“It’s not my problem”.
That’s what a mom I encountered just like week said to me. Here’s what happened…
Last week, my husband and I headed out to the park for a picnic. We packed Olivia sweet potatoes, Daiya vegan cheese and AppleGate deli ham. 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 until she needed a cookie break (Enjoy Life Chocolate Chip – her fav!). After she finished lunch, we headed over to the playscape so she could play on the swing and slide with her patch on. The playscape with the patch on is one of our go to actives. All of the different pieces of equipment keep her distracted and she’s gotten so comfortable playing on them, shes a pro at going down each and every slide. The park was packed with tons of families enjoying this glimpse of fall weather. Olivia was having the best time when all of a sudden a new family entered the playscape.
The family ran onto the train playscape activity 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 them to the side and left them there.
Unfortunately, the ice cream being all over the playscape meant it was time for us to leave. We are already very cautious at the park – using wipes as necessary and wiping down surfaces when we need to. But seeing the actual food that could *kill* Olivia all over the equipment that is meant for all kids to play on, meant it was time to head out. So we abruptly packed Olivia up, ignoring her requests for one more time on the ‘side’ and walked to the car.
As you all probably know by now, I am one momma bear when it comes to my baby and food allergies. I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t let this go! Not because anyone was in trouble – but because maybe that parent just didn’t know! Maybe that mom didn’t realize the repercussions her child smearing the ice cream everywhere, had 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 of those kids. I was SO nervous – I don’t do 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 didn’t realize the full magnitude or realize how serious food allergies were. My mission is to spread awareness and I figured, lets start with this momma! Boy was I wrong…
I walked up to the mom:
“Hi, did your kids bring those ice creams onto the playscape?”
“Oh Okay! (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 that contain dairy are very dangerous for her and for many other children that use the playscape.”
“The birds will get it” — Imagine saying the word WHAT — that’s what my face looked like.
“Oh yeah, well we unforturtuantly had to leave the playscape because the ice cream went all over the train and walkways.”
“That’s not my problem and it’s not my kids problem”
To which I responded, cuz now my heart is PUMPING – “If my daughter were to touch that ice cream and it got anywhere near her face, it would kill her. She could die. 1 in 13 kids have life threatening food allergies – not just my daughter” – I’ve been doing a lot of reading!
“Listen, if you’re daughter can’t safely play at the park then you should just keep her home. Carry her around the playscape, I don’t care. What, does she walk on her hands or something? It’s not my problem that she has so many issues. It’s JUST food.” – she yelled this at me in front of a dozen other parents that were at the park that day. Everyone stared at us in awe.
At this point, I just 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. Rather than saying something like, “oh my goodness, I didn’t realize, I will make sure we don’t eat on the playscape in the future” or something as simple as “absolutely, no problem!” she got very defensive and mean. Sadly, this sort of reaction centered around food allergies is something I’ve read all to much about.
Under her breath, as she walked away, the mom said back, “ill put the ice cream into the garbage” to which 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 just 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 to so many. Olivia looks like such a typical kid that a stranger would never know that coming into contact with certain foods could kill her. A dime sized amount of that protein in her mouth, takes seconds to take action. A child with a disability on the outside like needing a wheelchair or another special accommodation would never be questioned but someone with food allergies is often seen as picky or intolerant. Food allergies, wheel chairs, glasses, or any other accommodation don’t hold these kids back – 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 “lets find a solution”. The inclusion of others is our responsibility!
The next night, I met with the Parks and Rec department in my town to discuss a change at our park. Visit the blog in a couple days to check out the latest addition to the playground!