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Indignant and In a Bubble

>> Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's been a few weeks, but I'm jumping back into the fray with Patty Wysong's alphabet-inspired meme, A2Z4U and Me. Since I have a prejudice against "I"ntroducing myself (please see that bio tab thing above for further details), we're going to head down another path together for the letter "I."

I've been called a fiery redhead (disclaimer - that was not part of an introduction). And there have been plenty of moments when my father or my husband or even my children have glared at me with those "settle down" eyes. But despite a tendency to get my knickers in knots, I do not get indignant very often (unless, of course, you decide to get between me and my morning coffee - kidding... sort of).

This week however, thanks to my RSS feed and a tiny bit of spare time, I've been pushed to the point of becoming indignant. Don't worry, FW blog, it's not your fault. And the MikChiks and Connecting Now comment makers have been ever full of endearing and witty advice.

It all happened while following a trail that began at the Allergy Moms blog. The night was neither dark nor stormy... it wasn't even night, to be frank... but it did get a little scary.

My preteen son has a serious peanut and tree nut allergy, so the practices of reading ingredient lists and allergy-related blogs is old hat to me. This particular blog is often practical and educational - something I admire in any publication. And this week's post directed me to another feature article in the Wall Street Journal. (Disclaimer number two - I have never, ever before read the WSJ although it is obviously highly practical and educational. Apparently I do not admire those traits as much as I thought.)

In this WSJ article Sandra Beasley discusses her new non-fiction memoir "Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life." I haven't read the book... yet. But what I have deciphered from this article and the subsequent blog posts, comments and online discussions is that Ms. Beasley is weary of establishing nut-free zones in schools, ball parks, airlines and other public arenas. She seems to feel that this practice is potentially unhealthy and dangerous (for the children) and unnecessary (for the adults).

Ms. Beasley herself has serious allergies and speaks from a position of knowledge about a topic that, like it or not, most of us are facing with increasing frequency.

My response to said article? Without trying to sound childish and petty... Humph.

For obvious reasons (named Andrew), I do not agree. However, her opinion and statements have caused me to consider many things. Am I (still) attempting to place my child in a bubble? Am I harming, rather than protecting him in the long run? Will he really turn out to be part of "a generation of rebellious teenagers with food allergies, navigating the world of late-night drunken Waffle House binges and ordering hash browns cooked on a griddle that may or may not have been scrubbed free of egg (or peanut)"?

To top it all off, I recently had an unpleasant experience with a grade school principal who reminded me (in that tone of voice only principals can perfect) that my son is now old enough to "self-advocate." Double humph.

On the one hand I am being told that "manipulating shared adult environments with bans and "free" zones does not help those with allergies learn to fend for themselves in the real world." On the other hand I'm being told that my boy is old enough to fend for himself without the support of the educators I entrust him to daily.

But, after thinking about it all with a slightly calmer head (and more than one latte), I have come to a few conclusions:

  1. Andrew IS old enough to self-advocate. That does not, however, void the principal of his/her duty to provide reasonable (and necessary) safety precautions while my son is under the school's care (including a secure place to store an extra Epipen, one or two adult contacts within the staff that my son can approach with questions, concerns, etc. and a genuine acknowledgment that his life has value and is worth the extra attention his condition requires.)

  2. Nut-free zones are not everywhere, people. We still run across way more incidents and areas that pose a threat to my son, rather than places where he is assured this extra level of care. I'm not keeping score - neither should you.

  3. My son is actively involved in the management of his allergy. And he always has been, according to his age and responsibilities. If the measures that our school has in place are creating a bubble around him, then he is fully aware of the dangers beyond that bubble and is learning to deal with them step by step.

    The things he can handle now are quite different than the things he could handle as a kindergartener. Dialogue continues, as does building awareness. I am thrilled that Ms. Beasley is confident and knowledgeable regarding her allergy. She cannot, however, project that onto all of the others dealing with serious allergies on a daily basis.

  4. Do we not, as a community, have the moral responsibility to be aware and considerate of the issues our children face? Would you let a potentially vicious dog loose on a playground, knowing that some kids may be able to take care of themselves but many cannot? Sure the dog bites may only result in "discomfort, not death." But are you willing to take that risk?

In the case of serious food allergies, is it appropriate to teach children how to handle their situation? Yes. Equip them with the tools and knowledge necessary to live their life? Yes. But don't mistake protection and reasonable limitations as a bubble. And please don't complain so loudly that you inadvertently communicate a lack of respect and an attitude of negligence towards the life of a child.

That's sure to get a few people indignant.

Thanks for the pics - sxc/ale paiva (enraged dude) & sxc/crystala (peanut love... not so much)


Laury July 20, 2011 at 7:36 AM  

It would be scary knowing the right thing to do when it concerns your child. So scary. Praying you know what to do...always...and your son, too. It's hard enough being a mom without adding allergies into the mix. ugh and double ugh:( (and I love your red hair, myself!)

Joanne Sher July 20, 2011 at 10:04 AM  

I have ALWAYS wanted red hair - and I wanted my kids to have it too ;) (Just an aside!)

I can certainly understand your indignation. Praying for wisdom and sense for ALL involved.

Nancy K. Sullivan July 20, 2011 at 12:07 PM  

God gave us maternal instincts for a reason. Yours has to be razor sharp for your son's welfare. Sorry others can't (or won't) understand that. Praying for better days for you both. God Bless.

Niki Turner July 20, 2011 at 6:43 PM  

Indignation understood... Your responsibility as a parent is toward your child. Do what you need to do for his healthy development!

Sparrow July 21, 2011 at 2:07 AM  

Interesting article! I also have severe allergies, and though mine aren't life threatening, I do get very sick when I eat or smell bell/hot peppers, perfumes or flowers, and ciggaret smoke.

Of all my health problems, my allergies are the ones that impose the most upon other people and I hate that. But when I was in college I had to make my classmates never wear perfume or scented lotions. Otherwise I'd be too out of it to get through class and was in danger of failing. It wasn't a bubble, it was a nessessity to get through that part of life effectively.

Patty Wysong July 21, 2011 at 5:50 PM  

Oh boy. Those kind of allergies are so scary! Do what you must!

Shelley Ledfors July 29, 2011 at 12:55 PM  

Severe allergies are scary things. Some of my extended family have them. I understand your indignation about the WSJ post you read, and think your views show great insight (another I :-)) and a reasonable, balanced, progressive approach to dealing with severe allergies in a child.

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