Friday, July 21, 2006

as shabbat swoops in... brief Friday moment to myself. And here is what's percolating:

I've regained enough self-confidence (self-faith?) to try and think about a talk I'm giving in September to a nursing association about...advocacy and children. Once I admitted to myself that right now, I feel like a non-expert about my own kids, things started falling into place. I even came up with some fun titles, thanks to the Gnome and the j.c.. Here's what I got:

Armed and Advocating: a parent's perspective
But I can't even reach the water fountain! Growing an Advocate
Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Advocate?
you must be as tall as *this* sign to have an advocate... (this was all joyous cousin's)
Advocacy for the Diapered Set
Advocacy for the Calendrically Challenged

Vote, o readers! Which is your favorite?

On a related note, there was an intriguing article in the Tue, July 18 NYTimes. Here is the link. The title to the article, in my copy of the paper (it's different on-line) is: "A City Agrees to Cut Down Three Trees to Make a Grandmother's Yard Allergy-Free." The article describes how a child who is highly nut allergic (contact will set him off, not just ingestion), is cared for by a grandmother whose property is overhung by three hickory trees. The nuts from the tree, it seems, are a problem for the boy, so the grandmother has petitioned the city to have the trees removed - at her expense. The family will also donate money to replace the trees with something else, presumably allergy-friendly.

My hackles started rising when I read the title alone: can something ever be allergy-free? I see this phrase a lot, on products saying they are 'allergy-free,' institutions - even my own gym has a sign saying it's nursery is 'allergy-free.' I sat down with the gym manager and explained: there is really no way to be allergy-free, not with people potentially allergic to anything. She paused, and looked at the babes playing at my feet. 'Well,' she said, 'what are your kids allergic to?' I laughed a little. 'You'd never be able to allergy-proof the nursery for my pair,' I said. 'But you could protect them by becoming allergy-friendly, and prepared..'

Should life conform itself to the needs of the individual? Does the needs of the individual outweigh those of the group? I think we should work to integrate allergy kids, diabetic kids, hemo-kids into the larger group, but you can't compromise their safety to do so. So is there a balance between the peanut-free school and the isolating peanut-free table in the cafeteria? To what extent are we willing to rebuild our environment for an individual's needs?

I wonder sometimes what school cafeterias will look like, a generation from now. If the trend continues, the 8% of American children with allergies (up from 4% in my generation) will double again, so that my grandhcildren's generation will have 16% with allergies. What will they serve as a school lunch? On the other hand, given the disastrous offerings currently on tap, perhaps a radical change might not be so bad... Still, it begs the question as to how much change. If you dig up today's hickory tree and replace it with grass and a nice rhododendron, you just don't know if the next homeowner will have a child allergic to grass. Or rhodos. It's as if we're being taught a lesson: having carelessly mucked around with the world, we're now in a position where the world bites back.

It used to be that allergy didn't have as heavy a thumb on the scales, but now, as anaphylaxis is increasingly common, the calculus is changing. Can we create a world flexible enough for my children to be completely safe? For this woman's grandchild? I doubt it. But I can hope that we can create a world that will be flexible enough to protect these fragile lives, and to respect their needs. Today, I am certain that we can - at least until the children begin to advocate for themselves. Although the landscaping bill for the environmental allergy families begins to look daunting...heh. They should see the mockery that is my food budget.

Shabbat shalom, all - may your weekends be filled with peace and respect.

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