Thursday, June 26, 2014

It's part of life. And no, life isn't fair.

Today as I was picking Jena up from Vacation Bible School I overheard a woman complaining about the snacks they were serving this week.

Well, really just one snack. On Friday the kids get cheese pizza. Her daughter cannot eat pizza due to food allergies.

This woman ranted for over 10 minutes to her friend about how it's not fair that her daughter won't be able to eat the "cool food", and stated that she thought they should change the menu to accommodate the kids with food allergies.

Over and over again I heard how upset she was that her daughter would miss out on the "cool" food / treat. She went on about how it's one thing when you're older, but when you're a kid it's just really hard to miss out on the "cool" stuff.

And then when a VBS worker walked by, she stopped them and went on a very polite tirade about the stinkin' cheese pizza.

I'm gonna be honest. At first, I thought 'whatever' but the more she pounding her point into the ground, the harder it got to hold my tongue. But I did manage to. But now ya'll get to hear my perspective on the issue.

Here's the deal. Jena is sensitive to chocolate. For those of you that don't know, many of the food "allergies" out there are actually sensitivities. The difference (in a very simplistic nutshell) is that an allergy can kill you, a sensitivity just makes you sick. Possibly really sick, but you aren't gonna die from it.

Chocolate makes Jena really, really sick to her stomach. Sick isn't really the right word. It's painful. Heartburn remedies ease the discomfort, so I suspect it has something to do with acid reflux, but we don't know exactly. What we do know is that if she eats even a small amount of chocolate she is sick enough to be out of commission for several hours.

Now, I don't know if this woman's daughter had an allergy or a sensitivity. For the purposes of what I'm going to say, I don't think it matters either way.

Back to Jena and the chocolate. Believe me, we know what it's like when you're kid can't have the "cool food". When their friends at school bring only chocolate cupcakes to share for their birthday, and your kid can't have any. When the cafeteria decides that as a reward for good behavior during lunch, kids can have chocolate milk, so no matter how well behaved your child is, no matter how often she is well behaved during lunch, she will never get the reward. We know what it's like to have your kid be the only kid who can't have the "cool" treat. Trust me, we get it.

In fact, at this particular VBS, we have to pack Jena's snack three out of five days, because on three out of five days the snack they are serving involves chocolate (M&Ms, pudding, chocolate chip cookies).

Are we whining about it? Asking that they change the menu?


The whining going in surrounding this issue is that my five year old is upset that because she's on the list of kids with food allergies, she has to ask the teacher every day for her snack, then the teacher checks the list to see if Jena can have the regular snack or has to eat her packed option. Jena's complaint is that she can regulate her diet herself and she shouldn't have to ask permission because she's responsible enough to monitor it herself.


I don't know how old this woman's daughter is, but since five is the youngest class at this VBS, I can reasonably assume that she is Jena's age or older.

Now, I understand that some allergies are easier to monitor than others. It's easy for Jena to know whether or not something has chocolate in it. Whether or not something has, say, peanut oil, can be much more difficult to decipher. Which is why they have the rules. I get it.

But the fact is that at five years old Jena regularly monitors her diet herself. More than once over the past few years a teacher has forgotten and tried to give Jena a snack she couldn't have and Jena corrected them.


Anyway, back to my points.

Should they change the menu to accommodate children with food allergies?


First of all, this VBS has over 400 kids and workers participating. Trying to create a menu that will accommodate every single food allergy and sensitivity would be near impossible.

I surmise this is why they sent an email to all parents & workers the week prior giving us the menu for the week and advising us to pack a snack if our child was unable to eat the snack of the day.

Secondly, it will not get easier for your child if you shelter them from the reality of their condition their entire childhood, then when they get older suddenly spring it on them.

Is it easy now? No. But if your raise your child in an environment where they are aware of their condition, know / learn what they can & cannot eat, and begin dealing with the social issues of not being able to eat the "cool" foods now - well then they learn how to manage their condition, monitor their diet, and handle themselves in difficult social & peer pressure settings. If you shelter them from it when they are young, then at some predetermined age just spring on them, suddenly expecting them to handle it themselves, they are most likely going to be overwhelmed at the responsibility, resentful of the social implications, etc, etc etc.

It's part of life. And no, life isn't fair. And no matter how hard you try, you cannot make life "fair" for your kids. What you can do is give them the tools to handle the unfairness, however it presents itself.

So get over it. Teach your child to be responsible for themselves. Educate those around you about the dangers of food allergies. But for Pete's sake don't demand that the world bow to the needs of your one child so that you can continue to shelter them from reality.

Just my two cents. Thanks for checking in!


Aunt Murry said...

I think its that "Everyone gets a trophy" mentality. I get it.

Melissa said...

Excellent post.

That lady sounds like a certain relative of mine. Very self-centered. She/her kid(s) should be catered to above all.

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