With food allergy rates skyrocketing, especially among children, there's a lot of talk these days about inclusion in schools.
Let me start by saying that as a food allergy mom of two I am totally pro-inclusion!
My kiddos are collectively allergic to tree nuts, mustard and eggs, and my son is anaphylactic to peanuts. There are things I have come to expect from our school so they don't feel excluded.
- I fully expect our classrooms to be nut free!
- I expect my kids to be able to eat with their class and not in a corner or a separate room all alone.
- I expect them to be able to participate in class parties and school events.
- I expect them to be safe!
I do not, however, believe that all cupcakes should be banned from the entire school! I think that the idea of "non-food fun" sounds a little, well-not fun! (I really, really love food so maybe this is an issue I should work on).
I think that as long as kids are safe, it's okay for them to learn that maybe sometimes they just can't have something they want, even if the other kids have it.
I believe that kids need to learn that sometimes life's not fair!
They are going to need this important lesson in their lives, because it's going to come up over and over. Someday they are going to train hard for a race and then trip at the finish line. They are going to have a teacher that is a real jerk. They are going to get dumped, or fired, or passed up for the part in the school play they deserved.
Don't get me wrong. Like most Moms, I want to kiss every boo-boo and make it better. If a friend breaks their heart, mine breaks too. I want their little lives to be all sunshine and glitter and rainbows, I really do!
But shouldn't the other kids get to be happy too? Should we steal the joy from the face of the birthday boy who wants to bring his special treat to class, ban every Easter Egg hunt and Halloween party? Should we just play pin the tail on the donkey and give each kid a pencil and call it a party? Come on, honestly, what kid wants a pencil?!
I have heard some allergy parents say that parties shouldn't revolve around food anyway, that food is not imperative to fun. Certainly, there is some truth to this idea. There are a lot of ways to entertain kids without food.
However, as an adult when you are invited to a party, what do you expect? When you arrive, you want a cold drink and some hors d'oeurves at a bare minimum! What is the first thing you look for after making a few pleasantries with the host and maybe do a little mingling? The food table. Admit it. You are making a beeline for that food table!
True, parties do not have to be all about food. We can definitely put more of an emphasis on games and activities and prizes. But lets not completely deprive kids of a few special holiday treats.
What about our kids?
- Send in safe snacks. Find some gluten free prepackaged cupcakes or nut free candies to keep at school for those unexpected days when snacks may arrive.
- Be present at parties when possible to help your child choose safe foods.
- Make special non allergic treats for party days
- Ensure the teacher communicates to the other parents if your child has a severe allergy and a certain food needs to be avoided. Most parents and teachers are very accommodating.
For my kids we requested nut free rooms due to the risk of anaphylaxis. I didn't ask that our classrooms be egg or mustard free because even though my daughter couldn't eat those foods, it wasn't going to kill her if someone near her ate them, or if she accidentally ingested a bit of them.
Yes, my son and daughter are the kids that don't get to eat the cupcakes. And you know what? They have survived!
We food allergy parents need to band together in solidarity to keep our kids safe! But if it's not a safety issue, maybe we can lighten up just a bit? Let's be fair but reasonable.
Don't let food allergy parents go down in history as the Grinches that stole school parties!
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