Before kids, I had heard of food allergies, even was diagnosed with a couple myself, that I eventually outgrew. But truly, I didn't give food allergies much thought before I had kids.
That all changed when R was in preschool and my PB&J loving (at the time) son's classroom posted a sign:
"This is a peanut-free zone."
My first reaction? What about me, me, me?! As in, "guess I have to find something else to make R for Lunch Bunch--that's a hassle."
I am embarrassed by my quick, initial reaction, but I think it is a common first thought...one that thankfully quickly passed.
For whatever reason, and we could debate it until the cows come home, there are increasing food allergies ranging from anaphylactic to milder sensitivities, especially amongst children. And for many children, these foods greatly affect their physical and emotional health.
My boys don't appear to have any food allergy or sensitivities at this time, but we've seen a strong correlation between diet and their overall well-being.
After going gluten-free for much of the spring, I have a few thoughts:
1. Parents who have children with food allergies and sensitivities deserve a rousing, standing ovation. (Pause for you to stop reading and start clapping. Really.) Parenting is a hard enough gig, but when you add a food allergy or sensitivity you are adding a whole host of other issues: special health needs, learning special diets, managing social settings and helping your child feel as typical as possible.
2. Children who have food allergies and sensitivities deserve our respect, empathy, support and encouragement. I've been blown away and impressed with friends' kids who have food issues and seemingly take it all in stride. I know it isn't easy so as a parent, let me give you kiddos a virtual big ole' pat on the back and a high five being more responsible with your eating habits than many adults!
3. There are a few parents who have the initial "me, me, me" reaction to food allergies and sensitivities, and seem to get stuck in this mindset. I think most of you out there are kind and understanding, but I've also seen some pretty judgmental behavior too. Why on earth would a parent insist on a special diet for their child unless it was necessary? I would challenge those who lack empathy for food allergies and seem inconvenienced by them when they intersect with their lives: if you think it is tough for you, put yourself in the shoes of the child and his or her parent!
With school starting soon and lots of new friends and classmates for our kids to meet and greet, I challenge you and your family to proactively support all the kiddos you come across who need special dietary needs.
Life is sweet (especially when we live our lives in kindness!),