Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Day 51-58 "Special Treatment"

When people hear the phrase "special treatment" they get concerned that someone is getting something that they are not. Just as I believe that, in general, people are innately good, I also believe that people are innately selfish. It is our human nature to be that way, it is our faith and life teachings that show us how to grow beyond that and find a state of grace. The thought recently occurred to me that the majority of conflict I face in trying to rally people into safe behaviors around my severely milk allergic child, stems from them thinking I'm asking for special treatment. This then leads them to think my daughter/family is getting something more than theirs, and nobody wants to feel gipped by compromising their own wants.

It's true that I have a laundry list of non-negotiables when being around my daughter, but the reasoning should be understandable. Sophia's LIFE is in a constant state of jeopardy because of the environments she is subject to. Part of raising a child living with a life threatening food allergy is prioritizing the management and control of these environments. In Sophia's case she requires, in a sense, "special treatment" not to make her better off than anybody else, but to give her a chance to be on an equal playing field. Special treatment is accommodating the needs of people who have additional life challenges in an effort to keep things fair for everyone. Selfishness is what takes this concept to another level because of people who feel entitled to more than others because of vanity or greed. When it comes to children with food allergies this is clearly not the case-- so why is everyone seem to be against the grain of change?  Sometimes people get caught up in the idea that everything needs to be "even steven" but to not acknowledge the special needs of some and bridge that gap is to not validate the causes.

 We don't all have to pretend that everyone is the same and that we don't see differences. Nobody is the same or responds in the same way to the same things. Some people are so sensitive that it's hard to even talk with them so you find yourself altering your "normal" way of being to accommodate their sensitive needs. In the opposition, some people are super defensive making any conversation with them feel like being in a battle field trying to avoid all of their triggers. Then there's the merging of families with all of these special personality needs and it is a true challenge to find harmony. It kind of makes a "no food policy" being around a child with food allergies look like an attainable goal and a walk in the park. People seem to be more willing to adapt psychologically than physically with actions and changed behaviors. Managing the avoidance of deadly invisible allergens teaches you to reevaluate what constitutes a real problem.

We need to embrace the differences by not comparing everyone to the same "normal" model. People tell me how Sophia needs to go here and there because some other children went and liked it. The concept needs to stick that Sophia is not "other children". She is her own unique self and her needs are different and specific. She is a child living with a severe food allergy, and she can't be made to fit inside someone else's box. Her experience doing "normal" public things is different because she has to be on high allergy alert,  being told not to touch anything and wiping & cleaning everything to keep her safe. She doesn't receive the same fun experience as children who are able to be carefree while playing amongst milk proteins. It is much better to make things less stressful for her by bringing her into safe environments where we don't have to bog her down with the constant threats to her health.  Food allergy parents need people to realize that our kids aren't missing out on fun unless their needs are left out. Our children may be the minority of the population but they deserve an equal voice to make their health requirements heard.

Parenting a child with severe food allergies teaches you to embrace everybody's differences and find ways to carve new paths where lives can merge together safely and happily. We teach our children to be grateful for the kindness and thoughtfulness of others, something our kids are very aware of and don't take for granted. Our kids deserve to be respected and protected in the same way other children living with obstacles affecting their quality of life do. Hopefully as this generation of children with food allergies grows, the world around them will learn more about their needs and be understanding to them. Controlled regulations on where food is allowed would be a HUGE step for our children. I believe in protecting all human life from the very beginning to the end, because all life is a gift with a purpose from a loving God. 

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