Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

A Back-To-School Letter To All Other Moms: My Child Has A Life-Threatening Food Allergy & I Need Your Help

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Dear Fellow Moms,

As another school year begins, I feel my anxiety creeping in. Like most of you, I'm sure, I worry about my kids being successful, making friends, following the rules, and staying safe while at school. I think sending our children off into the world is always stressful, regardless. But the fears I have for my daughter surpass the run-of-the-mill back-to-school concerns. My daughter has a life-threatening food allergy, and I'm terrified she actually might die at school.

To be honest, you, fellow moms, are the main source of my concern. I'm afraid you're going to put my child in real physical danger. Not deliberately, of course, but by being careless, making a mistake, or not taking her food allergy seriously. I wish I could trust every single one of you, and send my child to school without a care in the world, but I can't. I can't because you've put her in danger before, and while she's OK now I'm so worried that the next time someone gives her food she can't have she won't be so lucky.

I hear the comments you make when us parents are signing up for back-to-school parties and figuring out class snacks. I hear you whisper, "I can't believe we have to bring pre-packaged food," and asking, "What's the world coming to when we can't bake cupcakes like our moms did?" I know you're frustrated when you say, "But my kid will only eat peanut butter. How can I feed him if he can't have it at school?" And every single comment — every single sigh from a frustrated parent — reminds me that my daughter is in danger when she's at school.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

I understand why this seems so unfair. I know how hard it is to feed picky kids and, in my opinion, it's one of the most frustrating parts of parenting. I'm sure it's annoying to feel as though you're forced to worry about yet another thing related to food. I'm sure these school rulees, put in place for my daughter's safety, make your life harder. Trust me, I wish they weren't necessary.

My daughter could get incredibly sick, or even die, if you give her a food she's allergic to. And every year, at least once, my child has an allergic reaction to a food she has been given because a parent didn't take my warnings seriously.

But they are necessary, and not just for my child but for all of the other students with food allergies. I'm incredibly fortunate to send my child to a school that works diligently to make sure we have a plan in place to prevent accidental exposures, as well as a plan for what happens if she has a reaction. But those plans can only work if we all take them seriously and work together. And that's why I'm scared. Because I need you. I need you to be my village. And if you refuse, it's my daughter who will suffer.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

I think part of the problem is that so many families eat special diets for health, personal, religious, or philosophical reasons. In our kids' classes there are a number of parents who would prefer that their children stick to a specific diet. And, of course, that's OK. Parents get to choose how they feed their kids, and that choice should be respected. It's not on you, or anyone else, to decide how someone else's child is fed. As a vegetarian, I think it's incredibly rude to violate another parent's trust by feeding their kids something they don't normally eat.

Your kids are watching and listening. Please, do better. My child's wellbeing, in more ways than one, depends on it.

But when I say "my kid can't have that, she's allergic," it's not the same as saying, "my kid can't have that, we're Kosher, organic, or Paleo." Food allergies are not the same as food preferences. My daughter could get incredibly sick, or even die, if you give her a food she's allergic to. And every year, at least once, my child has an allergic reaction to a food she has been given because a parent didn't take my warnings seriously.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

My child has also been bullied as a result of her food allergy. So please remember that when you complain, loudly, in front of your children about a party's food rules or the school's policy, you're inadvertently giving your child permission to judge, shame, and ridicule my daughter. And for something that is entirely outsider her control. They tease her. They taunt her. They try to get her to eat certain foods to "see what will happen." They put my child in danger and they make her feel as though there's something wrong with her. They question the validity of her allergy and call her a liar because you think it's all just so "ridiculous."

I hope you don't have to hear other parents whisper about your child's allergies at school, or feel unsafe sending your child to what should be a joyous birthday party or school function.

Your kids are watching and listening. Please, do better. My child's wellbeing, in more ways than one, depends on it.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

I honestly hope you never have to buy an EpiPen or make a plan to administer life-saving medication at school. I hope you don't have to hear other parents whisper about your child's allergies at school, or feel unsafe sending your child to what should be a joyous birthday party or school function. I hope you're never in a position to feel the way I feel at the beginning of every school year.

But I do need you to understand.

Understand that my daughter's food allergies are real. Understand that eating the wrong thing could kill her. Understand that I need your help to keep her safe. Understand that I know it's a challenge, and it can be frustrating, but that we have the ability to keep all of our kids safe if we work together.

Please understand that as another school year begins, I'm counting on you.

Sincerely,

A Food Allergy Mom