Have No Fear: Be Free
I won’t sign a petition to make a camp peanut free. I’m not demanding that local schools have egg free options on the menu. And next week at our friend’s holiday party, I’m not expecting a special dairy free dessert. Just because my child has allergies, the world doesn’t have to stop operating as it does and start revolving around our concerns. And yes, he does have multiple allergies including all nuts, dairy and egg to name a few.
My son fully understands what he can eat and knows what’s in something before he puts it in his mouth. We bring his food everywhere. I just refuse to teach him to be entitled and defined by his allergies. I refuse to have him live a life of fear.
Let’s consider a child without allergies. It’s the height of rudeness to demand others cater to our particular tastes. So, you don’t like bananas? Well, it should just be taken off the menu for everyone- that makes sense. You get an upset stomach from bananas? Just don’t eat it. Here’s an idea, eat something else or bring your own food. You feel left out? Too bad- who ever said that we are all alike? Life isn’t fair. And that’s okay.
I know what you are going to say – an allergy is different. You can DIE. Relax. Take a deep breath. I’ll get to the death thing but first – here’s a simple solution: don’t eat the banana. Bring your own food. There are lots of people who don’t eat what’s on the menu for all kinds of reasons. My son doesn’t have to have what everyone else does. We aren’t all equal and that’s a valuable lesson to learn.
If my son spends his time ensuring that everything is accommodating to him- his allergies become a much greater part of him than I am willing to give. When someone asks my son to describe himself, the last thing I want him to say is that he has allergies. When our children’s allergies become a focus of our daily life- then we’ve crossed a line.
I understand there is no escaping a food allergy but it has to be treated in our children’s lives as commonplace as breathing- something that is done but not discussed- it’s assumed. There are others who deal with physical challenges on a daily basis- diabetics, amputees, the blind, the deaf . . . . What makes us rise to a challenge is not that we are consumed by it but that it is unnoticeable to us.
Now to death- How different is an allergy than a terrorist? A terrorist can strike despite our greatest efforts at deterrence. Yet, in the face of terror we must live- throw that ball, dance in the streets, be free. To live in fear is to declare defeat. Life is meant to be consumed- be experienced – be lived. To live a life locked in our own bubble is unacceptable. Once we put fear into the lives of our children, we hinder their ability to interact with our world to the fullest extent possible. If children are taught that at any moment they can die from a misplaced crumb, their sense of self-preservation will keep them locked up. That is not a life worth living.
We all have fears. Some have greater fears than others. But our fears cannot define us. When we demand schools to be free from all allergens and have pictures of our children, their names and allergies visible for all- we’ve gone too far. When we sing songs about how food allergies rock- we’ve gone too far. When we have our children wear bright red medical bracelets that list all their allergies- we’ve gone too far.
I have sympathy for children who have airborne, contact and multiple anaphylactic allergies. It’s not fair that they may not be able to be in school or camp with other children. They don’t have the same opportunities- perhaps they will have strengths we do not yet know. But for the vast majority of children who have reactions simply by ingesting food- I have one thing to say: don’t eat it.
As parents it is our responsibility to ensure that our children grow to be healthy, independent individuals who contribute to our world. If our children are self centered, consumed with their frailties, and afraid of the world- we fail in our mission.