Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A rebuttal

Dear Squizy, as you left no return address, I find it very difficult to reply directly to you. I have no problem with food allergies being taken seriously nor for parents to ensure that their own little ones are cared for appropriately. what I do have a problem with is that you feel it is ok for you to demonise me for stating a situation at primary schools which is ludicrous. Yes, I mentioned nuts because the children I was referring to are allergic to peanuts, NOT almonds, therefore an ignorant reaction on the part of the teachers is the issue.

Furthermore, most of the piece in the Punch was referring to an individual parent's right to feed their own child any food which they deem appropriate as long as those foods are not on the 'banned' list at school - be they deemed healthy or not.

What I do get from reading between your lines, is that you are not getting a great or forthcoming response from your own child's school. Could I therefore recommend you retain a solicitor and put your concerns in a letter to both the Principal and also the School Council or Governing body. This may be the only way for the issue to be taken seriously at the school your child attends. But don't confuse my satirical synopsis and observations as a solid 'news' article meant to be taken as scientific fact. So no loaded gun analogies thank you - I am anti-weapons of all kinds having triaged gunshot wounds in war zones - a abdominal hole in a child's body caused by discharged weapon at close range is not a great illustrative metaphor to use.
PS: Congratulations on your mathematical ability!


Something extraordinary is happening in our suburbs, apparently debate on school lunchbox contents is no longer allowed - no jokes, no satire, no irony to open up discussion or investigation. Peanuts are killers and people seem unable to be unable to read the full context of an article - once the words Peanut Butter pop up, all other words on the page fade into black.

Bewilderingly, I have so far been accused of being a bad mother, a lazy mother, a waste of space, a murdering bitch, a selfish parent, a revolting person and those are just the nicer comments that have made their way to me via my column in The Punch online, via my email and other means of modern communication.

My husband is seriously concerned that our fence will soon be grafitied or we'll be spat upon in the street. I feel like I've been lobbed in with the whores who collaborated with the enemy in the World War II and am waiting to be pounced upon so the the head shaving can begin!

Give me a break for goodness sake, I hand roll sushi at least once a week, make my own pesto for their lunches and grill chicken wings as well to go into the lunchbox, but on certain days, I just slap some Vegemite on two pieces of wholegrain bread and throw an apple in the box and hope for the best. It's about the intrusion into my choices as a parent to which I object, not the fact that I have been asked not to send peanut butter sandwiches to school because, in fact, I haven't had that request since kindergarten.

But I have had twenty five years of making school lunchboxes and I suspect this is a bloody longer time than those who have penned such horrendous comments to me ( the obscene and violent I have removed from my blog - but have left the mildly rude as a gesture of democratic free speech)

I have offended some, and frankly, in this case, I don't give a damn! No, you heard it, I have checked with a number of allergy specialists in the medical field and I am not overstating it to point out that there is a lots of mass hysteria over allergies - a lot of misguided fear and misinformation that some more sensitive parents cling to and then label their children fragile and hyperallergic on the basis of urban myth.

I have had very up close and personal experience with allergies in my immediate family - I have a very thorough grasp of the subject - my nephew was deaf till the age of three courtesy of an allergy list that included milk, eggs and peanuts. I have friends for whom their children's excema was so bad that my husband developed arm splints for the kids to alleviate night-time scratching; I, myself, have to very cautious around products containing fruit as mango can stop me breathing and I so I do get it. I invented a birthday cake using apples instead of eggs to feed to kids attending my children's parties - so I accommodate allergies on a daily basis.

So please, kindly stop telling me that I have no idea about allergies, because I do!

But come on, let's be honest, making school lunches is tedious and repetitious and soul destroying on those days when imagination and creativity are snoozing. I am a kick arse cook, it's my hobby and a great love, but putting together a plastic lunch box is just blah - there is no leeway and on days that are rushed, I feel guilty about the boring nature of what I put in. It can also be quite demoralising when the lunches into which we put so much careful thought and preparation come home barely touched.

In the past two days, I have also been accused of being severely lacking in the sphere of empathy, that I am a useless career woman and I deserved to have my eldest children kidnapped for fourteen years. Oh, and also of being a 'faux' humanitarian. Nice coming from those whom champion their own rights but think it's fine to attack another person indiscriminately - apparently, I am not worthy to enjoy the same rights as them because I like almonds - I didn't even say the dreaded 'P' word!

It's as if the one-upmanship of allergies gives the attackers rights outside the boundaries of common courtesy and manners!

Well, I do know what it is to send a kid to school everyday worrying about their medical condition. My 8 year old daughter has SVT (a heart condition) -


along with a couple of other issues like periously low blood pressure. Her diet must include huge amounts of water and quite a high salt intake to stabilise this condition on any given day, so I need to fuss about what she is eating and also, how much she is drinking - usually at least two litres of water daily does the trick. She also seems to lack the normal thirst triggers and so often needs prompting to remember to drink, although this is getting better with age. The number of times an ambulance has needed to be called, or she passes out are too numerous to be counted. I have had to train and remind the staff at her school multiple times about her need to drink etc. That is my responsiblity as a parent, and I know, that we run a risk everyday that a collapse off play equipment might kill her, but she needs to live a normal life and I need to let go of my own fears to give her that permission to experience the joy of childhood without my neurosis overshadowing her pleasure in her peers and her activities.

