Wednesday, June 18, 2014
On Why I Really Don't Love Food at Mass
As you know if you're a regular blog reader, we have food allergies in the house. In some ways we have been very blessed because I've never needed to use the epi-pens that I carry around in my purse. Bendaryl, in various forms, is scattered around the house, in my purse, and even in the car. I'm vigilant... pretty much all the time. And so far we have been very, very fortunate.
All of my kids have food allergies. I've spent this pregnancy joking with Paul about what he thinks the odds are that this next one won't. Patch's doctor uses words like "strong genetic predisposition" when he talks about our kids and I guess he's right. Sometimes I just wish that if this baby does have an allergy that it's either dairy or wheat. I'd rather not add another allergy restriction into the cooking mix. I've just about mastered avoiding gluten and casein. I'd rather not add nuts or eggs.
When I first began reading about allergies I found that the general public reaction to children having allergies and any accommodations that may exist to protect them from those allergies is that it's the child and their parent's problem and that it isn't anyone else's concern. The child needs to "learn how to deal with it." What are you going to do "wrap them in bubble wrap?" We wouldn't want anyone to infringe on our right to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich wherever we wish to eat it, would we?
The thing is those parents don't want their kids allergies to effect anyone else... but they also want to keep their kids alive. And they know how messy kids can be when they're eating and how dangerous that could be to their child.
I can appreciate wanting to send a PB&J to school with your child. It's easy. In our house almost all the baked goods do contain a nut flour of some sort. My kids love peanut butter. And when you cut out gluten many of the replacements involve almond or coconut. But that means that when we go out, say to our favorite kids museum, I take the Clorox wipes that they've provided and wipe every single thing we've touched down. I use our wipes to scrub everyone clean. Am I hyper sensitive to the issue? Probably. But more and more kids seem to have allergies these days and if, by cleaning up after my kids I can help prevent a problem, I'm totally on board with doing a little bit extra to avoid someone else getting hurt.
That's easy enough to do though, since it's a rare situation. Let's say they were in school and there was a child in one of their classes who was deathly allergic to nuts, what would I do then? I'd use a lot more rice flour. I can't imagine putting any child at risk just because my kids really like peanut butter and jelly (which they do) or because it would be easier for me to use almond meal, which is part of so many of my favorite recipes.
That's true. But I've never had anyone try to force milk or wheat on us in the grocery store or a museum or at the zoo. In fact there's only one place where it becomes a problem.
I know, I know, this post is a double whammy that's likely to say things that people don't want to hear.
The only place where I really worry about allergens, the only place where I really worry that I might have to use the Benadryl/Epi-pen/Inhaler that I carry in my purse is at Mass, or that we're about to start a two week spiral of horror, is every single Sunday when we go to church. I know when we go to Mass there will be kids with containers of cereal and crackers racing here and there.
There's a good chance that while I'm explaining to my kids that we don't run around even in the narthex, that an adorable toddler is going to toddle over, hands full of snacks. There's a good chance that they'll drop the snack right in front of Mae (it's happened), or worse, that a parent will encourage them to share the snacks.
Do I wish, deep down in my heart of hearts, that people wouldn't bring food to Mass? Yes. Do I understand why they do? Yes. I get it. It makes Mass easier. It keeps little mouths quiet chewing and not talking.
As I write this, I remind myself that I'm very, very fortunate. We've never needed to epi-pen. I pray we never will. The most likely thing that will happen is that I'll have a kid who's very sick for about two weeks... a kid who loses her words and cries all night because she's in pain from a teeny tiny cracker. It isn't the worst case scenario. And from what the world has told me, even other Catholic parents when I've seen the topic come up online, it's no one's problem but my family's. Which is exactly how I treat the situation. All day, every day, I'm protecting them from their allergens, making sure that they aren't allergic to whatever goes into their mouths.
Yet I can't help but hope that if you do have a little one and you do use treats as a reward to help them through Mass, maybe think twice about letting them run around dropping them, or offering them to other little ones. It's such a little thing that I'm sure it never enters the mind of any of the family's who I know who do it, they're in the same boat, just trying to get through Mass with little ones.
As Patch gets older I imagine he'll become more and more suspicious of foods, just like his biggest sister is... but with Mae I can only hope that that is someday the case. I hope that someday she'll be able to realize that her favorite foods need to be avoided because they make her sick. Either way, for the time being and into the foreseeable future, it's my job to make sure it doesn't happen... but do I wish that there was a little more compassion and a little less "it's not my problem" in the discussion about allergies... because while the risks can't be eliminated in the world we live in, little bit of care and compassion for others can make the world a much, much safer place for some of the littlest ones among us.
Sometimes it feels like we get so caught up in our rights to do a thing that we lose our compassion a bit... For some children, unfortunately, the cost of exercising those "rights" can be far to high.