Sunday, August 19, 2012

Innocence and Irritability

I have finally crossed over.  I AM that mom, the one that takes offense at innocent comments. *sigh*

Not really.  I usually take them in stride and accept them for what they are, comments made from a vantage of inexperienced lack of understanding.  Except for this morning.  An innocent comment made on twitter keeps rubbing at me, like that annoying pebble in your shoe when you don't have the luxury of immediately removing it.

"Kids were told they can't bring PB&J to school. Sad for their loss."  That is the extent of the innocent comment that has me agitated.  I understand that this is a parent quietly lamenting that the students at that school will not experience the same lunchtime simplicity he grew up with.  He is certainly entitled to feel a sense of sadness that his children, and the peer population, will miss this simple lunchtime tradition. Absolutely sincere here.

Personally, I'm not a supporter of peanut bans.  I think they create a false sense of security and lower the vigilance of the staff and the students by lulling them into thinking that the threat of accidental exposure has been removed.

Also?  How colossally unfair to ban peanuts and not other foods that may cause life threatening allergic reactions?  I know more than one child with atypical life threatening allergies.  One is contact sensitive to milk. He reacts ON CONTACT.  Tell me you will find a school that will ban milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products in order to spare this child.  I also know of life threatening allergies to eggs, chicken, garlic, wheat, and banana.  Can you imagine a school where all of these things are banned?

I know, I know. But peanuts have a sticky residue and their oils spread easily.  I've heard that.  Have you seen the way children eat?  Bananas are gooey and leave an easily transferred slime on little hands, as does yogurt.  Milk is more likely to be spilled and flood an allergic child's lap, possibly their lunchbox as well.  How can you possibly rank which life threatening allergen should take precedence over the others?  How does a school look a mother in the face and explain why they will ban the other child's allergen but not the one that will kill her child? Ugh. Not an easy place for the school, the staff, the parent or the child to find themselves.

Don't get me wrong.  I understand the why behind asking for a peanut ban.  I don't want anyone's child to be exposed to a toxic substance.  I don't want a cafeteria full of students to be forced to watch another child experience an anaphylactic reaction.  It is terrifying.  I don't want any school to lose a week of instructional time to grief counseling, trauma counseling, and funeral services.  Most of all, I don't want a child to die because of a 100% preventable exposure.

I digress. Greatly.

A parent is sad because his children can not bring PB&J to school.

Take just a minute and think about the other 16 hours in the day your child will get to enjoy their childhood favorite.  As an  after school snack, a Saturday picnic, a lazy dinner on a busy evening, on toast at breakfast.  Any day.  You pick.  Lots of time to eat PB&J outside of school.  Promise.

Now think about that other kid.  The one that caused the ban.  Who will never know PB&J.  Never.  Or Reece cups, eggs, or pumpkins.  Or Snickers bars.  Or about 95% of the ice creams on the market.  Anything from a bakery counter at the grocery store is off limits.  Donuts are almost never allowed. So many of the foods you take for granted and that embody your childhood memories? Not an option for the peanut allergic kid.

In addition this child will face ridicule and hard feelings directed at him because he is the reason the student population can not have their favorite lunch treat.  The kids know who it is.  They know why the holiday parties and birthday treats are restricted.

It does not foster feelings of pride and self confidence in the allergic kids to be the driving force behind dietary mandates at school.

And the bigger issue?  Your child will never know the fear of eating. That peanut allergic kid has sincere fear that he will die one day because he had a bite of a cookie.  Every day they are fearful.  Every. Day.  They are surrounded by a substance that is toxic to them.  They know that one moment of carelessness by another student, by a staff member, or even their self could easily endanger their life. Just one bite could change the future.

Imagine for just one moment that each classroom has an envelope of anthrax in it, and the children were told to "Just avoid it."  I don't know a single parent that would not protest.  For food allergic kids they face this everyday.  Their anthrax is all around them, and they have to "just avoid it."

Your sadness at the loss of PB&J at school?  I know, it is real.  But please, for the sake of that allergic child, try to keep it short lived and quiet.  Don't grumble about it at home, or quietly with other parents.  Help foster a sense of tolerance and understanding.  Make sure your children know it is a small inconvenience that is totally worthwhile.  After all, would you really pay for your sandwich with another child's life?

For a very recent real-life story, if you need one of the many out there, click here.

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