I consider myself as a reasonable individual with realistic expectations from my family and others. Why then when I was asked to speak to incoming Kindergarten parents at my son’s school about the severity of his peanut allergy was I a mess?
Why did I feel that I would be viewed as irrational and over the top, as someone with unrealistic expectations? To think that others without a life-threatening food allergy would consider providing an alternative to their child’s favorite PB&J didn’t seem that unrealistic to me.
Why ? Because many of them did look at me that way. Many who were uneducated about the true dangers of food allergies?
Why? Because I was not the only mother who has a child at the school with a peanut allergy. I was however the only parent asking for special accommodations to keep my child safe.
Why? Because I was the only parent there whose child had experienced a severe anaphylactic reaction which almost took his life. The thought of leaving him in an environment with 5 and 6 year olds eating peanut products that could potentially have a fatal outcome for him was paralyzing.
There are a number of challenges that make managing food allergies unique. One is that we are not able to manage this alone. Keeping children with food allergies safe requires help from those who will be near them, and who will provide care for them.
Families who manage children with “hidden disabilities” deserve a unique medal. A hidden disability is a “catch-all phrase” that means a person’s impairment or condition is not obviously apparent or visible. In the example of food allergies, children appear happy, healthy and live a “normal” life. It is hard for someone to imagine a trace element of a peanut protein sending them into anaphylactic shock.
For the most part when parents are provided with the appropriate educational materials, they are happy to make daily sacrifices for the safety of other children. So while I still consider myself a reasonable individual, I understand that others may view me as “over-the-top”. When it comes to the safety of my child I can accept that.
Do you have a story where protecting your child was perceived as “over the top”?
To help teach food allergy safety, I have developed a set of training flashcards. You can learn more about them at www.beyondapeanut.com