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When Food Allergies Disrupt Traditions

Field Day is a quintessential spring activity for most, but where we live they’ve turned it into a team-building fall activity.  We had beautiful weather for it too, though maybe a little too hot. But it was nice that no one minded getting wet for the water games.

When I think about how our district strays from the norm in terms of Field Day, my mind comes back to food allergies. Most adult opposition to food allergy accommodations is because it will disrupt their traditions. People think of PB&Js and cupcakes as an integral part of childhood. If they can’t give their children the same experiences, then what’s left?

But the thing is, our culture is always evolving. My childhood didn’t involve smartphones or tablets, but I don’t need to deprive my kids of these advances in order to be like me. I spent my Saturday mornings watching cartoons, not YouTube videos. I could walk to the park by myself without anyone judging my parents. We celebrated Halloween and Christmas at school without a thought for those who didn’t share those holidays. We didn’t have lockdown drills. And while I’ll always remember Field Day as an end-of-school-year thing, my kids don’t enjoy it any less in the fall.

Our kids are their own people, and they’re forming their own quintessential memories based on their own experiences. If they attend a peanut-free school, or one that celebrates birthdays without food, their childhood memories aren’t going to be any dimmer than our own. They’ll just be based on different experiences.

Disrupting Holiday Traditions

This same principle can be applied to family gatherings. How many rifts have allergic families experienced surrounding the food served at holiday dinners?

We’re habitual people. We like making the same dish every year. Baking together makes us feel closer. Baking Grandma’s Famous Pie every year after she dies helps us feel like we’re still inviting her to the table. People don’t like letting go of Grandma’s Famous Pie, because they feel like they’re losing Grandma.

We also don’t like letting go of our traditions because of the fond memories we associate with those traditions. They make us feel good inside, because of how good we felt making the memories.

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