Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake?

A friend recently shared an interesting HP article, "Why Do Your Kid's Allergies Mean My Kid Can't Have a Birthday?" by Carina Hoskisson.  (link below)


I have always been surprised (if not outraged, frankly) when I have heard this sentiment before.  I am not sure which I find more shocking, the petty complaint or the lack of consideration.  Seriously, the level of insensitivity is ridiculous!  Please note, we have no food allergies in our family, so I have no personal interest or bias in defending the other side.  As a side note, after reading the FB comments, I realized this article raises several good discussion points from different angles.  For example...

"My thoughts are not related just to birthdays.  We are not allowed to bring anything not factory labeled for a snack. My main problem with our school's rules is exactly that: processed, individually packaged foods are typically not healthy and are both environmentally and financially irresponsible for me. I'm not saying we eat only fresh, non-processed, organic foods at home, but we try when we can, and I reserve the processed foods for when I'm in a pinch."

"I used to be a kid (and a teacher) with peanut and tree nut allergies and one of my concerns is overprotecting our kids from the challenges they will face in the real world. At some point we need to make these children able to speak up and take care of themselves. The world is not allergen free."

"There is a simple solutions to this....why do children's birthday celebrations have to always involve food? Why not bring every kid a small toy...or the little games you can buy at target for for a buck. Then no one is left out. You give everyone the toy, you sing Happy Birthday... Give your kid their cake when they get home."

"I don't think we should cushion all of our kids and change rules as a whole to suit those who are a bit different. I think, as parents, we should teach our children that it is okay to be different...to look different, to talk different, to eat different, to breathe different (in regards to my son, who is on continuous oxygen and attends public school), to walk different, to learn different. We are all different, and it is okay if others can participate in activities, tests, sports, etc., that we are not capable of attaining. Diversity is what makes our country amazing!"

While all of these are good points, and certainly interesting to debate, I wanted to focus on just one aspect...The author whining about her kid having to forgo birthday cake at school due to the food allergy issue shows plain and simple lack of compassion.  The reality is that food allergies (and their severities) seem to be on the rise, for whatever reason.  If you are fortunate enough to NOT worry about food allergies, the very least you can do is to show some respect/consideration for those that do.  What are we even talking about here, in terms of sacrifice?  It is not as if the existence of a food allergy in the classroom is infringing on any elements of best interest to the other children, such as the level of education, or care, or healthy meal opportunities.  Not to mention, is this really something we expect our teachers to administer, the mess and behavioral aftermath of 30 children eating cake?

Let me get this straight, the rules in place in many of our schools to keep children with food allergies safe are unfair because they infringe on your child's opportunity to eat cake?  Are you kidding me?  This Mom should be thankful her child is fortunate enough to NOT HAVE an allergy, not adding insult to injury for those who do.  Her sugar-deprived children can have their cake at home, or at their own birthday party!  Don't get me wrong.  I fully appreciate the fun of watching our children enjoy their birthday cake...but it can easily happen at an appropriate time and place.

Enough singing already. Let's eat cake!

Cake should be it's own food group.

Will I get caught if I just take one?

It was worth the wait!

This complaint is so ridiculous, it is almost something out of an Onion publication.    Furthermore, anyone with half an imagination can come up with an alternate way (a game, craft, song, etc.) to celebrate a kid's birthday (particularly at school) that does not include dessert.  If the parent DOES want to involve food, they can easily bring an alternate snack to share (make it fun, fruit kabobs or something).  Kids don't need an elaborate celebration to have fun.  They are often easier to please than we may think.

Birthday hats!

Birthday hide-n-seek!

Birthday stunts!

Birthday follow-the-leader!

OK, OK, enough with the corny birthday party photos, but you get the idea.  And, getting back to some of the other issues raised, I fully agree with the point several made of teaching our children to fend for themselves, ask the right questions, accept the fact that they may not be able to participate in a dessert celebration, or they have a condition/allergy that makes them different.  And, yes, we should celebrate these differences.  The world is certainly not "fair" or allergy free, and they do need to learn to protect themselves and appreciate safe/healthy alternatives.  But, those things can happen along side the compassion of others.

With all due respect to Hoskisson, please read the entire article (link provided above), to ensure these comments are not taken out of context.  But, I wanted to share a few excerpts from her article.

"If a child in the same homeroom as my son could go into anaphylactic shock and die due to allergies, I think we have a communal responsibility to keep him or her safe. I would never endanger the life of a child over a peanut butter cookie; that would be ridiculous."

"Let me get this straight: I'm supposed to feed my kids processed, preservative-laden food because your kid has a wheat allergy? No. I don't want to. I want my kid to have the made-from-scratch cupcakes, the ones made with fresh butter, sugar and yes, real flour with real gluten in it, and not a commercially prepared cupcake that has an ingredient list a mile long. How could that possibly be better? Not to mention that commercially prepared items are expensive."

"I agree that a teacher should let all parents know about any life-threatening allergies in a classroom. However, my kid shouldn't have to forgo his birthday cake because yours can't eat it."

"I would surely consider bringing an extra allergy-free item to the class for a child, but depriving all the other children for the sake of the one hardly seems fair (excluding life-threatening circumstances)."

"Let's stop the allergy insanity, and let the rest of them eat cake -- the lovely, homemade, buttery, gluten-stuffed cake."

Apparently, I am not alone in my reaction.  As a response to Hoskisson's piece, Kristin Shaw wrote the following article, "When Are Cupcakes more Important Than Compassion?"


What is your reaction to these articles? Please share your thoughts!

I wanted to share a comment I read under Hoskisson's article, after the fact, that sums up my feelings exactly....

"As a mother of a preschooler who does not have any allergies (so no vested interest here other than being a well-educated, compassionate human being and mother), I have to say I am absolutely appalled with this article. I actually pity you that you are so selfish and self-indulgent that making cupcakes is far more important than the safety or happiness of small children. It is sad for you that you have nothing more to focus on than making sugary treats. Allergies are far more pervasive today than ever before and it is the responsibility of all of us to keep children safe and to teach those that do not suffer from such inflictions that being compassionate for others is far more important than their own self-indulgence. Oh, and BTW, kids today only think they are missing out on something if you make them feel that way, if you teach them that eating cupcakes is more important than others feeling bad or even worse, dying. So sounds like you have some parenting growth and self-reflection to do yourself. It's sad that our kids could come across a parent like you in their years of school. I am hopeful that you seeing all of these posts (all of which are negative) will help you get your POV in check - for the safety, happiness and growth of all of our children." - reader Erin McGee


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