When I was growing up, I loved Valentine's Day. It was filled with funny Valentine's from friends, often accompanied by a tiny red circular lollypop with a white heart imprinted on the front. Those were the best Valentines. The ones that had candy attached. There weren't too many, but I can still tell you the names of the kids that sent those to school.
Fast forward to my children attending class, and there's been a candy explosion. EVERYBODY sends candy with their Valentine. The coveted item is typically the big boxes of candy hearts. The item I despise the most is the Fun Dip or the Pixy Stix Valentines. There is no conceivable way to keep the colored sugar off my floor.
This year there there won't be a sugared Cupid in our schools. I received a note from my fifth grader's classroom telling us that they will not be allowing candy to be given out on Valentine's Day. I feel like I've been working since the beginning of time to have the schools offer healthier alternatives in the lunchroom, but I thought this might be a bit extreme. Upon reading further, I discovered that it's because of potential allergies.
My daughter is in an "allergy safety room", so I thought that might be the reason, and I was totally fine with the school's decision. Then when I received the letter from my son's school stating something similar, I started asking around and discovered all the schools in our district are forbidding any treats to be distributed.
I never imagined what a beehive I stirred when I started asking questions in various social circles. After simply posing the question, "How do you feel about there not being any candy on Valentine's Day in the classroom?":
- "It's RIDICULOUS. If the kid's allergies are that severe, why are they going to a public school?!?"
- "You have no idea how bad it is for the families - this is a life or death situation. It's the least we can do!"
- "The kids have been exchanging treats for 20 years and I don't know of any deaths. What has changed?"
- "My child would have to be rushed to the hospital if your child accidentally brought in something with peanuts."
- "Why can't we get a list of acceptable items -- like something off the safe snack list? Why do a couple of kids have to ruin it for an entire school district? If my child was special-needs, I would work around the system, I wouldn't expect the system to work around me!!!"
- "Just let these kids feel normal around the holiday - don't you want to teach your child tolerance?"
- "Kids with allergies need to learn how to operate in society. Life isn't going to change for them for any reason. It's a great lesson to learn early. It's like having Christmas without presents. Do we have to ruin every holiday?"
- "I'm Jewish."
I typically have very strong opinions about everything, but I'm torn on this one. I see both sides very clearly. I don't keep sweets or junk food in my house, and like to save it for special occasions and holidays. I can't stand Halloween, but the kids love it and I'm glad they get the opportunity to feel free to indulge. Although Valentine's Day is a much smaller occasion for sugary crap, I'm still good with it because don't all the experts say to save the sweets for a special occasion?
Some of my best memories are getting unique candies from my classmates. I still remember in 3rd grade I received a large multi-colored gum ball in my specially decorated Valentine's box. I couldn't tell you 90% of the classes I took in high school, but I can tell you what kids brought treats with their Valentines.
I wish there was a way to still keep the magical memories as well as keep it safe for the kids with allergies. I'm sorry, but the heart shaped erasers aren't going to do it.
I got whoopee cushions for my kids to hand out thinking that was a fun way to keep silly memories of the holiday, but when my daughter's teacher heard her talking about it, she called me and said that it would not be appropriate to bring to school. GIVE. ME. A. BREAK.
I chose not to make a big deal out of the allergy restrictions to the school, or even my friends. The biggest reason is, I feel very blessed to have healthy kids, and I should really just be thankful that I don't have to deal with the struggles that the families with allergies have to face every day. I'm grateful that the only thing I have to deal with is a lactose intolerant kid. I pretty much ignore that she has that issue anyway.
It's not really that big of a deal to change a bit of my kid's world in order to help out someone that struggles with allergies, but I do think we need to come up with alternative ways to make their memories special. The schools are setting up a system that will foster resentment toward children with allergies. They need to come up with a fantastic plan B that allows kids not to miss the good ole' candy parties.
Couldn't they have at least given me the freakin' whoopee cushions?