The food allergic kids somehow find each other. As a result our home has rules about nuts. Nuts are not allowed in my son’s room. Sticky nut milks and nut butters are not allowed anywhere at any time. Food labels are checked for “secret” nuts or nut powders. Processed and packaged foods are carefully checked for occult nuts.
When our son asked me why we have these rules since we can all eat nuts, I stated simply, “Safety is more important than convenience. When you care about people you live with minor inconveniences to keep them comfortable and safe.”
My husband can eat gluten and dairy, just not freely in his own home. The rules around gluten and dairy consumption here favor the people who need safety. He can eat packaged food that doesn’t require plates in his home office. He can eat whatever he wants outside the house.
But in our own home, we get to feel safe.
I know celiacs who are marginalized in their own homes. They have to keep their special food in a special drawer while their families eat gluten pizza and wheat bread and wheat cereal and get wheat in the toaster, wheat in the condiments, wheat on the sponges, and wheat on the faucet handles and doorknobs. The house has wheat everywhere and it is up to the celiac to magically avoid it.
Sometimes that celiac is only five years old.
Yes, the world is place full of gluten, dairy and nuts. Yes, we need to function in a world that may not accomodate us and is unsafe, but we should not have to do so in our own homes. I want my son and his nut allergic friends to know that our home is a place where they can truly relax and be who they are when they are not busy compensating.
I think kindness at home becomes contagious. I am so proud of my son for waiting and walking slowly to keep pace with his friend who has leg braces, or patiently adapting to the boy whose cochlear implants are new, and who still can’t speak, or being patient with the friend whose sensory issues mean she cannot bear to be touched. His limitation is not so obvious, but it is just as real.
I want a world where we accomodate the limitations of others and therefore let them spend less energy compensating and more energy sharing their talents with us. In this way we can make space for the gifts that the paralyzed (Stephen Hawking), the deaf (Thomas Edison), the blind (Stevie Wonder), the autistic (Temple Grandin) and yes, the severely food allergic (Serena Williams and Sarah Vowell) have to offer us all.
The photograph is used with permission and is courtesy of Michaela Kobyakov and stock.xchang.com. All rights reserve
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