It happens every year, a few times a year. Teachers send out class guidelines, snack reminders, general information, and always include the asterisks-engulfed phrase “Absolutely no peanut products allowed”.
Parents groan, protest, complain. A few even name-call the unnamed student this policy exists for.
It happens on almost every flight I’m on.
Someone is handed an elf-sized bag of Gardetto’s and asks, “Can I not get peanuts?” “No,” the flight attendant sighs and rolls their eyes, “because some people have ‘allergies’.” Air quotes and all.
Then they bond over their shared irritation at these anonymous people with questionable (in their eyes) allergies.
It happens every day on the internet.
Like, multiple times a day. Memes and complaints about “allergy kids”, jokes about “made up allergies” being the product of overprotective parents. “Back in my day we didn’t have all these ‘allergies’, kids are so weak nowadays. We ate peanut butter off a jagged rusty knife and we lived to tell about it.”
Internet commenters grab their digital pitchforks and rush to reply with their own distaste, disdain, and disbelief when it comes to these “weak” kids who are depriving their kids of the glories of peanut butter between the hours of 8 and 3.
The thing is, though, as I sit next to the complainers on the plane and read the email replies rolling in, I know who the kid is they’re complaining about. She’s mine.
She’s only seven, and she carries the weight and fear of life-threatening food allergies with her everywhere she goes. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not (yes, a parent actually argued with me that they didn’t believe in such bad allergies), peanuts will kill her.
She’ll die. Traumatically. And if your kid is the one who brought peanuts into the classroom, it’ll happen right in front of them.
Believe me, I understand the inconvenience. Peanut butter is a cheap, tasty protein, it’s easy to turn into a lunch, almost universally appealing to picky eaters.
Snickers bars are the stuff of dreams and why even become an adult if you can’t keep a stash of mini Reese’s cups in your night stands, amiright? I get it, I do. What you’ve had to give up during school hours I’ve had to kiss goodbye forever.
The thing is, though, that convenience will never be worth my daughter’s life.
And however you feel about having to pack a different snack, it pales in comparison to the trauma your child would experience watching their classmate go into anaphylactic shock. Oh, and to the fact that a child could die.
“Why don’t they just make those kids go to a different school so everyone else doesn’t have to be bothered and disrupted by their allergies?”
That’s a common one I hear. And I understand how convenient it feels as a society to just round up everyone who is different and have them go somewhere else so we don’t have to be burdened with their struggles.
That almost sounds a little familiar, as though it’s happened at some point in history and maybe didn’t go so well… The fact is that my daughter, my incredibly healthy, creative, brilliant, and hilarious daughter, is guaranteed access to public education, just like your child is.
We’ve thought about homeschooling, and at some point we may, but for now her school is willing and able to make a few changes that keep her safe.
She loves her friends and they love her, and when people bring snacks that aren’t laced with peanuts, there are no issues and no one’s education is interfered with.
I know it seems like a lot to ask of you, but I promise you’re not the only one sacrificing.
Your child can’t bring peanut butter crackers to class, but mine can’t even sit with friends at lunch, needing instead to sit safely away at a peanut-free table.
Your child can’t bring Nutter Butters to the Halloween party, but mine can’t even trick or treat.
Your child has to pick something else to bring, my child could actually die.
Really, truly die.
There’s been a surge of research into the field of food allergies, especially with the enormous increase of them over the last generation.
Truthfully, though, we still don’t know exactly what causes them. I have three children, ate the same way throughout their pregnancies, nursed, even used heckin’ cloth diapers and no pacifiers, and my daughter is the only one of my children to have these severe allergies.
Multiple doctors and lots of pricks and prods and tests still can’t tell us why she has them. These allergies aren’t something she inherited, they’re not the result of choices made during my pregnancy, but most importantly, they’re not anything she asked for.
My daughter is 7. She still believes in Santa Claus, she loves all things JoJo Siwa. She wants her nails painted 10 different colors. She reads voraciously and says 50 times more words than she reads. She’s a born performer, a friend to all, a stranger to none. She embraces earnestly, dances wildly, and feels deeply. She loves her Daddy and her oldest brother more than anyone in the world. She recently learned how to do a cartwheel, just graduated to being able to wear flats without a strap over the top, and is still in a booster seat.
If she’s in your child’s class, then she’s your child’s friend. She’s creative, extroverted, and has some severe food allergies. She can’t help them, she didn’t choose them.
She cries a few times a week that she can’t eat at the same table as her friends, that she can’t go to their birthday parties because we can’t know if the foods are safe.
She’s well aware of how different these allergies make her, and feels the inconvenience of them deeply, I dare say more than you.
She’s a human, real, child. She has a dozen dimples and big blue eyes, and she will die if exposed to peanuts.
No, your oils won’t cure her. No, small exposures won’t make her stronger. In fact, every subsequent reaction is likely to be more severe than the one before it.
Yes, I’m also aware that her allergies are not your responsibility. They’re really not.
We don’t accept offers of meals from friends when we’re sick because we know how much pressure that puts on someone else, trying not to kill a kid. I know these policies affect you, I know they’re inconvenient, I know you feel restricted because some other kid is now affecting what your kid can and can’t do.
But I also know that you, as a parent, feel the crushing fear and love that fills and shreds your chest when it comes to protecting your children. I know that you know what it feels like to worry for them, to advocate for them. You know what it’s like to hope people are kind to your child, accepting of the unique person they are. You know what it’s like to deeply inhale the beautiful scent of their hair and contentedly exhale when you see them breathing as they sleep.
So all I ask is that you don’t take that away from me.
As a parent, please don’t make the decision that your child’s snack is worth my child’s life.
As a parent, please don’t model for your children that doing what you want is worth the ultimate expense to others.
As a parent, please feel some sympathy for the fear and differences that pop up throughout our days. Please feel some sympathy for the life my child leads without Snickers and Reese’s and the classic pb&j. Please feel some sympathy, let it win out over irritation and inconvenience, and be agreeable to keeping a child safe.
I know it super sucks, but please ignore the impulse to protest and find ways around keeping my daughter alive. I’m happy to provide you with alternative meal and snack options if you’re truly struggling to find different things to send.
Just please, please keep the peanuts at home and please, please don’t let your frustration cost me my daughter.