Dear Pool Mom,
Excuse me for intruding; I’m busy sunning myself here by the shallow end of the pool and couldn’t help but overhear the passionate statements you’ve made for the past 20 minutes about how your son must eat all the time and how he loves nuts and how no one should keep him from eating the nuts he loves so much, no matter where he is, or who’s around.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m guessing you’re also the mom who passionately believes that removing cupcakes from birthday celebrations in school is an infringement on your child’s rights. And, you will loudly beat this drum as long as your kid is in school.
Am I close?
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.
Because my son has severe food allergies and it’s my job to advocate for his safety. Not only his safety, but for the others in the world that have life-threatening allergies. If I, and others like me, don’t do it, then kids like yours will grow up feeling entitled to their cupcakes or nuts no matter the harm it might do to the person next to them.
I won’t stand for that.
Let’s be honest: this really isn’t about food at all, is it? It’s more about your feeling entitled to something that you feel is a right. Yes? Well, I submit to you that you, Pool Mom, are wrong.
I’m wracking my brain thinking back to birthday celebrations in my elementary school. Not only did we not celebrate with cupcakes, we didn’t even (gasp) celebrate summer birthdays. I only carry a slight scar that my birthday was never celebrated in elementary school. Surprisingly, it had no bearing on whether I became a productive citizen in society.
My son, thankfully, attends a school that has never (in our time there) celebrated birthdays with food. Each day, the child with the birthday is called down over the PA system to the office, where he or she is given a birthday pencil and a Happy Birthday wish from the principal.
Pool Mom, I can almost hear you freaking out at the idea—a pencil? Who would want a pencil? All of the kids I know are thrilled with this set up. They are acknowledged, have a reason to wander the halls to the office, and get something they can use at school. And guess what? I have heard nary a complaint about no cupcakes. Perhaps it’s because they don’t know differently? I would assume if a grown-up in their lives told them how terrible this idea is, they would complain. But, really, children echo what they learn from us, right?
Pool Mom, here’s the deal: it may seem egregious to you, this whole no-cupcakes-in-school, and not-eating-nuts-around-those-allergic thing. But I’m here to tell you something—these allergies (not to mention skyrocketing childhood obesity and diabetes diagnoses) are not going away. They are becoming more common.
So you, my friend, have two options, as far as I can see:
- You can model for your child kindness, and what it means to be a caring member of a larger community—which, by the way, will serve him well as he moves on to college and into his career.
- You can continue to beat the drum of demanding these “rights” not be violated.
If you make the second choice, let me help you understand something I teach my 8 year-old every opportunity I get: your choices have consequences. Every choice, every time. Whether a good consequence or bad, your choice has a consequence.
If you choose to loudly complain about those who would like to restrict your son’s diet, you’re missing the bigger picture.
Statistically, each year, your son will likely have at least two kids in his classroom with diagnosed severe food allergies. If you choose to teach him to stubbornly hold to his “rights” and eat the nuts he wants to near them, there is a very real possibility his actions at some point could send a child to the hospital (or worse).
Do your “rights” for nuts and cupcakes outweigh the rights of someone else to live? My belief is that they don’t; that there isn’t even a contest as to what is more important. But I wonder if you can even see the issue from this perspective.
I hope so, for the sake of your kid’s classmates and millions of others. I really hope so.
Pool Mom Sunning Herself (Just Behind You)