October 20, 2014
Why The Teal Pumpkin Project Matters to Me (a Non-Food Allergy Mom)
Posted by Steph
There was a time, not so long ago, back in the faraway land of the late 1980's, when I was an elementary school student. I have fond memories of my childhood education: being part of the school plays, running around in gym class, learning how to multiply, checking out books from the school library, writing stories in class, and generally making friends and having a grand ol' time.
Back in the land of 1980's, we had a lot of parties at school. Halloween and Christmas rolled around, and it was a free-for-all of dressing up, sweets and alarming sugar-highs. We'd sing songs, play games, make crafts, and then be sent home for our poor parents to handle.
I loved those parties.
As a mom in the 2010's, though, school celebrations are a bit different. For a variety of reasons, we are rethinking the way we commence with parties at school. Part of this is due to the new regulations about nutrition standards. Another is an increase in food allergies. So, schools must now be more careful about what food is given out in school.
And it's causing quite a ruckus.
I am allergic to many things, but food is not one of them. I am also fortunate that my girls do not deal with food allergies. But I am friends with many who struggle with this on a daily basis. For whom certain foods are life-threatening.
As a parent, I can imagine this is frightening.
So I don't understand why people are up in arms over accommodating celebrations (school and otherwise) for those living with food allergies. I've heard many comments being thrown around over a variety of forums:
"Well, the kids with food allergies can just bring their own food to parties."
"It's just one day."
"Kids with food allergies need to learn what they cannot eat."
"Why should my kid suffer just because other kids have food allergies."
I am beside myself.
And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I hear the controversy over the amazing Teal Pumpkin Project from FARE.
Before we go any further, please click the link above. Read about this movement.
Isn't that such a great idea!?!? Having non-food treats available on Halloween for families managing food allergies? Homes can indicate that they have non-food treats by placing a teal pumpkin on their porch.
Then the internet goes right ahead and ruins it.
I was first alerted to the controversy by the fine folks at Scratch and Sniff. My friend Carrie of Chockababy also aptly shared her sentiments over the Teal Pumpkin Haters. I read through their well-written posts, and was appalled at the backlash that the FARE has been receiving over this movement. People are actually offended by the idea of accommodating ALL kids this Halloween.
Because some people hate happiness.
Why am I all frustrated? I know. I'm not a mom managing food-allergies. But you know what? I believe that everyone needs to feel loved and fit in. That everyone needs to be safe. I may not have struggled with food allergies growing up, but I was socially awkward and picked on a lot. I struggled to make friends. I know what it's like to not have people to sit with at lunch or play with during recess. I know the loneliness of not having friends to hang out with or being the only person not invited to the birthday party.
It sucks being the odd man out.
Yet, with this outrage over non-food Halloween treats, for non-food options at class parties, and accommodating food allergies at the various celebrations of life, that's what we are relegating kids to. For life. Because many kids do not grow out of food allergies. It's something they'll have to manage their entire existence.
I can't imagine how complex it must be to be the parent of a kid who has food allergies. To have to think through every lunch you pack, meal you serve. Worrying if someone will bring in a peanut to the classroom. Or if there is an option at the birthday party their child is invited to. They want their kids to fit in just like everyone else. But they also want them to be safe.
Don't we all?
I want to live in a world where no one wins unless we all win. I want all kids to fit in, I want all people to feel loved. And if that means that we donate a new book to the class library for our birthday instead of bringing in 20 unhealthy, allergy-inducing cupcakes, I'm okay with that. If that means offering non-food options on Halloween or keeping a gluten-free baking mix or soynut butter on hand in my pantry for guests who visit that need these accommodations, I'm all about it.
Because it's all about the one.
The one who can't eat the peanuts. Who can't eat the gluten. Who can't use the steps because of their wheelchair. Who doesn't want to come to school because of a bully. Who is afraid to read out loud in class because of a learning disability. Whose parents show their emotions through violence. Who struggles to make friends and fit in.
I was one of those kids.
Maybe you were one of those kids.
Every ONE matters.
So, no. Our kids won't know the sugar-laden class parties of years past. They may not be allowed to bring in cupcakes for their birthday parties. And they may just get offered glow bracelets instead of candy on Halloween.
And you know what?
They'll be okay. They'll still have amazing memories from childhood. Because my most cherished memories from school weren't the cupcakes from parties. It was the books I wrote in class in second grade that my daughters read today. It was searching for stickers on bottom of my lunch tray (because that meant we got a prize!). It was teachers reading from Shel Silverstein's book, Where the Sidewalk Ends, on rainy days when we couldn't have recess (our favorite was page 101 - "Spaghetti, Spaghetti"). It was my field trip to Dutch Wonderland.
It takes a village, friends.
Because every last one matters.
And to the haters: I would venture a guess that if it were YOUR kid, you might be singing a different tune. Just food for thought. (Pun intended).
Filed Under: Teal Pumpkin Project