Sunday, April 28, 2013

Oh NO you didn't

Dear Ms. Moilanen,

I read your recent piece on your thoughts about kids who have food allergies.  Well, actually your beef was with the parents of kids with food allergies.  According to you, we need to all just relax and let our kids eat things they're allergic to in order to build their immunity.  Apparently you basically cured your son's egg allergy by feeding him egg every few weeks until he simply got over it.

It's truly surprising that I had never heard of the "feed-your-kids-things-that-make-them-sick" theory of dealing with food allergies.  It's a miracle!  You're amazing! You must have learned an incredible amount in all of your medical classes.  Um, what?  You're not a doctor? Wow. I certainly didn't see that coming.  (Can you sense my sarcasm, Ms. Moilanen?)

You seem to sneer at the parents who say their children have food allergies.  Yep, all of us parents who have food-allergic kids are making it up for attention.  It's really fun to scour the aisles of grocery stores looking for food substitutes that actually still taste like food.  It's fulfilling to spend an insane amount of money on rice milk, vegan cheese, soy nut butter, non-dairy chocolate chips, tofu, and flaxseed.  Yes, we enjoy going out to restaurants knowing that our kid will be lucky to get a plain hot dog, no bun, and maybe some canned fruit.

I haven't even gotten to the best part of being the parent of a food-allergic child.  You were annoyed that your son didn't get to celebrate his birthday with cupcakes and had to simply settle for soy ice cream?  Poor precious snowflake.  No, strike that.  Your kid was probably pretty happy to have any sort of ice cream.  You are obviously the one who felt that your son's birthday celebration was somehow deficient: poor YOU.  When other kids in your son's school celebrate birthdays, does he get to eat the treats brought into school?  I assume he does and he tells you all about the treats when he gets home from school.   You're lucky.  You're so incredibly lucky.

I don't always know when there are birthday celebrations at my son's preschool.  When I am aware, I send a special dairy-free, egg-free cupcake so that my son can have a treat like everyone else. Then again, if the birthday treat isn't a cupcake, he's left out.   When I don't know about the birthday celebration, my four-year old kid ends up with a cereal bar.  Everyone knows that nothing says party down like a whole grain cereal bar!!!  I can always tell when Dallas has been left out of a treat by the way he walks to the car when I pick him up after school.  His gait is slow and his eyes don't leave the ground.  He tries to be brave and nonchalant when I ask about his day, but inevitably, a few tears leak out because he didn't get a cookie or brownie like all of his other friends.   In those moments, I feel like a failure.  My heart rips apart a little, and I blink back tears so he doesn't know how upset I am at the slight.

I'm sorry that your son didn't get to eat chocolate cupcakes at school on his birthday, Ms. Moilanen, but don't you dare suggest that those of us with food-allergic kids need to just relax so your son can eat whatever he wants.  My son may have to carry epinephrine with him for the rest of his life: that's not an exaggeration and it's not a joke.   Maybe you think that "only" 9,500 hospitalizations due to children's severe food allergies isn't that big of a deal, but I guarantee that being hospitalized was a huge deal to the parents of those 9,500 kids.   I don't bake vegan cakes and wrap up special food to take to birthday parties just because I'm uptight.  I do what I do because my son has serious food allergies, and there's no denying it.

And don't feel sorry for that little girl who was eating graham crackers: you should feel proud that she has a parent or parents and a teacher watching out for her, keeping her safe.  I'm thankful that girl will get to skip a visit to the ER because another child's mom thought she knew better.

I hope you have learned your lesson about going after parents with food-allergic kids.  We're a tough bunch, and we will not back down.  Just thought you should know.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Small acts

Like everyone, I was horrified and saddened by the events that occurred at the Boston Marathon last week.  How anyone could be in such a dark place to want to hurt innocent people, complete strangers, is beyond anything I can comprehend.  However, we often see after a tragedy occurs, people seemed to come together to help the victims, pray for everyone involved, or show whatever sympathy they could. People posted pictures supporting Boston on Facebook and quotes from Mr. Rogers about how there are always good people helping others, even in times of pain and sorrow.  But even as the news was still unfolding, even before the second suspect was caught, I wondered, as I always do, how long our solidarity would last.

I think people, for the most part, have short memories.  I don't mean that anyone is going to actually forget what happened in Boston or Hurricane Katrina or September 11, 2001: those catastrophes will live on in our hearts forever.  After each terrible experience, we promise to be kinder, gentler, friendlier, and love each other more.  But I don't think it ever lasts.  We become immersed in the tragedies at first, but then real life slowly creeps in.  Children need to be fed, bills need to be paid, and we begin to live again as we did before "it" happened.

What if we didn't?  What if we continued to live our days with the kindness and love that we swore we would show to the world?  I don't know if that would solve anything or change anything.  I have no idea if that would make more people reconsider buying a gun or making a bomb or driving drunk.  Day to day, though, it might make a immeasurable difference, even to one person.  And as the domino effect goes, the love that person feels would be passed on to someone else.

So, I challenge you all.  Try to do something kind for someone every day.  Start with one day, then two, then a week, and then a month.  Pretty soon, perhaps it will become habit and just a part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth or cooking dinner.  Kindness doesn't have to cost any money.  Smile at a stranger on the street.  Really listen to your children when they tell you a story.  Put down your smart phones and live in the moment.  Donate things you don't need anymore.  Take a second to look the cashier in the eye at the grocery store.  Open the door for someone.  Help your neighbor with yard work.  Say thank you to someone and really mean it.

I think life is too short to live in fear and forget to appreciate all of the wonder around us.  There is SO much good in the world, and that good could be increased ten-fold if each of us would take a little time every day to sprinkle some kindness around.  Help someone else, and help yourself.

When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.

The 14th Dalai Lama (1935)