Oak Trees and Allergies

So full disclosure. I have a daughter who is allergic to nuts and peanuts. 

You have probably heard the story of a mother who is asking that acorn-dropping oak trees in her daughter’s school yard be cut down to protect children with allergies to nuts. If you haven’t, here it is.

This woman is being massacred in the popular media. She has been called a nut-job, a narcissist, crazy, insane and a lunatic,

She has been told to shut up.

She has been told to pull her kids out of school and home-school them.

She has been told to move.

One person suggested that she be tied to an oak tree.

A number of people commented that mothers are responsible for causing their children’s food allergies because they keep their kids in bubble wrap.* 

Some scoffed at the idea that bullies will use the acorns to frighten children with nut allergies.


To me it sounds like a whole lot of people are bullying a mom who is just worried about her child. It’s OK to disagree with her and think she is overreacting, but people! These comments are just vile.

So yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the children of some of these commentators are bullying other kids with acorns. And maybe all this helps to explain why bullying won’t go away. 

Everyone will pay lip-service to the idea that bullying is bad, but then they see a person that they disagree with and it brings forth a nasty torrent of mean-spiritedness. 

Well, then. She obviously deserved it.

* One theory as to why food allergies are on the rise is that children is the hygiene hypothesis http://foodallergies.about.com/od/foodallergybasics/f/hygienehypoth.htm. where it is proposed that allergies arise because children are not exposed to enough dirt growing up. I can assure that my housekeeping skills are nowhere near good enough to cause my daughter’s allergy so you can stop blaming me now.

About Finola

I am an Ottawa area Mom, writer-want-to-be and coffee legend in the making.
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13 Responses to Oak Trees and Allergies

  1. The Maven says:

    This reminds me of the time when a girl who had been teasing me for weeks in grade 5 whacked me across the face with her metal lunch box as we were talking home. My parents, who had stayed out of it until then, went to her house to talk to her parents about it. They were promptly swore at, given the finger, and had the door slammed in their faces. They walked away with a better understanding of why the lunchbox thing happened.

    Maybe her parents disagreed with mine, but that was a poor way to show it – much like the nasty comments directed at the women who is just trying to keep her child safe. And if you’ve ever dealt with a young child with a nut allergy, you know how serious it can be, and you wouldn’t fault a parent for being “too careful.” You can’t be too careful when your child could die in a matter of minutes from something as seemingly innocuous as a nut on the ground.

    • Finola says:

      That’s horrible how those parents acted when you were a kid. And kids definitely learn these behaviours from parents. With all the talk about bullying in schools I was always baffled as to why it continues. With this story, it finally became clear to me.

  2. Sasha says:

    Thank you for adding some perspective, Finola. I admit it – I was saying exactly some of those things on another blog. I do think the mom is overreacting (full disclosure: I _don’t_ have kids with life-threatening allergies), but I can’t say I’m feeling all that proud of how I expressed that.

  3. Finola says:

    I so appreciate your very honest comment Sasha. Thank you.

  4. jenny gee says:

    I just wonder if a situation occurred that spawn all of this… As we know, we cannot ever live in a zero risk environment. But I wonder if her kids or someone else’s got bullied or did have the skin reaction to a crushed acorn or something.

    I think cutting down the trees would be the wrong (read: easy) way to go about fixing this problem. The problem is in the fear – of bullies, of an allergic reaction – which would be the harder problem to fix. Behavioural change is always going to be the more effective, more difficult way of fixing things like this. How do we fix bullying? We don’t accept it. We fix the root of the reason why the bully acts out the way they do.

    How to we fix fear of an allergic reaction? We prepare ourselves as best we can, and educate others on how not to set off a deadly reaction, and how to help us if we have one. That’s really all we can do, isn’t it?

    Thanks for writing this, Finola. I feel badly for her, as she’s been pilloried in the media.

    • Finola says:

      I have read a lot of accounts of children being threatened and bullied with peanut butter, and I don’t think we are anywhere near conquering bullying – the comments in the media towards this mother clearly demonstrate that. I’m not saying if I agree or disagree with the mother in the story, but she should be listened to. She has important and valid points to make.

  5. Eileen says:

    The comments to the mother are disgraceful, but very common in the comments section that follows newspaper stories, where cyber bullies spew their venom behind a cowardly cloak of anonymity.

    To those who said that children with severe allergies should be aware of their condition and take responsibility for their own safety, I would like to say this: my granddaughter is fully aware of her allergy and is very careful about what she eats. However, all the knowledge in the world won’t protect her from some schoolyard bully who shoves a peanut-butter sandwich, or a crushed acorn, in her face.

    Finola, you are right that people pay lip service to the idea that bullying is bad, but far too often the people that are in a position to do something about it, do nothing. There are rarely consequences for the bully, and many people even say that it’s just kids being kids, and that they’ll “grow out of it”. Perhaps some do, but most don’t. They end up being the type of people that write vicious comments to a mother who is only trying to protect her child.

    • Finola says:

      I rarely read the comments on newspaper articles for exactly the reasons you say. They seem to attract the nastiest sorts of people. It surprised me that more of the comments in the articles weren’t deleted by the editors because they were of a bullying nature. So, yes, there are rarely consequences for the bullies.

  6. allison says:

    I have the utmost sympathy for people with food-allergic children. I did make fun of the woman’s request on my blog, mildly, with an acknowledgement that it was kind of mean and I was really going for a good one-liner. I do think her request that the oak trees be cut down is unreasonable – if there is a bullying issue that needs to be addressed, cutting down trees is not going to make it disappear. I didn’t see any of the comments you’re discussing (I read an editorial in an actual paper, not an online article) but I know the type, and I think they’re beneath contempt, but people like those will make comments like those on pretty much any issue. In any case, I appreciate your perspective – and the fact that, as usual, you’re a much nicer person than I am. 🙂

  7. Tudor says:

    I sat on an allergy committee at my son’s school. It was made up of parents with children with allergies and those without (my children do NOT have allergies). It was an amazing experience in that, instead of digging in and sticking to the position we all knew best, everyone listened to everyone else.
    I was left feeling that parents who deal with this added concern on a daily basis deserve our understanding and, if there are things we can easily do to reduce their fear, why wouldn’t we, on simply compassionate grounds?
    I’m not saying that cutting down trees falls under the category of things we can “easily” do, however, maybe if we did do everything that was easy there would be less fear and pressure felt by parents and they wouldn’t need to ask to have trees cut down.
    I frequently heard the argument from parents not on the committee that parents of kids with allergies were “just paranoid”. Well, yes, I’d be paranoid too. Aren’t we all paranoid about something to do with our kids? And is that wrong? Ever since my son got his teeth kicked in on the play structure at school last week I’ve been pretty paranoid about him playing on it.
    Think of the last thing you were truly scared about letting your kids do and then imagine sending them out every day to a world where a peanut butter sandwich could kill them. When you think of it that way, is it wrong to ease the “paranoia” of the parents of those children?
    No, it’s just humane.

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