ABC Reports Food Allergies are the New Debbie Downer

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Congratulations, fellow families of loved ones with life threatening food allergies! We made it five whole days into 2015 before a major news outlet decided to include food allergies in a list of “what kids can’t do.”

Because, you know, having a food allergy (or multiple allergies) is such a choice.

Readers that have been around for a while may remember back when I wrote my letter to Pool Mom who was angry because she felt so strongly that her son should be able to eat nuts whenever and wherever no matter how it affected those around him because he loves them so much. On that day, I was heated, maybe a little angry (okay, a lot angry). I stated, “I’ll respond as gently as I can, recognizing that gentleness sometimes comes across a little too soft, so I likely will match your passion, maybe even surpass it. See, you’ll beat your drum as long as your kid is in school. I get that. But, I’ll be beating my drum even louder and longer. I’ll be beating my drum for the rest of my life.”

Today, I continue to beat that drum, but I have to wonder why? Why, in a world that is so set on tolerating Every. Single. Thing. Why can’t we be kind to those who don’t have a choice? Why do we have to categorize them as the Debbie Downers of all childhood fun?

5 Things Kids Can't Do Anymore

To give you some context (in case you hadn’t heard), ABC News released a list of the Five Things That Kids Can’t Do Anymore. They are:

1. Sledding (choice, resulting in possible injury to self, maybe to another child if sledding together or not paying attention)

2. Trampolines (choice, resulting in possible injury to self, maybe to another child if jumping together or not paying attention)

3. Peanut Butter Sandwiches and Birthday Cakes (choice, resulting in possible reaction of another child, symptoms of a reaction could include—but are not limited to—hives, vomiting, seizures, loss of all bodily functions, loss of consciousness; this is most likely to lead to a stab in the leg with a needle carrying lifesaving medication, an ambulance ride, possible recovery, possible weeks in the ICU, or possible death—we don’t get to choose the outcome)

4. Snap Bracelets (really?)

5. Keeping Score (again, really?)

Two things I’ve noticed increasingly about our society:

We are dead set on crying out for tolerance. That is, unless it happens to affect us negatively. The cupcake wars? They are real. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that our inner circle does not partake in this negative behavior. Rather, we are intentional in asking questions to learn how to best support those in our community with challenges and disabilities.

We are increasingly selfish and entitled. What is best for self trumps the greater good. Always. Isn’t that kind of sad? I still wonder what brought this about, and when exactly this shift in thinking occurred. Inconveniencing ourselves for the good of the larger community is just no longer a thing.

I had hoped the 2015 would bring about a shift in thinking about our loved ones, but it appears we still have serious work to do.

If I had a chance to talk with the producers and ABC about this piece, this is what I would say:

Our children, our loved ones, are not out to ruin the party. If anything, they oftentimes understand at a greater level than most of us that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Carrying such knowledge in your mind, heart, and gut creates a deeper appreciation for the celebrations, bringing an even sweeter sense to every little experience, making every little experience a celebration.

When you lump my son’s life threatening allergies—which he was born with and has no choice in the matter—with “snap bracelets” I wonder about your journalistic tenacity. Could you really find nothing else to compare with those four things?

I would never wish food allergies on you, but I do sometimes wish you could walk a mile in my shoes. Come, join us for a day or two and see what life is like. Then report on that. Families like mine have been in the news enough lately, all for the reasons you mention; everything we “take away” from the rest of the poor “regular folks.” It gives us a bad name.

If you could see how we live life, both at home and within a loving, supportive community, showing what we give to rather than take from the community, you may not have a report that will spark outrage and draw page views, but you may gain a new respect for the very real people that you diminish with your words and negative reports.

This world has enough negativity. It’s time to put feet to the tolerance we so loudly shout about, and to put our selfishness on the shelf. We’d all be happier for it. Maybe even Pool Mom.

Tiffany Self

Tiffany Self is a wife, mom to "Z", and a lover of words. In an ironic twist, she is an English class dropout who now writes for a living. Tiffany is a freelancer in the Chicago suburbs by way of Seattle and Southern Oregon. She writes about her journey of parenting a child with multiple severe food allergies, asthma, and environmental allergies. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

3 Comments to ABC Reports Food Allergies are the New Debbie Downer

  1. Ugh, as a journalist, that ABC piece is embarrassing! I have no idea why so many non-allergy families are fussing about birthday cakes and peanut butter sandwiches, when we’re talking about CHILDREN’S LIVES! Seriously!?

  2. Emily

    As the parent of a child with multiple, severe allergies, I applaud this piece with all my heart! While I loathe allergies as much as the next person, it is amazing that our community as a whole manages to advocate and bring about awareness with smiles on our faces – even in the midst of harsh personal criticism. Clearly we have a LOT of work left to do, but I am so thankful that our food allergy community continues to take the high road. If only everyone could walk this road for one day… As a civilization, I wonder just where we misplaced our empathy?

  3. Stanley

    I have to agree with Heather Laura Clarke.

    The author of this piece Meghan Keneally (http://www.meghankeneally.com; http://twitter.com/mkeneally) is clearly well-versed in the highest form of journalism…. space-filling “digital content” folksy lists that promote and support popular ignorance by appealing to the lowest common denominator while helping to boost search engine optimization with the primary goal of increase ad value/revenue for the the corporation that employs her. I’m certain that her journalism professors at Georgetown University and Columbia University School of Journalism are holding up this article to their current students as a prime example of what Pulitzer-worthy work looks like. I mean, the way she pasted in the stock photo of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was absolute genius!

    Many thanks to ABCNews Digital and its Managing Editor, Xana O’Neill (http://twitter.com/xanaoneill) for approving the posting of such a ground-breaking intellectual piece that will undoubtedly help us maintain the ignorance and stigma surrounding deadly food allergies.

    Sorry Emily. I too applaud those in our community that can advocate with smiles amidst such ignorance, but sadly I am still looking hard to find the tolerance for those that will mock something so serious in such a casual manner.

    For now I’ll continue to follow Meghan Keneally in the hopes that she posts a list of Cutest Cats on the Internet or something of equal importance.

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