talked to the principal they still sent peppers into her class. It only takes a tiny bit of juice from the pepper and her throat will close off. So why is the kid with a Peanut allergy more important then my child with a pepper allergy. If I respect the Peanut allergy in the school why can’t they respect my daughter’s pepper allergy? They even told me that nobody can be allergic to peppers. Guess they’ve never held a child struggling to be able to breathe.

    1. That’s so strange, because in our schools, all it takes to ban an item is a note from a doctor. It isn’t up to the school to decide what people can be allergic to. We have to leave EpiPens with the school, so it’s pretty clear something’s a threat when epinephrine is left.

  14. Cathy, my post below could be applied to any allergy. I just chose peanut as it is very common. I’m with Alex, get a note from the doctor, even if it costs you $25, take a photocopy and leave the original with the school, have them stamp it acknowledging receipt of the letter and then photocopy that for your records. You could also send one to the School Board on top of the school itself. Have you ask to see the allergy policy for your school/school board? Do that and then take action. But always keep a copy of the letter on file for yourself. You could even type up the letter for your doctor to sign (as some have terrible handwriting that is difficult to read). Just a thought/recommendation. Your child’s safety should never be compromised for the sake of a pepper at a meal program. That’s absolutely not ok. As your daughter’s advocate, I would pursue this issue with both the school and School Board in question.

  15. Good Grief! Stay on your horse girl. I thought that we’d ended allergy ignorance but apparently not.

    I have life threatening allergies so we’re super aware in our house. My kiddo does not but now that a wee boy at her preschool is allergic to nuts she asks about every food that goes to school. If she can do that at 3 1/2 then why is is so difficult for adults?

  16. My 2 kids, thankfully have no known food allergies. But you know what? When a parent tells me or if I find out a child we know has an allergy like that I definitely remember it and always remember it. And always announce, “there’s no nuts in here” when I bring food to a potluck. We’re the adults here and it’s our job to protect children. They learn from us. It truly baffles me that eating a meal (which likely less than 30 minutes out of the school day) that is safe for those with serious food allergies, is such an issue to parents who’s kids don’t have food allergies. My don’t have allergies and we are mindful of the food we bring around our friends with allergies. They’re fine. If they want that peanut butter and jelly – their lives aren’t altered for them when they have to wait to eat one at home or somewhere far away from anyone deathly allergic. Seems like common sense to me. And it just baffles me so many question it.

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