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The Time I Confronted Another Mom to Protect My Child

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Last week my family headed out to the park for a picnic. My husband and I packed sweet potatoes, vegan cheese and ham for our daughter Olivia. She ran around the grass at full speed for a solid 30 minutes, only stopping at the picnic blanket for a quick bite and sip of water. She gave the trees more hugs than I could keep track of and chased Dan to the lake and back. After she finished lunch, we headed over to the playground so she could play on the swing and slide. The playground is one of our go-to activities. The park was packed with families enjoying this glimpse of fall weather. Olivia was having the best time when all of a sudden a new family entered the playground.

The kids from the family ran onto the train with two dripping, soft serve ice cream cones. And when I say dripping, I mean the ice cream was leaving a path behind the kids as they walked around. To make matters worse, the kids dropped their cones on the playscape and rather than cleaning them up and putting them in the garbage, their mom kicked the cones to the side and left them there on the ground.

We are already cautious at the park and wipe down surfaces when we need to. But seeing the actual food that could kill Olivia all over the equipment meant it was time for us to head out. So we abruptly packed Olivia up, ignoring her requests for one more time on the slide, and we walked to the car.

I am one mama bear when it comes to my baby and food allergies. I couldn’t let this go! Not because the other family was “in trouble” — but because maybe that parent just didn’t know! Maybe the other mom didn’t realize her child smearing the ice cream everywhere had repercussions on other people. So I strapped Olivia into her car seat to hang out with her daddy and headed back to the playscape to talk with the parents. I was so nervous — I’m usually not comfortable with confrontation. But to be honest, not one ounce of me believed this type of conversation could escalate. I assumed this mom just didn’t know. Before I had a child with food allergies, I certainly didn’t realize the magnitude or how serious they were. My mission now is to spread awareness and I figured, lets start with this mama! Boy was I wrong.

I walked up to the mom and said, “Hi, did your kids bring those ice creams onto the playscape?”

“Yes.” she responded.

“Oh, OK!” I said with a smile. “I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind just grabbing the cones and throwing them in the garbage. My daughter has life-threatening food allergies, and foods like ice cream containing dairy are very dangerous for her and other children using the playscape.”

“The birds will get it,” she responded.

Imagine saying the word what — that’s what my face looked like.

“Oh yeah, well we unfortunately had to leave the playscape because the ice cream went all over the train and walkways,” I told her.

“That’s not my problem, and it’s not my kids’ problem,” she said to my surprise.

Now my heart was pumping. I responded, “If my daughter were to touch that ice cream, and it got anywhere near her face, it could kill her. She could die. One in 13 kids have life-threatening food allergies. Not just my daughter.”

“Listen, if your daughter can’t safely play at the park then you should just keep her home. Carry her around the playground, I don’t care. It’s not my problem she has so many issues. It’s just food.”

She yelled this at me in front of a dozen other parents at the park. Everyone stared at us.

At this point, I smiled at her, turned and walked away. When I went to talk to this mom, my only goal was to hopefully get her to clean up the ice cream and explain to her why. Unfortunately, she did not take it that way. She got defensive and mean. Sadly, this sort of reaction centered around food allergies is something I’ve read all too much about.

Under her breath as she walked away, the mom said, “I’ll put the ice cream into the garbage.”

I replied, “That’s all I ask.”

Did this encounter go as I hoped? No. But at the end of the day, the mom decided to do the right thing and pick up after her kids. I’m proud of myself for standing up for my daughter and others like her. In this case, it paid off.

Food allergies are an invisible disability impacting so many. A stranger would never know coming into contact with certain foods could kill Olivia. A dime-sized amount of that protein in her mouth is all it would take. People with food allergies are often seen as picky or intolerant. While food allergies may require some accommodations from others, it’s our job to make the world a more inclusive place for all.

So no, it might not be your problem. It might not be your kids’ problem. But let’s change that! Let’s change our reactions from, “That’s not my problem” to “Let’s find a solution.” The inclusion of others is our responsibility.

Photo courtesy of the author

Originally published: October 29, 2019
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