I saw something online this week, something that gave me pause. In the post, the writer was lamenting the loss of cheer and fun in holiday parties. Nothing wrong with that, right? No big deal. Everyone has an opinion. It was the next part of the conversation that threw me, though.
In part, she blamed food allergies. Food allergies, and those who have them, well, they suck all the fun out of Christmas parties. It's difficult to make food for a party if you've got to be worried about that. It's no fun.
This reminded me of the year that I was a room mother for one of my children's classes, and one of the other room mothers wanted to buy a very elaborate birthday cake for the Christmas party. When I told her that it was not going to be safe for those with food allergies, she replied "I don't care about those with food allergies. They can just do without.Those kids are selfish to keep the fun of this gorgeous cake from the rest of the class."
Yes. She FOR REAL said that.
People who have food allergies can just do without. Food allergies make party planning difficult. People with food allergies like to create a disturbance, they are selfish and only think of themselves. Why do I have to avoid having all of the good stuff, why do I have to plan a party with courtesy and kindness and empathy - why can't I just do what I want???
Hold up, you guys. I'm getting up on my soapbox. It's a pretty tall one, and I might need some help. Also, I might need someone to hold my earrings.
I'm really, really sorry that my food allergic kids have ruined your Christmas parties. No, I'm not. I'm not sorry for you. I'm sorry for my children. Those children with food allergies – they didn't pick those food allergies. In fact, I venture to say that no one I know would pick a food allergy. It's not "in", it's not "cool", or "chic". In fact, it really sucks.
You know what might ruin your party more than the inability to serve walnut brownies? It might ruin your party if someone died at it.
I've heard that's a showstopper. A downer of a party trick.
I know - I'm not accomplishing anything by writing this post. The woman who complained online – she will probably never read this. Even if she did, it wouldn't really matter to her. In her mind, food allergies = party flop. I'm not changing minds here. I'm not solving problems - I'm just venting. And I'm cool with that.
Here are some facts to chew on - and as a bonus, they contain none of the top 8 food allergens.
- Anaphylactic food allergies can affect up to 25% of all school children.
- Anaphylactic Allergies are considered a disability under Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That is a legal document, yo, and schools have to follow it. In fact, the document says -
Section 504 is federal civil rights law under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It provides protection against discrimination for individuals with disabilities. Students in school settings fall under the civil rights protection of Section 504. The law and regulations prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability from all school programs and activities in both public and private schools receiving direct or indirect federal funding.
- Excluding foods from a party will not harm your child. Including that food might harm or kill mine.
I get it, I really do.
You want to have a holiday party, either at school or in your home. One in which everyone can participate and have a good time and not be reduced to water and more water as a party food. But someone is allergic to nuts, another has a gluten intolerance, and one breaks out in hives with milk. A fourth can't do food coloring and one of the moms has a shellfish allergy. What's a hostess to do?
OPEN YOUR MOUTH and talk to the food allergic students and their parents or your potential guests - who first and foremost, are people. They aren't trying to make your life more difficult, they aren't forcing you to do anything you wouldn't do for any guest with any type of handicap. Let's look at it this way - What if you invited a sight impaired individual? Someone wheelchair bound, or missing an arm? Would you move the extra stuff out of the way to facilitate easier movement, tell them that the really yummy cookies are at 3 o'clock on the table, and do the things to make those people comfortable? Of course you would. Because you would never want to be the person who made a party unenjoyable for your company. You want everyone to have fun.
So do the things to make a food allergic person comfortable. Ask what they can eat, ask what foods are off limits. Is there a particular brand? A certain favorite treat? Often, individuals with food allergies will offer to bring a dish - that way, they know there's something safe to eat. One time, a friend told me that she'd sent in a Hershey Bar every year for my son when she sent in birthday treats - she knew he couldn't eat the cupcakes but she really wanted him to have a treat. It was a tiny thing to her, but it meant the world to me - she took the time to think of my kid.
Sometimes, certain individuals in my life have so much anxiety about food at parties that they just avoid eating at all - and there is no sight more sad than a kid, watching everyone else eat cupcakes while he has nothing - because no one cared enough to let me know, or find something he could eat.
I've seen that exact scenario play out.
Be a considerate, kind and courteous hostess or room mother. Think of that food allergic kid as a kid first, and not a gigantic red STOP SIGN in your path. Because that FA kid is really just a kid, a kid who wants to have fun at a party with his friends, a kid who doesn't want to get sick, a kid who doesn't want to end up in the hospital,
a kid just like your own.