When I think back to how much I’ve learned from the first day my daughter Mollie was diagnosed with severe food allergies, it is staggering. At that time, I thought if I just carried her Epi-pen, read ingredient labels and remembered to inform wait staff at restaurants of her food allergies, everything would be fine. Four years later, I now know it’s not that simple. There is no black and white in the world of food allergies, just a lot of gray areas where parents need to ask questions and advocate for their children.
I’ve also discovered that there are a lot of people out there who really love peanut butter – enough to fight for it, sign petitions against banning it, and other serious stuff. Some believe that a mere 3% of the population (which equates to approximately 12 million people I must add) should not dictate guidelines that inconvenience the rest, and that “hysterical” parents who fear for their children’s lives should just remove themselves from society to “raise them in a bubble”.
This controversy over food allergies was yet another factor I had not expected but have learned much more about in recent years. I have personally experienced the eye rolls and obvious resistance to making any special accommodations for my daughter where food is concerned. On the flip side, I have also experienced overwhelmingly thoughtful parents and teachers who have gone above and beyond to help her feel included.
So my New Year’s Resolution for 2010 (and every year after that) is to help educate and promote understanding and acceptance of people living on both sides of the issue without judgment or frustration. Because before Mollie’s diagnosis, I was one of those people that just didn’t “get it”. I never gave a second thought to the kind of candy I purchased for Halloween trick-or-treaters, or worried about the open bulk peanut bins at the grocery store, or paid attention to which utensils I used to prepare or serve a meal.
And while I concede that some parents can be a little overbearing about their child’s food allergies (myself included), I have to ask, can we really blame them? If you’ve ever seen your own child swell up beyond recognition or struggle to breathe because a small bite of food, I don’t think you would. I sincerely believe there’s a happy medium out there and I’m on a mission to find it.
Isn’t it Oprah that says “When you know better, you do better?” I love Oprah! And I truly do want to do better for all the little buggers who are out there living with food allergies. So I’m gonna try. Because as much as I used to love to eat peanut butter sandwiches myself, I obviously love my daughter a whole lot more. Is there really a comparison?