Tuesday, March 9, 2010

FOOD NAZIS - CAN THEY BE DANGEROUS TO A WRITER'S HEALTH?

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) -

http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Supraventricular-Tachycardia-(SVT).htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supraventricular_tachycardia

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.

www.twitter.com/pascarl

4 comments:

  1. I've just read some of the comments (which have now mysteriously dissapeared) and I think I'm missing something here...from what I understood from the comments, your children (or any person for this matter, be it a child or an adult) can be allergic to basically ANYTHING - from peanut butter to chocolate and milk! Now, I understand you are worried about your children's well-being, but if I was to follow your way of thinking, children basically shouldn't be allowed to bring ANY lunch at all as there ALWAYS exists a potential threat of another child being allergic to whatever your kids are having :/

    I understand that in a situation when a child has a severe , or even life-threatening, case of allergy and other parents are informed about this issue on the parents meeting, then children should stop bringing those particular types of food to school....But you cant possibly know what each child in each class in allergic to!!! :/ I think this is the point Jacqueline was trying to get across - that all those 'rules', although relevant in certain cases, are sometimes exaggerated!
    Stop attacking someone for having an opinion :/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looking at the comments, i think the point has been lost on most!
    When i first sent my twins to school 6yrs ago they were taking PB sandwiches for about half a year until a note was sent home regarding peanut allergies etc. Omg the guilt I had, i had no clue and felt terrible about it. Kids in prep & yr 1 do like to swap food and why not? variety is good no?
    A few months later my son was having trouble consentrating at school, so doing the right thing as a mother i decided to do what i could to help him and tried out Sue Dengates ellimination diet. Before long he was off to school with his home made pear jam sandwiches and home made anzacs & lcm’s/ rice bubble slice. Suprisingly he calmed right down and could concentrate. So it worked! You see my husband was away in Egypt for 7 months so i didn’t work that year because i wanted to be there for the kids and it was hard dealing with the ups & downs of it all. Anyway, how stunned was I when the kids came home hungry from school explaining that someone had taken the home made lcm out their lunch box saying it was a ‘sometimes’ food and they couldn’t bring it to school. OMG what? I made that food! I i’m the boss and if I send my kids to school with marshmallow sandwiches because it restores calm in my house then I will blooody well do it! How dare they poke through the box of food i deemed good enough for my kids and tell them, it’s not okay. I was offended and hurt by it. Questioning my judgement on what is ‘good’ for my kids. My kids didn’t care so much, only that they were ripped off and hungry at the end of the day.
    It’s not right, i agree, if a parent wants send their kid to school with white sandwich loaf fairy bread followed with a cordial chaser so what? WHo’s business is it but the parent? Why is it that the “food Nazi’s” feel they can cast judgement on parents and the nutritional value of a childs lunch? This has nothing to do with peanut allergies what so ever!
    Just for the record my kids have a nutrionally balanced lunch every day and I make sure of it. But who’s business is that but mine.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jacqueline you were the one who opened the can of worms in this instance. If you blog it or write it, people are going to respond.

    So in your reply you state "once the words peanut butter pop up", well in your original Food Nazi article you use the word "nut" 5 times (I can count - hoorah! :-)). So your original article is well and truly pointed at people such as myself.

    You will also understand as someone who fought so long and hard as you did for your children (and someone who's story I respected and followed all those years ago), will also understand that I too, will fight long and hard for my boy. I can certainly understand that there is an amount emotional reaction here.

    We have fought far too long for anaphylaxis to be taken seriously, for proper measures to be put in place. But when articles such as this come out it is your article that is heard first and creates the hysteria, whilst we are left in damage control to protect what has been built.

    I also respect your daughters condition, however how would you feel if the school said that you were on your own here - that she couldn't have water to drink. That you weren't permitted to interact with the teachers to ensure your daughters safety? Your response would be pretty close to ours I'm sure.

    When I mentioned the original article to my wife this morning, we were both gobsmacked. And it hurt.

    My wife likened it to a child taking a loaded gun to school. "It's ok" the parents said, "they're not going to shoot it, they're not going to play with it". For us, nuts are the loaded gun.

    Not one child's health issue is more important than the other I agree. What we all need is respect and understanding of everyone's condition. Saying to one set of parents that your child's condition does not warrant the necessary response or protective processes is bound to get a reaction. Looks like you got it this time around.

    Thanks for your blog. I'm sure that you are seeing that there are many parents as passionate about their children, just as you are about yours.

    Regards.

    ReplyDelete
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