Every once in a while, particularly during the back-to-school season, we see a flurry of blog posts and articles about allergies.
The posts typically concern one of two things, depending on the proclivities of the author:
1) Please don’t bring [this thing that my child is deathly allergic to] to school, I’m begging you! or;
2) Whatever, I don’t care if your kid dies.
My son has a pretty severe tree nut allergy. Guess which category this post falls into?
I get it. I’m lazy and American too. But I’m not a sociopath. Or a freedom-hating communist. And you don’t have to be Mother Theresa or George Washington to realize that your middling inconvenience and absurd ideas about freedom and equal rights don’t stand up next to a child’s life.
Yes, this is a free country. And yes, you have the “right” to feed your kid peanut butter (and tree nuts and eggs and cat hair and dust, if your kid likes to eat cat hair and dust) all the time, just as these kids have the right to live and you have the right to be an asshole. Guess what? You’re exercising it! AMERICA!
Is there anything more infuriating than someone whining about their “freedom” and their “rights” and “equality” in an attempt to explain why they should be allowed to flagrantly endanger another person’s life? I’m not even talking about guns (this time), I’m talking about PEANUT BUTTER.
I’m well aware that the burden should be on the kids’ parents. Read this post, from the mother of a little girl with an incredibly severe peanut allergy, if you question whether the burden actually is. And sure, for some kids, an allergy can be so severe that mingling with the public, at school or wherever, is fraught with danger. In those cases, it’s up to the parent to decide if the allergy is so intense, so difficult to manage, that they simply can’t take the risk. But if the reason that it’s too difficult is because your kid really loves peanut butter and/or you don’t have time to make something else for him? You are the worst.
My son can have peanut butter (peanuts are a legume!) but he has a pretty bad tree nut allergy. I don’t know if he’ll die if he eats one, but I do know that his reaction won’t be good. A few months ago he accidentally ate one and the dreaded allergic reaction kicked in. He vomited and his throat closed up and Mom and Buried and I shit our pants and called the doctor. He was okay but we were warned that the next time would be worse.
As relieved as I was at that moment, a lifetime of annoying, paranoiac vigilance flashed before my eyes. Visions of a lifetime of stressful, hyper-aware, super-annoying, high-maintenance attentiveness to every treat at every birthday party he attends, and every ingredient in every meal we order when we’re out to dinner, and constant pre-sleepover phone calls and pre-school year teacher chats, bombarded my brain. My shoulders slumped at the mere thought of it. They still do.
And yet that “lifetime of annoying, paranoiac vigilance” is exactly what I want. I pray to Jeebus that my life is inconvenienced with that constant double-checking, because if it is, it means my son is still alive. I want to be that overbearing, high-maintenance parent, because so long as I have that role, it means he’s still around to need me in it. That he hasn’t yet been felled by an errant almond in some generous, innocent little schoolmate’s amicably offered candy bar.
Even if you think that the parents of kids with allergies screwed up by not exposing the child to potential allergens at an early age, so as to prevent or reduce their kid’s susceptibility, that ship has sailed. It is neither incumbent upon you to step in and try to “help” the kid prepare for the real world and gamble with his health by refusing to eliminate the allergens from your kid’s meals, nor is it okay to “teach them a lesson” or punish them for “screwing up” by refusing to eliminate the allergens from your kid’s meals. I mean, listen to yourself. Are you insane?
I get it. I am always looking for shortcuts, especially when it comes to parenting. It’s a lot of work, any and all hacks to reduce that work are welcome. Pass them along! And we all know it can be hard to get our kids to do anything we tell them to do eat. But ignoring a school’s regulations, or belittling a child for something he can’t control, or endangering a child because you don’t want to deal with taking an extra 90 seconds to make lunch or because “it’s not my responsibility” to care for someone else’s kids or because “THIS IS AMERICA!” is not a hack. It’s hateful.
Yes, parents of kids with severe food allergies are seeking special treatment for their children, if you consider “offering a modicum of consideration for the well-being of other people in your community by having to delay your child’s peanut butter consumption until later in the day so that a classmate doesn’t lose oxygen to his brain and die” to be “special treatment.”
You’re right, it’s not your responsibility to care for someone else’s kids, but doing your best to make sure someone still has their kids around to parent is simply the right thing to do, inconvenience be damned. It’s actually the bare minimum. We live in a civilized society, and there are some basic steps we need to take to maintain that. One of them is doing our best not to kill each other.
No, I don’t want to pay your kid’s medical bills, but taking a few extra minutes to potentially alter the food I pack in my kid’s lunchbox so that your kid incurs fewer of them is something I think I can handle. I’m a pretty big asshole, but when the stakes of my behavior include the potential death of children, I try my best to be a little more considerate.
For the love of Pete, people, it’s just peanut butter. I can’t live without beer but I can handle not having it for a few hours, until I get home!