Ontario mom wants park’s oak trees cut down to protect acorn-allergenic daughter

Matt Coutts
Daily Brew

Two decades ago the idea of banning peanut butter sandwiches from school cafeterias would have been as bizarre as putting shoes on a dog or expecting your car to automatically park itself.

But the growth and awareness of anaphylaxis-inducing allergies has made the nut family persona non grata anywhere children frequent. Large, passive-aggressive signs are posted in cafeterias, kitchenettes and street corners, reminding the world that nut allergies are real and dangerous.

It is a bad time to be a nut. Granted, it can't be great to be allergic to them either. But there is little room in our world for the once-proud bastion of non-meat protein.

They are banished from schools, from entire sections of baseball stadiums and even from many candy bars, where happy nuts once frolicked with their friends, nougat and caramel.

Now they are not even safe in the trees.

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The National Post reports that an Ontario mother is demanding four large oak trees be removed from a park near her acorn-allergenic daughter's schoolyard to protect the girl from the scourge.

Says the mother:

The problem is that people don't understand a) that it's a hidden disability and b) that in Ontario and in Canada there's an ultimate duty to accommodate. People don't understand that — they think it's one crazy parent bubblewrapping their kid.

This is, of course, not a case of one parent bubblewrapping their child. If that were the case, the child would be wrapped in bubbles and the trees would be left alone. This is, it seems, a case of one parent trying to bubble wrap everything else.

What is next? Do we spray foam insulation around the doors of every Red Lobster in the country, lest a shellfish-allergic child wander in looking for beloved Muppets character Pepe the King Prawn?

Do we tear down every bee hive and throw them into the ocean (the Boston Bee Party?) or move all potentially dangerous foods to an enclosed section of the grocery store and demand shoppers pass an allergen test before granting entry?

This is not to take away from the threat faced by those with nut allergies. It is a danger and those with nut allergies should be aware of the threat. Recent stats suggest 1.5 per cent of Canadian children are allergic to peanuts. Another 1.13 per cent of children are allergic to tree nuts. That's not insignificant.

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But we as a mommy state can only keep children safe enough. Eventually they will need to understand the dangers and take responsibility for protecting themselves.

Lenore Skenazy, the author of Free Range Parenting, told the National Post:

If it is dangerous for some kids to encounter an acorn, those kids have to be taught not to touch them, because there are trees all over, not just near the school. The best way to keep them safe is to train them to take care of themselves, not to cut down all the trees they may ever walk under anywhere.

Our safety-addicted society best beware. If we don't expect those with allergies to protect themselves, or drivers to be able to park their own cars (or dogs to be able to use their own paws) they will forget how.

Siri, what does an acorn look like, anyway?