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Dear parents: Don’t be @$$holes about food allergies

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is help kids protect a classmate from food allergies he never asked for

My son learned one of the best lessons of his life when he was 3-years-old.

He was in preschool in Israel — in a place where kids eat off the floor and lick walls and food allergies are less common.

But there was this kid in his class named Yoni* — a sweet little boy with eyes the color of obsidian, and the best smile ever, and one day while he was eating cottage cheese, he stopped breathing.

His face swelled, his lips turned blue, and it was there but for the grace of God that he got to a hospital in time, and was — IS! — okay.

But from that moment on, there would be no dairy products in that class. No milk.  No choco.  No cottage cheese.  No yellow cheese.  No yogurt.

You have to understand, in Israel, this is a big deal:  We’re the land of MILK and honey, and our dairy is da bomb.

But the school rightfully decided that in order to keep this little kid safe, the classroom would be dairy free. Period. The end.

But actually, that wasn’t the end. It didn’t stop there because the preschool teacher sat down with all the little kids — including my son, which is how I know about it — and talked to them about food allergies. She told all us parents, too, and asked us to keep the conversation going.

And that year and into the next, all those kids took care of the little boy with the dairy allergy.

When my sons birthday rolled around and I needed to bring a cake, he stood there — all almost-3 years of him and wagged his finger and said “It is FORBIDDEN to put milk in the cake! We have to take care of Yoni!”

(I knew that because I remembered, AND the teacher had already reminded me, but I love that he reminded me, too.)

He still remembers this — even though they aren’t in class together, but he remembers, and he knows that it was his responsibility along with everyone else in that class to keep Yoni safe.

Kids are awesome.

They are capable of so much empathy.

And that’s how it should be.

But parents?  OMFG.

Let me tell you what happened.

My friend has a kid with a serious nut allergy.

He’s 8-years-old and he’s been living with it his entire life.

His teacher knows. The parents know. Everyone knows.

But some asshole mother just brought a cake for the whole class. With nuts.

Do you understand what could have happened to him?

Have you ever felt like fire ants were crawling all over face and chest and stomach and legs?

Have you ever choked on your own tongue?

Imagine going through that and you’re 8-years-old, and imagine knowing it was preventable.

Imagine also being that kid’s mom or dad. You want your sweet baby to be able to BE in the world — but it’s not so simple, because what happens if your kid comes into contact with an allergen? What if even  the tiniest fleck can send them into anaphylactic shock? What if even BREATHING dust from that allergen can make them choke?

And then some mother — some mother who has been with your kid for over a year and knows the drill — brings a goddamn cake with that allergen?

Anyway. The teacher was awesome — and she told the mother to take it out of the classroom immediately.

The mother’s response? “Can’t he eat something else?”

Look. I am not a violent person. I prefer discussion, and some sort of compromise.

But right now? I want to punch this mother in the face.

Stick with me for a minute while I break it down why:

Some kids have food allergies.

It isn’t their fault.

It isn’t their parents fault.

It is no ones fault.

It just is.

Schools will do everything they can to tell you if there’s kid with a food allergy in your kids class.

This is relevant because even a teeny tiny crumb of something allergenic could KILL that child or make that child very, very sick.

And if that’s the case, then you are not allowed to roll your eyes, and bitch and moan about how it would be SO MUCH EASIER if you could still bring snack with eggs/sesame/peanut/milk WHATEVER and that kid eat something else instead,

You are not allowed to do that.

Because what’s inconvenient for you for an hour is someones whole entire LIFE.

Don’t be an asshole about it.

Don’t “accidentally forget.”

And do what my son’s preschool teacher did and encouraged all the parents in that class to do: YOUR kids to help take care of that other kid — that it’s their job to help protect him.

If my son and his friends could learn that at the age of 3, so can anyone.

It takes a village.

We should all be part of it.


*His name wasn’t really Yoni.

About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer, author of Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered and the New Media Editor at Times of Israel, She was raised in Venice Beach, California on Yiddish lullabies and Civil Rights anthems. She now lives in Israel with her two kids where she climbs roofs, explores cisterns, opens secret doors and talks to strangers, and writes stories about people. Sarah also speaks before audiences left, right, and center through the Jewish Speakers Bureau, asking them to wrestle with important questions while celebrating their willingness to do so. She also loves whisky and tacos and chocolate chip cookies and old maps and foreign coins and discovering new ideas from different perspectives. Sarah is a work in progress.
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