|But...but...but we ALWAYS use M&Ms for this math unit! |
We simply must! And they're not the peanut ones!
It's hard to be *that* parent. The buzzkill. The one who stays at drop-off birthday parties. The one who always has sleepovers at her place because it's too complicated to try and figure out what you'd feed our kid. The one who has to grill every teacher and counselor on when and how to use an epipen, and remind them to always carry them around, including bonus reminders when field trips come up. It's hard to be the one who has to say no to kind offers of playdates because we don't know your babysitter and whether or not they'd be able to give mini an Epipen should she get a reaction. We feel awkward telling you this but you know something's up when we're always suggesting our babysitter pick up your kid instead. It's like putting a kid in a moving vehicle without a seat belt. You really want to, it'd be so damn convenient, but you know you just can't do it.
Hard as it is, we're about to get even more annoying. See, we'd like to guilt you out of feeding our child. No, really.
Caroline over at Grateful foodie wrote a beautiful post with words she wishes she'd said to her food-allergic child's teacher. Worth a read, really. We couldn't have said it better ourselves. When every time you're at school at 7pm and still see your child's teacher there, it's really hard to know that you're intentionally adding to their plate.
But one thing we've been wanting to say to other parents for a long long time is simple: please don't send food to school. No, really, there are so many reasons this is bad it's just not worth it anymore. Think about this. Statistically, in a class of 25 kids*:
- Peter and Sam, like mini, will have life-threatening food allergies and chances are they can't eat what you're sending your child with because of some random cross-contact risk you wouldn't have known to think of even though those licorice strips seem so innocuous and "safe".
- Stella has diabetes and she can't eat anything without going to the nurse to check her blood sugar first and maybe even getting a shot.
- Jade has celiac and that shit ain't gluten-free
- Joe and Coy have a mother that doesn't believe in sugar, and there's no way they can eat it without getting themselves into serious trouble and dealing with their mom calling the school to complain about sugary treats in class. They'll probably choose to eat the snack, enjoy it with guilt, and then lie by omission to their parents in order to feel normal without causing any kind of annoying scene.
- Kenny wants three of them! His mom might be the least happy about this because Kenny is now in the 95th percentile for weight and she has been struggling for 6 months to get him down to one treat a day max without complaints and this is a big setback.
- Annie has no reason that she knows of not to eat it, so she'll enjoy, but her mom and dad, having figured out way too late that eliminating sugar nearly cures her of her all ADHD symptoms, are really fucking pissed when they get home and see the state she's in. They don't have to ask her to know what happened.
The other thing none of the above takes into account is that you are putting the child's teacher in an awkward position. If the policy is no treats, you're making them choose between being the policy police and pissing you off, or letting it go and giving it to the kids, and pissing of other parents if they find out, not to mention knowingly excluding the kids they know of that can't eat it. That's not really fair to the teacher. So here's what happens why you think to yourself, oh, wouldn't it be nice if we could bring just one little treat for the class to share something from our winter vacation. Or a little gift bag for an extra treat to celebrate the holiday. It's harmless, really.
In the case of our child, even if treats are allowed and the policy supports it, and you bring in "something for the allergy kid" you're still making teachers choose between seriously excluding her, or making a judgement call as to whether or not it's safe for her to eat (ps it's not safe for someone else's kid just because you said so!) But hey, it's only a potentially life-threatening judgement call. It's not like that doesn't scare the crap out of them or anything. Plus, there's always option c, which is a frantic last minute phone call to the parents to find out if it's safe. This option is loads of fun for everyone. And by loads of fun we mean wanting to tear your hair out if you have to step out of a meeting for yet another last minute "can she eat x...." call when x shouldn't have even been brought in without notice anyway.
They should be.......
(wait for it)...........
Food is distracting. You may have nostalgic memories about how fun it was to get treats in school, but guess what? It ain't 1983 anymore. Another woman had nostalgic memories about being able to leave her kids for a few minutes in a safe and cool vehicle under her watchful eye from afar and guess what happened to her? No? Don't wanna guess? We'll sum it up for you: she found out IT'S NOT FUCKING 1983 ANYMORE.
Times are different, peeps. Yes, we swapped our lunches and fed all the kids, and yes it was great, and yes it'd be lovely if we could all help our kids get a simpler childhood. But things are different now. We don't care if everyone you know with an allergy outgrew it, the reality is that allergies, intolerances, and serious diseases like obesity and diabetes are a fact of life today, and in many cases we don't know why the incidence is so much higher than it used to be. But it's there and it's not going away even if you choose to ignore it.
Now, we realize that eating different food at lunch, parties, whatever is a fact of her life and when we tell you how she has accepted that without complaining in a way that's way more mature than she should have to be at her age, we mean it. But the unexpected situations are what gets us -- especially when unnecessary. It seems like not a week goes by when our child doesn't come home from a supposedly food-free classroom or from camp in tears because she had to sit and watch everyone else eat a yummy treat while she looked down on a pretzel or a stale cookie from her safe stash in the closet. Yes, she got something too, and there are workarounds, but they don't work very well in reality. And it's really bad when it's something that smells delicious, like pizza, which was brought in last minute as a treat and your kid describes in agonizing detail what it felt like to smell that delicious pizza and stare down at some plain cold pasta instead. And you know what hasn't changed since 1983? It's STILL really hard to be different when you're a kid. And mini (and Annie and Joe and Peter) don't want to come home from school feeling excluded, or guilty, or sad any more than your kids want to. And we don't want to lie awake at night, wondering if the teacher will remember to clean the counter from that snack so that if our child touched the counter later and rubbed her eye she wouldn't get a reaction. Ok, ok, so we're lucky to be in a school where at least her allergens aren't allowed to that degree, but if she were allergic to dairy (very common in children) it'd be a whole different ball game. And, as we're trying to point out here, it's not just about one kid, is it? All these kids need our help. All these kids deserve to enjoy school without obstacles to learning. All these kids deserve their teacher's time fully focused on their learning and not distracted by food.
So please, we are begging. Yes, schools are finally starting to get the message, but while we wait for schools to slooooooooowly adopt and even more slowly enforce food-free classroom policies, help out your kids' peers, will you? Next time you want to bring just a little harmless treat for all the kids in the class, think twice and at least reconsider. Bring in a food-free treat if you really want to. Or just nothing at all. You can be the change. You can begin the momentum. You can make this better.
We promise you the teachers and at least half the parents in the class will thank you for not bringing in food. Us especially.
And, if you're still not sold, you know what you're doing for YOUR child when you do this? You're explaining why they have to choose something else and talking to them about seeing things from another point of view. You're teaching them respect for their classmates. You're teaching them compassion for others.
Now, while we're the first ones to admit there's almost nothing better than a cupcake, in this case, it it really worth it? Wouldn't all our children be better off with more compassion and a few extra recess minutes instead?**
*Names are made up for effect. Duh.
**The answer is yes. It's rhetorical, peeps.