Having a Sense of Humor about Food Allergies

I bumped into yet anther debate in the long, endless stream of outrage over insensitivity online this morning and am again alarmed and disappointed at the PC police. Quaker Oats corporation posted a funny 50 thoughts every Mom has at snack time piece over on Buzzfeed that included the following lines:

The kids will be home soon, and they’ll be hungry.

Are they bringing that friend with all of those allergies?

I really hope not. I mean, I like her, but come on.

If you go and read the comments, people are crucifying Quaker Oats over these lines, suggesting that the writer is incredibly insensitive and even to have those thoughts is wildly inappropriate and a sign of someone who is seriously messed up, and for Quaker Oats to have approved this piece (which it might or might not have done) means the company is just as horrible.

A few examples:

  • “A truly awful display of intolerance of children with disabilities.”
  • “My son is THAT kid, shame on you Quaker for being a part of the problem. My son has been bullied for his food allergies. Do you know how many families are grieving this Christmas because they lost a child to food allergies this year? Would you say the same thing about a child in a wheelchair? It is a disability. You should apologize!”
  • “Quaker is a company that discriminates against kids with allergies, you know? We don’t buy products from companies like that. Ever.”

I thought the piece was probably a rather realistic portrayal of the stream of consciousness that goes through a parent’s mind and as a parent whose children have at various times had food allergies and whose friends have food allergies too, it is a pain to deal with. Not sure why none of the respondents felt they could just say that, but it’s clearly easier to prepare a quick snack for a child that has zero food allergies or dietary constraints than one that can’t have this, that or the other ingredient. Is that so horrible to say?

What’s most troubling about this, however, is that this is really is the thought police at work here: the article was framed as “what a mom thinks” and even thinking that allergies are difficult for another parent to manage isn’t okay? I have friends who have children with various disabilities, and when they’re being candid, they’ll admit that it can be a major challenge. Heck, parenting itself is difficult, whether your child is allergy and disability free or whether they’re quite afflicted.

Is the effort needed to care for a higher needs child worth it? Of course, and thinking it’s difficult doesn’t imply anything else unless you have a chip on your shoulder.

I’ll admit it: If my children have a friend over who has major food allergies and can’t be in the same room as peanuts, for example, or strawberries, we’ll deal with it, but it is a major hassle. Is it worth it so we can enjoy their company and ensure that they are safe and happy? Definitely. But it’s still a hassle.

And that’s all the original piece was trying to convey as part of a prototypical mom’s thought process.

When we can’t even acknowledge that a handicap like food allergies – or any other disability – is a challenge for both parents and the community to overcome without having to immediately justify that it’s worth the effort, then we just move into an even more tense, intolerant world.

It was an attempt at humor. Quaker, it’s okay. The thought police will move on to their next victim soon enough…

4 comments on “Having a Sense of Humor about Food Allergies

  1. its really not okay. not for a business. not for a public company, not for the allergy kid. not at all. so would it be okay to have the mother say something about hoping her kid doesn’t bring THAT BLACK KID!!! hell no. it is not okay. it is real. to make light of it as not being politically correct is just making you out to be an ass. i hope you never come to my house at snack time. you might get a loogie in your sandwich.

    • You equate race with food allergies, and you say I’m the ass, Ed? Yeah, hope that works out for you in the long run…

  2. Hi Dave, I think most parents would agree that managing a food allergy is definitely inconvenient. I don’t think anyone would argue with you on that point. My concern with the original article on buzzfeed is that it promotes the idea that it is acceptable to socially exclude children with food allergies because it is a hassle. The mom said she hopes the child doesn’t come, not that the hassle is worth it.

    This is a very sensitive topic for parents of children with food allergies because their children are often socially excluded, sometimes every day, because of their condition. It is tough to laugh at something that is so raw and real for so many people. There was an uproar because people were hurt and expected a more inclusive perspective from a company that is supposed to be wholesome and family-oriented.

    The truth of the matter is many parents of children with food allergies aren’t lucky enough to have people around them like you who think that it is worth the hassle to enjoy their company. Unfortunately, the “I really hope not” sentiment is a little too real for a lot of people.

    • Thanks for your note, Tiffany. When I read the original piece I didn’t get any sort of “promotes the idea that it’s acceptable to socially exclude children”. I think that’s reading quite a lot into a flow of consciousness sort of attempt at humor from the original author. It didn’t say “glad we no longer invite that kid with allergies over” or “glad my kid’s no longer friends with that weird food allergy boy”, just that it’s something that needs to be considered when figuring out a snack. Really, parents with children suffering from food allergies could also reframe the debate that it’s great the parent is acknowledging that some children HAVE allergies and that she needs to take that into consideration, rather than just serving whatever they want and letting the kid either have a bad reaction or suffer because they know they can’t actually eat any of it. Oh, and if you have a child with major food allergies, I think a social nicety would be for them to show up with ready to go snacks if that’s otherwise going to be super challenging…

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