Bullet-proof kids…a MAJOR rant by a tired Mommy.

April 19, 2006 at 6:53 pm (social issues)

People!!!

Stop indiscriminately buying candy for children for holiday treats. PLEASE do not buy candy for children that aren't yours. The number of children with life-threatening food allergies is on the rise. PLEASE STOP endangering children that you don't know with your own traditions of generosity.

Keep your candy to the children you know well, whose parents approve of them receiving that candy.

When you buy candy for strange children, you send food allergy families into chaos, panic, strife. Imagine if, at every holiday, you turned up for whatever event, only to have to turn around and leave because there was an unexpected and unwarned-about introduction of an unsafe element in the environment.

For example (cue dream sequence music)…

You go to the mall to go shopping. It is the day after National Rifle Owner's Day & free guns are on the agenda all day. It was not advertised and you had no idea. You are walking around the mall, and someone is giving out free guns and ammo to all the kids. All the kids are bullet-proof except yours, and they are shooting at one another. The bullets are bouncing off every surface and ricocheting around the mall. The other kids are squealing with delight and your kids do not understand why you do not let them join in the fun.

Some of the parents of the bullet-proof children suspect your children might be really bullet-proof, too, but that you are being over-protective. They suspect that if they are a little casual about the bullets and the shooting, that you will be shown the light about your over-protectiveness and you will get over it. Some of them suspect you are causing your child more harm than good by keeping him away from the guns and the ammo. Still others think you secretly enjoy the attention that having a supposedly "bullet sensitive" child affords you. They may speculate that you are unhappy at home and enjoy having "the right" to boss other people around and be a party pooper because you have "the need to control others."

When you get fed up with the shootings and the bullets and the attitudes, you and your spouse might deal with this differently. Instead of finding understanding and cooperation there, you find yourself having to fight a battle at home–a battle that would never have occured if you did not have to walk into an ambush at the mall in the first place. Now the can of worms is open and you are having it out with your spouse, your parents, your children (perhaps), your sitter, whoever you turned to for support and understanding about the issue in the first place. Perhaps you'd rather err on the side of caution when it comes to bullets and guns, and you'd like the time to calmly talk to whoever was in charge of the shooting spree, but it will take some time and work to find that person, and in the meantime, you'd like to speak outloud freely to someone who can help you formulate a plan.

But perhaps the only people who you have to turn to in your support circle harbor some of the same feelings as the parents at the mall. Or maybe they are busy, tired, angry for some other reason–whatever. Maybe you face intense societal and familial pressure about how you handle your non-bullet-proof children in a world where getting shot is no big deal.

In this world, there is no Disabilities act that addresses the rights of bullet-proof children. The best your society has managed to do is to label guns with the words "Contains bullets." There is pending legislation in some areas to keep kids safe from bullets in schools. Some schools are already bullet-free. In still others, parents have tried to sue for bullet-free schools and they have lost. They have been told straight-out that the needs of their bullet-sensitive children cannot and will not be met by the schools and organizations because it's not a legal requirement to do so. It's not a question of what is right and wrong, of what is safe or unsafe, it is a question of what is considered fun & un-fun, and those who want to have fun are allowed to trump the needs of those who are "unfun."

…end dream sequence music.

This is the world of the food allergy parent every single day. In the world of young children, there are food considerations lurking around every corner. These are training years for the child, for the child's friends, for friends and neighbors, for teachers and schools, for churches and for the parents, themselves (not to mention grandparents and parents of playmates, family members, co-workers, the mailman, etc. etc.). In these years, lots of mistakes and slip-ups will be made by Mom and Dad as well as others. It is hard as hell to get through a time like this, and a little cooperation, patience, and understanding goes a long, long way. Most food allergy parents are not experts overnight, and neither are daycare workers, Bible school teachers, playgroup Moms, or anyone else. Even other food allergy parents will have different needs and expectations from you and what you feel comfortable doing.

Wouldn't it be simpler if people just took food out of the equation? Years ago, you couldn't go to a party or event anywhere without smoking and drinking being there. Now, due to liability and the preferences of the changing needs of the population, it is nearly unheard of to have smoking and drinking in a public place other than a bar. It has become outright seedy, whereas thirty or forty years years (even twenty years) ago it was commonplace to smoke inside a car with the windows rolled up, and a small child inside the car breathing in all that smoke.  There was even a time when drunk driving was not illegal or frowned upon.  It was considered your right!
What we now know has made all the difference.

