What your kid’s treat-free Valentine’s Day means to me

IMG_3985We feel so lucky that Bubba attends an extremely supportive preschool. Before Bubba, they were not nut-free, families sent in birthday treats to school, most holidays involved food, and the school spring fair included a bake sale. They have evolved into a very allergy-aware school with a number of polices that help keep Bubba (and her many food allergic classmates) safe. The school is now nut-free and no outside treats are allowed. Including on Valentine’s Day.

I’m not sure non-allergy families really understand the positive impact of removing the traditional candy-filled valentines from the classroom. So I thought I’d share.

I would probably keep Bubba home from school on Valentine’s Day if treats were permitted. There is no way I could pretend the day would not involve extreme risk. What would people send in? Would someone forget the no-nut policy? Even if they didn’t, surely some of the treats would be unsafe. Bubba is allergic to milk, eggs, and numerous other foods besides nuts. What if kids started eating the treats in the classroom? Could my three-year-old really be expected to turn down candy out of sight of her parents? What if she snuck something? All it would take is one bite. Best case scenario, my kid would vomit, struggle to breathe, get a shot of epinephrine, have to go to the hospital, and strike fear into her parents’ hearts, her teachers’ hearts, and scare all her tiny classmates. BEST case scenario.

But let’s pretend I was feeling *lucky* and was somehow confident that my kid would not ingest a single bite of candy while at school. That kind of super-human willpower I must confess is something I do not possess as a grown woman (sugar = kryptonite). But let’s pretend.

So my daughter would exchange sweet colorful candy-filled valentines with all her favorite friends. She would know that all the food they gave her could make her very very sick. (That’s the only way this pretend game works – she has to know the danger in order to not eat the candy) Why would they do that? How do I explain that to a preschooler? She would come home and I would have to take away all the treats and valentines she got. From her friends. Would I eat them? Would her sister? Would I throw them out? Is there a scenario here that is not sad?

My kid has years ahead of her to learn that the world is not always fair. For her to learn that she will carry her own unique burdens in this life as we all do. As she gets older she can be trusted to turn down unsafe foods. And will know that we’ll always make something equally yummy for her.

But for now, especially when she is so young, I am so grateful that the lesson she is learning this Valentine’s Day is that those around her make sacrifices to keep everyone safe. To keep everyone included. Thank you, non-allergy families, for adjusting to this new reality with us. For trying your best to be understanding. And for sharing the love this Valentine’s Day.

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