I will preface this story by saying that I am unbearably embarrassed and ashamed of what I’m about to share with you. Originally, I didn’t even want to write about it. But then I realized that by telling this story, I have the potential to open up someone’s eyes to how serious an issue this is. All I can say is that I didn’t mean to be so stupid and I swear that it will never ever happen again.
During the winter months, I took Thumper to an indoor playground once a week. For awhile, every trip seemed to pose a major dilemma as to what I should pack for lunch. As you know, Thumper is ridiculously picky and often she wants to eat things that I feel are not adequate. Well, on the day in question, Thumper had just started her addiction to peanut butter, so I happily packed a PB sammy, overjoyed that it was simple and not overly messy. I was so delirious with the knowledge that she’d gobble it up without a fight that it didn’t cross my mind that bringing PB into playground is a big, major, absolute no-no.
So we got to the playground, played a bit and then sat down for lunch. It took five minutes of watching Thumper munch away before it dawned on me how completely stupid I was for bringing a peanut product into a room full of kids, probably half of whom were allergic to said product. A sinking feeling appeared in my stomach as I looked around to see if anyone else has noticed my awful mistake. Luckily, there was no one else eating lunch at that time. Since Thumper was too little to understand why I would suddenly steal her sandwich away, and I very desperately wanted to avoid a freak-out and keep a low profile, I decided to let her finish eating the half of the sandwich she already had, pack the rest away, and then scrub her hands and face clean. As I quietly berated myself, I looked to my left and there staring me square in the face was a sign clearly stating that the playground is a peanut-free zone. The worst part is that I’ve read that sign a million times. Even if the sign wasn’t there, it’s something I would have known. You do not bring nut products anywhere there will be kids. End of story. Obviously I don’t have a peanut allergy but that doesn’t mean I’m ignorant to the fact that a lot of other people do and that it's very serious.
Before Thumper was finished, a mother and her four year old daughter sat down at our table for a snack. Out of fear, I kept my eyes on Thumper but I could tell out of my peripherals that the woman was staring us down hard. Just as I was working up the nerve to say something to her, she asked if we were eating peanut butter. Busted. I wanted to cry and throw myself on the floor begging for mercy, but I maintained my composure. When I replied that it was, she told me her daughter was allergic and that was the moment I wanted to punch myself in the face. Thumper was finished at this point, so as I scrubbed her hands and face dangerously close to the point of peeling off skin, I apologized profusely to the other mom. She matter-of-factly pointed to the sign and even her daughter piped up and told me that “peanut butter is NOT allowed.” I was honest with her and told her I wasn’t trying to be rude or inconsiderate but that it was a horrible, absent-minded mistake. Lucky for me, the woman turned out to be very nice. She accepted my apologies, all eighty thousand of them, and she didn’t hurl me through the window, which I thought was pretty decent of her.
The honest truth is that because my daughter is not allergic to nuts, it’s not something I have to think about on a daily basis. So even though I knew in the back of my mind that I wasn’t allowed to bring in a PB sandwich, I did it anyway because in my life, nut allergies are still somewhat of an abstract idea; I know they exist, but they aren’t present in my everyday life. I just wasn’t used to thinking about it. This is in no way an acceptable excuse and you’d better believe that now it IS something I think about. That day seriously haunts me. It makes me ill to think I could be so irresponsible and could have seriously harmed an innocent little girl.
I’ve read several articles and editorials written from both sides of the spectrum. While I understand how challenging it can be to get your child to eat anything other than PB, when you read the stories of moms whose kids have severe nut allergies and hear all of the awful near-misses and, too often, fatalities, it is simply baffling to think anyone, let alone another mother, could continue to be so unaware of the subject’s severity. If you happen to be one of those people, then please, for a moment put yourself in the shoes of that other mother. What if that was your child? You sit down for a simple snack when you suddenly notice the family next to you, mere inches from your daughter, is eating a product that could LITERALLY prove to be fatal for your child. What do you do? Would you be gracious enough to politely ask them to get rid of the sandwich? Or would your anger get the best of you knowing how easy it is to comply in keeping a peanut-free zone?
I’m sorry for getting all preachy on you guys but I think this is such a serious issue. I know there are people who might think it inconvenient not to be able to send a PB&J to school with your kid who will eat nothing but. Trust me, I get how picky they can be. But when you compare the inconvenience of having to find an alternative lunch for a few days a week to the inconvenience of having to avoid nuts – and all products that don’t come with a guarantee of not having been in contact nuts – all day every day for your whole life, I think it’s a pretty obvious answer as to which is worse. At the end of the day, we are all moms and we, as cliché as it sounds, are all in this together. The real question is why wouldn’t you choose to make life easier for your fellow mommies and their babies?