Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Educate, don't attack, when missteps are made.

There is quite a lot of outrage about an article that was published on Buzzfeed by Quaker.  "50 thoughts every mom has at snacktime."  

It caught the eye of the allergy community in a big way when it included:

 "The kids will be home soon, and they’ll be hungry.  Are they bringing that friend with all of those allergies?  I really hope not. I mean, I like her, but come on."

If you read through the entire 50 thoughts, I think it is a very real flow of consciousness.  It's silly, it's serious, it's distracted, it's an honest glimpse into a mom's scattered thoughts on a chaotic day.  There are no disparaging words said about the child, or her allergies, only the implication that coming up with a snack that would be safe is more effort than she wants to put forth in that moment.  

Let's be real: it *is* hard to feed a child with multiple allergies.  It takes effort and forethought.  That is what I hear from this mom.  Lord knows there are days that I don't want to deal with the effort and MY daughter has multiple allergies.  It's hard.  Especially for someone who doesn't live with it.  I think it's sad that they chose this to use in their ad, but it is a reality for a lot of moms, and their goal was to be relatable.  I hate that it is hard for others to have my kiddo over for a playdate, but I accept that it is a reality for the other mom. 

It's a reality that some of our children are hard to feed.  Quaker pointed it out.  It was not the most elegant or polite way to handle the situation.  Yes, they could have done the same with any disability- they could state that they 'hope the kid with the wheel chair isn't coming because it's so hard to get him up to Tommy's bedroom' and she 'hates bringing all the toys down to the living area', she could state that she doesn't want 'the ESL kid to come because she feels awkward when she doesn't understand what is said'.... All of those things are real thoughts that mothers can have, but we shut them down with a) reality, and b) compassion.  We know that hosting someone who is differently abled can be a challenge, but we typically realize that building a bond of friendship is worth a bit of extra effort, and people who are different are worth it just because they are human.  So it was a stream of consciousness, but it is one that few moms with social etiquette or taste would ever share.  One of those thoughts that may race through your head but you would never give voice to.  We can all acknowledge the truth in it, but there is no need to speak some truths out loud.

As a community we need to step in and call out the insensitivity.  We should ask for an apology, even a retraction.  We should not lambaste them and shame them for making a misstep.  That is not the example I want to show my children.  I ask for mistakes to be corrected, I occasionally ask for apologies, and I try to do it in a way that allows for them to step up and do the right thing, to become aware rather than feel defensive.  

We are quick to demand empathy, accommodation, and acceptance.  We are slow to offer the same empathy, kindness and education needed to raise awareness when there is a public misstep.

Many of the comments on the article were angry, and many were in a tone that I'm certain the author would not use with a person they knew and had to look in the face while speaking in such a manner.  Most wouldn't walk into the school and talk to a teacher about a problem in this manner, and school often makes mistakes that we are in charge of handling.  We talk with a respectful tone.  Make them feel educated, not attacked.  When people feel attacked they shut down and can not hear the message you bring, and this message is too important not to hear.

We can not call for compassion and understanding without offering it.  Quaker spoke an ugly truth out loud.  It is poor form in that it helps to perpetuate bad attitudes toward accommodating those that living with food allergies.  Feel free to educate them. Be kind when you do it. 


  1. This is a great post. Thank you!

  2. I've been thinking that as a community we need allies instead of enemies. If someone makes a mistake and genuinely apologizes, we need to accept it and move on, instead of searching for ways to punish them. The mess with the school board in Michigan is another example.


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