There are bullies, There are moms of bullies. And there are moms who are bullies. When it comes to dealing with our kids' food allergies around other families, some moms just stink. Let's call them peanut mom bullies or PMB for short. Dads can ben PDBs too but for some reason I've noticed it more with the moms.
Just this morning I read about some PMBs who handed out peanuts at a baseball game even when they knew three kids on the team are allergic. PMBs sometimes choose to ignore the announcement on the airline when there is a person with a life threatening tree nut allergy and may open a bag of almonds just because her kids want them. There are PMBs who call the school principal to complain about the no cupcake rule in class because of food allergies, and then send in treats anyway because how could her kid celebrate a birthday without chocolate in school? I have some PMBs in my family. I'm not sure these people are out to hurt anyone, in face it's the opposite. They just don't get it. They don't understand how serious - and sometimes fatal - food allergies are. They don't know what it feels like to be in our shoes. They lack empathy.
Empathy is the ability to feel or understand what someone is experiencing by trying to look at it from their perspective. PMBs are seeing things only from their perspective. They are typically feeling threatened that another parent is telling them how and where to feed their child. Or they perceive that their kid will be slighted to not get a food treat in their classroom on their birthday or some peanuts and crackerjacks at the big game. Never mind that there is a real physical threat if allergic kids are around these allergens or other kids eating them. If only they could understand the anxiety our kids face every day just trying to stay safe. If only they could feel the terror we feel when we have to call 911 and stick a needle full of epinephrine into our child's little leg. If only they could share the pit in our collective stomaches when a member of the food allergy community loses a child to anaphylaxis. If only they could get it.
Bullying of kids with food allergies on the rise. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), About one in three children with food allergy reports being bullied as a result. It's a huge problem and there have been documented cases of anaphylaxis and even death, as a result of food allergy bullying. Recently, three teens threw cheese at a boy they knew had a serious dairy allergy. He went into anaphylaxis and died on the way to the hospital. Cheese.
How do we teach empathy to the PMBs? Change takes time. I truly believe that over time we can alter people's attitudes. It would be crazy to light up a cigarette around a baby. It would defy logic to bring a dog who bites to a playground of children. And remember when cars didn't have seat belts?
All these public health risks have been remediated by advertising campaigns, safety legislation and changing thoughts and behaviors over years and years. I hope it doesn't take too long, because I want PMBs to get it. I hope someday they will understand and relate and see the greater public health issue. I do think if we keep speaking up, presenting facts and advocating for our kids, PMBs will someday be a thing of the past. Until then, don't forget to bring 2 epipens with you and be aware of the signs of anaphylaxis because PMBs are unfortunately are not extinct yet.