We make choices everyday as parents, we love our children and we do all to protect them and so we should, but we also need to learn to let go, to allow the real world to be a part of their lives - that is why we teach them life lessons and must guide them into the realms of personal responsibility, kindness, manners and social ettiquettes - it's how the world functions and survives the threat of chaos and dysfunction.

I am saddened by the upsurge of allergies and perplexed that this seems to be a nominally recent occurance as my older children who are now in their late 20's did not have have peers with such conditions around them to any such degree - so my question is, to what are we exposing this newer generation of offspring that would cause these allergies, what is the mutation that is triggering such a high incidence of anaphalaxysis?

The allergy is the enemy - I am not.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Food Nazis

Be afraid, be very afraid. The food Nazis are on the hunt through suburban school lunch boxes. Food is no longer a private matter in our educational institutions; parents are quaking in their shoes, terrified that they will be judged on the efficacy of their social responsibility and parenting skills by the contents of the humble pail.

Forget guns and knives, this is the deadliest schoolyard weapon.
The fallout of which means becoming social pariahs based on white bread, or the inclusion of a Tim Tam.

Teachers peer beneath the lids of the not so humble receptacles (very seldom now a simple plastic box – they’re now themed, decorated, iced, chilled, heated, layered, compartmentalised and sheathed) and “tut tut”, or shake their heads at a child’s humble peanut butter sandwich or limp carrot.

Quite often, a ‘parent helper’ is on duty in the classroom and will also investigate what a harried, working mum has flung together and encased in cling wrap, subsequently broadcasting to all and sundry (other competitive mothers) that ‘Little Susie’ came to school with the dregs of the pantry, or an anaphylaxis just waiting to happen.

Do you remember the simple days as a kid, when everyone sat around at lunchtime in the yard, poking despondently at the sad vegemite sandwich and sipping on tepid cordial? Those were the days, when food was simple and only vaguely nutritious, before the prevalence of food allergies and the litigious nature of society.

You were responsible for teaching your own children not to steal other’s lunches and to refrain from picking their noses without a hanky. Now it’s all about fear, the school live in fear of being sued by parents angry that ‘Little Angus’ in the class next door consumed a peanut butter sandwich fifty metres from their ‘Little Johnnie”, the poor mums live in fear of being judged a failure if they don’t whip up a three course meal and box it up everyday.

The poor kids live in fear that they will be made consume their midday repast whilst sitting on the special chair at the front of the class reserved for children who have dared to come to school with natural roasted almonds as a snack, quarantined in case a sliver of a ‘tree nut’ sprays on ‘Little Angus” who has a peanut allergy. If “Little Angus” at the age of 10, doesn’t know enough not to stuff a stray almond in his mouth which he found on the floor, then “Little Angus’s” parents have got a problem on their hands!

What is happening, where did personal responsibility go and privacy for that matter, is food the new frontier of the Nanny State? I don’t advocate my children sharing food, and they are well aware of the dangers of food allergies – they live with a mother who could expire on a mouthful of mango, but this is ludicrous. The guilt, the oversight, the intrusion.

Today I will send my offspring to school with wholegrain wraps, filled with home baked Mediterranean chicken, mayonnaise, chives, home grown cherry tomatoes with a chaser of yoghurt dip and home made berry coulis. Tomorrow, I’m bloody well sending grated chocolate sandwiches on white bread and a chocolate Hershey bar. Take that Food Nazis – I will choose what I feed my kids and I’ll thank you to keep your noses out of my Tupperware – my kids’ impending malnutrition and/or constipation is our own business.

PS: I am not that pro-peanut butter, I keep a separate, nut free shelf of snacks for visiting kids with allergies and am very concerned with the issues of allergies in general, but gee, I have packed lunchboxes for four of my own kids, also two stepchildren, two foster children, sundry nieces and nephews who have lived with us and frankly, I am exhausted - I've been making cut lunches for twenty five years already and my youngest child is still only 6! So cut me some slack and enough with the personal attacks on my mothering capabilities and my children please!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Vaguely vague and other lost grey cells

Here I sit liberated from the daily real time existence of my desk. Thanks to a good friend who came to my rescue, I am now able to access my own blog - yes, that's right - I couldn't remember my own password or gmail user name to retrieve same. So I apologise for my vagueness, my loss of memory and my um errr oh, never mind it will come to me shortly. So in any case, it's either my post surgery reaction, the long summer holiday, or my body adjusting to all the changes of having so much medication that I simply forgot. So is this the way of the future when all of us are slaves to our PIN numbers, passwords, and usernames? with one misplaced digit we risk effectively being locked out of our own lives. Makes one truly lament the simplicity of the old days and a primitive key, bank book or handwritten letter. Ah technology, when my 6year old pointed out a new fingerprint recognition front door lock in the hardware store, I recoiled in horror as I imagined the consequences of an injured finger, one large bandage and a winter's night spent in a car be because a hightech door latch didn't recognize my damaged thumb! So if you visit me, avoid the digital doorbell and just yell out over the fence - I'll use my super-duper low tech ears and come let you in.