Leading up to Halloween there was lots of things circulating social media about the plight of kids with food allergies on Halloween. Stories of parents asking, and sometimes demanding, that candy or treats be purchased by the neighbors and passed out that meets their child’s dietary needs. I’m sorry, but if you’re one of those parents you’re doing it wrong.
To be sure, I get that no one wants to see their child be hurt by feeling left out. It hits you right in the feels to see the disappointment on their face as tears run down cheeks. I get it, I really do. Although I don’t have a child with food allergies, I do have a child who struggles on Halloween. My oldest daughter has Spina Bifida, and requires the use of wheel chair. We live in a very hilly part of the country, and several of our neighbors have steps or a large curb up to their front door. I watched as she struggled to make it as close as she could to the porches. I watched her face cringe every time she had to wait until all the other kids left the porch to be seen. I saw the embarrassment as she heard her younger brother explain that he needed extra treats to give to his sister when she couldn’t make it close enough to the door for a neighbor to see her. Of course I helped her push up the steps when possible, but there were a good many homes where getting to the front door using a wheel chair just wasn’t possible. I still held her at the end of the night while she cried about how left out she felt, and how unfair it was that she couldn’t walk like the other kids.
I noticed that several of our neighbors decorated their yards and set up tables and chairs in their drive way. She rolled right up with the other kids, and could easily participate fully in the trick or treat experience. I could put out a flyer next year explaining my daughter’s difficulty with Halloween, and ask them all to set up shop in their driveway. I won’t be doing that, and here’s why.
- It teaches my child to expect fairness. Life is in no way fare, and it is crippling to teach your child that it is, or even that it should be. In the real world your child will encounter frustration and disappointment. Better for them to learn to deal with those feelings in a positive way than to try to manipulate the environment so that your child avoids hard and negative feelings.
- It teaches my child to make her problems other people’s problems. Using a wheel chair in a world designed for people who walk requires lots of problem solving skills. Halloween won’t be the only time accessibility becomes a problem for her. Just like it is not the only time a child with food allergies has to deal with people eating potentially dangerous food around them. Teaching my child to get what she needs and wants while facing accessibly issues is an important life skill. Instead of expecting everyone else in the neighborhood to make it easy for her I teach her to speak up for herself, and let the homeowner know she is at the bottom of the porch steps.. If I had a child with a food allergy I would encourage them to say “I’m allergic to nuts, and cannot eat Snickers. Can I have those Skittles instead.”. I’d also talk about how donating the candy they cannot eat will bring joy to someone else, and promise to buy them their favorite treat they can eat.
- It teaches my child its not OK to be different. The fact is my child is different. She will never be able to blend in, and there will always be situations that point out to her just how different she is. I want her to know that different means different, not less than. I want her to feel comfortable and confident in her own skin. If I ran around all the time manipulating situations so that she doesn’t have to feel different, it not only robs her of practice dealing with those feelings, but it teaches her that I am uncomfortable dealing with her being different. If I cannot accept and celebrate her in her diffenetness, how on earth can I expect her to be able to?
I know it is HARD to see your child struggle, but personal growth, problem solving skills, and self acceptance are born out of that struggle. Just as the struggle a butterfly experiences emerging from their cocoon is necessary to fill their wings and allow them to fly; so too is it necessary for our children’s to fully development, and eventual flight. Romans 5:3 says” … we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character ,hope.” As a parent my job is not to go out of my way to fix everything for my kids so they avoid uncomfortable feelings. My job is to shepherd them through those feelings when they have opportunity to arise.