We will never extricate the experience of eating with the experience of celebration. Food will always be a treat, even when it is a vice, even when it is dangerous to others. The misbehavior of indulging in a DQ Blizzard is a large part of the appeal. The day's calories, the fat…all contained in that cold, creamy, delicious treat…if you're not supposed to have it, that makes it all the better!

No, we won't get this whole societal change to occur by whining. It has to come from the people who are NOT at risk themselves. The bullet-proof have to appreciate the risk of anaphylaxis and respond to that positively. The "Thanks for Not Smoking" signs will have to be paired up with "Thanks for Not Eating" signs in public places.

Food is more dangerous to an anaphylactic child than exposure to your feces, I dare say. Yes, hepatitis can be cured but death can not. You would not blow smoke in the face of my toddler or defecate on his plate. Do NOT put peanut products in front of him. Do not hand them out to his classmates. When you do things like this, you destroy the safety, peace, and serenity we have to work so hard to maintain.

Children are not created bullet-proof.

Neither are families. We need support to work through situations like this. You put families at risk when you put food allergic children at risk. You turn good days into hard days–bad days into nightmares.

You want to experience terror? Imagine a young child, food allergic and learning, witnessing a fight between his two parents, each of whom are running on adrenaline from trying to problem-solve a societally-difficult situation like the "surprise" peanut candy party on the fly. He thinks it is his fault, this child. You know he does because it's human nature for children to assume that responsibility. Mom and Dad are good people, but even good people can only take so much stress, especially when they are tired, hungry, under deadline, you name it. Freddie Vs. Jason has nothing on Mom Vs. Dad when the issue at hand is "I want to let him go, I think they can handle it" and "I want him to stay, I don't trust these caregivers."

We can't change the world. The world has to change itself. We can't change medical facts. We can only protect so much.

If you don't know what anaphylaxis is, visit FAAN today.

There is no excuse for remaining willfully ignorant. To know you need education and to choose to remain uneducated is called "stupidity." To act on that stupidity is called "reckless endangerment." That is a crime as well as a sin, and I will unleash any law or line of reasoning under the sun to get you to understand this.

In the end, though, I accept that the choice is up to you. If you choose to endanger my child and hide that fact from me, there is not a thing I can do short of withdrawing trust from every single person in my life and hiding at home, which is something I'm not willing to do.

I hope I've made someone out there think twice about this. I know I have, from the many replies I've gotten to my essays on the subject in the past. That frees me to write a rant like this and hit the "publish" button. I know that it will tick some people off, but maybe it will wake them up a little, too.

Bang, bang.

Feel free to email this entry around, but please link back to this site.

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4 Comments

  1. momma-yaya said,

    Wow, Leslea! Your analogy is spot on. The guns and ammo comparison very aptly describes the terrifying experiences that so-called “normal” situations present to families with severe food allergies. I can’t add anything to this at all, except my congratulations on so precisely putting into words what I’ve been feeling in my heart for so many years, and my sympathy for whatever experience inspired this post.

  2. Kelly said,

    I appreciate your situation. I too have a child with food allergies. We are fortunate that he does not seem so sensitive that we have to worry about anaphylaxis – not yet anyway. I would also note that people are allergic to many different things. My son is not allergic to the “typical” food allergies we hear about – nuts, shellfish, or even wheat. He is allergic to apples and corn. It is tough when there is a party at school, scouts, sports, etc. and parents are trying to be nutritous by serving juice based drinks – most of which are based on apple juice and fruit chews- also based on apples. I am lucky, my son is old enough (9) to read labels and know that he needs to read them. I try to be prepared with alternative treats. I am proud of the way my son handles his situation and the compassion he has developed for others. (He has a friend in class that has peanut and egg allergies and wants to build a resturaunt that is peanut-free so his friend can came to it.)

  3. allergyware said,

    That is so sweet, Kelly. I’m glad he has found a way to cope, and found some good friends!

    Momma-yaya, thanks!

  4. Kylie said,

    I had an experience where my daughter took an Easter egg from the Easter Bunny at a shopping centre and was about to eat it. She’s normally very careful about taking food from others, however this time he took it because she knew that the Easter Bunny “knows I have allergies ‘cos he always brings me soy eggs”. How do you explain that one? She now knows that even the Easter bunny forgets about her allergies sometimes, and mummy and daddy always need to check the ingredients.

    Kylie

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