If you have not heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project, it is a movement that started to spread awareness about food allergies and allow kids with food allergies to safely participate in the time-honored Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating. The movement started in Tennessee but is gaining steam nationally thanks, in large part, to social media. The idea is that if you wish to supply non-food treats for those kids that cannot eat the standard candy, you paint a pumpkin teal or hang up a sign to signal that you have safe items available for the allergic trick-or-treater. I plan on having candy for the kids without allergies and non-food items for the kids with allergies.
I think it is a very sweet idea. I would, of course, because I have kids with food allergies. From the beginning, I have always bought non-chocolate candy on account of all the kids with nut allergies. It had not occurred to me that there would be kids that could not even eat my laffy taffy, so I am thankful for the Teal Pumpkin Project, for broadening my horizons and encouraging me to buy some bubbles and, at the same time, giving me a way to communicate to the kids with allergies that I have safe treats available.
That is all there should be to write about this topic, but I am sad to say that it is not. If you have read any news story about this project, you will see comments that range from being simply ignorant to downright vile. This project, it seems, has brought the food allergy war to another ugly head.
Nearly seven years into being an “allergy mom” and I am used to the ignorance, the eye rolls, the unsolicited advice, and, more recently, the unfiltered anger that people have towards families that have food allergies. Last month, I had a man, via Facebook, explain to me that parents of kids with “allergies” are irrational and delusional and that they should homeschool their kids along with the rest of the crazy people and that the food allergies are a figment of their imagination, made up to gain attention for themselves. Now, I am paraphrasing there, but that is a pretty accurate synopsis. I can generally turn the other cheek. I know that I am not crazy, I am actually quite rational and the way that I handle my children’s allergies are based on science and research, not on the notion that if something was not as prevalent in the 1980s when I was growing up, then it must not be real today(because that is a SUPER rational way to look at the world.)
There is a sect of people that are very angry at families with food allergies, either because they are ignorant or they understand the seriousness of food allergies but they do not want you taking away their DAMN NUTS (or eggs, milk, soy, etc.)! They do not want to bend over backwards because of YOUR (my )child! For the record, I do not ever expect anyone to do anything special for my children. I always come to parties prepared with safe treats for my son, since he cannot have the cake or the cookies. I do not do it begrudgingly, this is our reality. But you know what? The one time I went to a (non-family) party and the mother had egg-free cupcakes especially for my son, I was taken aback by her thoughtfulness. It was a very sweet gesture and it made my son smile as big as I have ever seen. And although I did not expect it, I sure did appreciate it. There is a difference.
And that brings me to the Teal Pumpkin Project. Truth be told, I do not EXPECT anything special for my children, and I actually quite enjoy confiscating all the Snickers and Reese Cups. BUT, if we see any teal pumpkins, I know that I will also see big smiles on my boys’ faces, and for that I will be thankful and appreciative.
My aunt is a teacher who deals with middle school children, and their complaints, all day. Her first question is usually, “And how does that affect you?” This is what I want to say to all the Teal Pumpkin Project Haters: how does it affect you? If you do not like it, do not participate. That is it. Your nasty comments are uneducated, unnecessary, and after hearing them for several years, they are not even original anymore.