Tell Me Again Why My Child's Life Doesn't Matter

Where's the compassion?

by: Alex Thom

The other day, I posted the letter that writer Karen Alpert wrote to all the parents out there who complain about not being able to send peanut products in kids' lunches. I have to tell you, some responses really surprised me. People get really mad when they're inconvenienced, apparently. So I thought I'd open up the conversation to the world, so we can all hash this whole allergy thing out right here. Both sides. Leave the letter itself out of the conversation and let's talk about why you're so angry about the limitations put on your lunch packing.

Before my son was born, I had no knowledge about severe allergies. I also had very little empathy, to be honest. It was such a pain! I always obeyed the restrictions on lunches, though, and felt badly for people who had to deal with them, because I'm a decent human being like that. I didn't have to deal with them myself, and I didn't get it. And here's where I think it's really important to stress this: If you don't have a kid with life-threatening allergies, there's a really good chance you really don't get it

I'll admit that now that I have a kid with life-threatening allergies, I've sort of over-saturated myself with information because, what can I say? I want my kid to live, you know? So I've been on both sides of this fence, but I still can't understand some perspectives. I'd like people to explain it to me.

In the comments of my last post, people mentioned some points I'd like to address about why they don't feel restrictions should be in place, and I'm going to post those here so we can dissect the issue.

Ok, so these comments assume that nobody in lower income homes suffers from peanut allergies, I guess? Because somehow I really doubt that's the case. And the reality is that there are far better options for protein than a jar of peanut butter. (Is now a good time to point out that the cheap peanut butters all contain icing sugar, corn syrup, or other sugars, and we all know that's not exactly a healthy lunch option?) A handful of roasted chickpeas would offer up more fibre and protein, and costs very little. I think it's safe to say that we've covered the price issues, but I suspect that's not the root issue with these comments anyhow.

I am so thankful that some people happily refrain from sending nuts, but to imply that the letter was bullying is laughable. Straight from Oxford, here's the definition of that word:

I think what people don't like is someone voicing a strong opinion. Alpert's opinion is that parents who complain should suck it up and find some compassion — why is that negative? I think I'd really love to see a generation grow up caring for the needs of others, and showing compassion even when the problem is not their own, wouldn't you? Having different opinions is what makes the world a richer place, but when we start thinking our opinions are facts, and are not subject to constructive criticism, we all lose.

Well, I did address this one directly — I hardly think that limiting a few food items from kids' lunches makes them "suffer", but maybe that comes with a little life experience and worldly knowledge, too? Maybe seeing what real suffering is would make people understand that having to eat (gasp!) something other than peanut butter and jam for lunch isn't that big a deal? Or maybe I'm just feeding the trolls here...

How about the commenters who say things like, "What about when the kid is out in public? What then?" (And it's always said with such confidence! Oooo you got me, I totally forgot about the rest of the world out there.)

Well, excuse us for thinking schools should be safe places for our kids. How dare we? Yes, forget protecting some kids when everyone else is pining over their sad lunch. And while we're at it, why do we have wheelchair ramps anyhow? How inconvenient. Why accommodate the few? I'll tell you: when people with severe allergies are in public, they take lots of precautions, obviously. Are people really suggesting a "why bother" approach here? Like, why bother making schools safe when they're going to die from their allergy in public anyhow? 

The one I love most is the, "But my kid only eats peanut butter" excuse. Are you really admitting that? Whose fault is that? Because when you're busy pointing your finger at the allergy folks, there are three other fingers pointing back your way. It is ridiculous to suggest that your child's pickiness should be more important than whether my child gets to live. This is like suggesting that it should be legal to drive while drunk because someone's desire to get home in their own car is far more important than other drivers' lives. Right.

And what about the ones who reference back in the golden days when they were young and peanut allergies weren't a thing as though somehow that's a defense?

Then yay, lucky you! But guess what? We're not all research scientists seeking the root causes of these life-threatening allergies. I don't know why my one child has allergies and the other does not, I just know that it's something our family gets to deal with now. Some of us (dare I say most of us) are just trying to help our kids (or ourselves) live. Allergies aren't the fault of anyone, they're just something some people get to deal with, and we assure you it's way more inconvenient for us than it'll ever be for you.

And to all of you screaming, "If we accommodate the nuts, what's next? Eggs? Milk? Latex?"

Honestly, I'm not sure what's next. But I know that when I had to remove dairy, soy, wheat, white fishes, seafood, nuts, and strawberries from my son's diet, he survived just fine and so did we. There is a big world of food out there to choose from, so explore it. Your preferences, or those of your kid just absolutely cannot be more important than the life of another human being. If it means no yogurt at snack time, so be it. If it means no egg salad sandwich? Oh well. It also means that the parents of that little child get to tuck them into bed with a kiss that night, thankful they're alive.

And finally to those who feel that bans breed complacency, well, bans are what started these conversations. Bans are what fired people up, started us all conversing, and helped educate people who had no idea just how scary these allergies can be. It really doesn't matter what the allergy is, it just matters that we all show a little empathy and compassion, put egos aside and help these people feel safe. Because I know if it was you or your kid suffering, you'd be up here on my soapbox with me.

I'd love to hear everyone's reasons for being so very angry about the limitations on foods. (I'd also be happy to provide you all with some awesome lunch alternatives if you're struggling with what to pack.)