A Letter to the Parent of a Child with Severe Food Allergies

11/12/2010 By Shawn Burns

Dear Me-Not-Me,

I am sorry your son is allergic to milk and eggs. And I’m more sorry he’s deathly allergic to peanuts.

I will try to provide a common classroom snack for the kids that your son can eat all or the majority of, without stressing out too much about those decisions, since I know you provide a safe back-up snack for your son.

I will not risk his life by sending peanuts into the classroom. And I will try to keep the increasing likelihood of interaction with highly peanut-allergic children in mind when I give my own children peanut products. I will try to be mindful of the fact that inhaling the dust or coming into skin contact with peanut products can cause as severe a reaction as eating a peanut. I will consider my children’s peanut consumption a privilege, an happy accident, (which comes with an obligation to respect those with allergies), rather than a natural right to be be guarded ferociously, and at your son’s expense.

I will expect you to be better than I am at this, because he’s your son, and you’ve had more practice and have more invested.

I will not insist that you be better than I am at this, because we are all human, and if there is a time when you slip I hope that I don’t.

I will try. I will not always succeed. I will be better at this than I would have been ten years ago, than any of us would have been twenty years ago. My failures will come from forgetfulness, not willfulness or ignorance. My successes will come from respect.