Today’s post is part of a Little Pickle Press eco-wise, blog-based book tour for What Does It Mean to Be Safe? by Rana DiOrio. Details on the book are at the end of the post.
It’s at the heart of so many discussions when one first becomes a parent.
Yet when you move past the basic childhood safety devices—car seat restraints, minimizing access to items that will lead to choking, a dizzying array of kid-proof drawer and door locks—one gradually comes to realize that the definition of “safety” is somewhat relative.
Yes, while one parent may cringe quietly at the noise coming from two rowdy small boys tussling in the living room like puppies, another may be convinced that a trip to the emergency is inevitable and rush to stop the kids. Of course whether you think that roughhousing “builds character” or is a fast-track to teenage delinquency depends a lot on your own personal experience and culture.
Now if you remove yourself from your own culture, your own language, and your own comfort zone, then the definition of safety becomes even more slippery. And what do you do when you have an extenuating circumstance, a personal health obstacle like a food allergy, that renders otherwise harmless situations potentially dangerous?
We encountered this situation first hand when we traveled abroad last spring. Eager to show our child more of the world, we arranged to fly to Paris, travel via train to England, and fly home from London. Our son, like so many children of his generation, is allergic to peanuts. We naively figured that in Europe and England, where governmental agencies are more aggressive about product labeling to protect food allergic citizens, we’d have less to worry about with regard to peanuts.
We were wrong.
You see in Europe lupin flour is increasingly used in mass-market products such as pasta and bread dough. Unfortunately, people with peanut allergies also appear to be allergic to lupin (both are legumes) and exposure can result in anaphylaxis or potentially even death. (Note that lupin flour is increasingly making its way stateside in gluten-free products.)
Thanks to some pre-trip sleuthing on our part, we came up with a game plan to protect our son’s well-being on our vacation. We arranged to carry an extra Epi-Pen. We learned every French word related to peanuts, legumes, lupin, and nuts. Ultimately, we decided to stay in a modestly priced apartment in Paris so we could prepare most of our own food.
This last decision ended up being a hidden gift wrapped up in our worries. In taking responsibility for our own food choices, we spent more time daily shopping for our bread, fruits, meats, and other items. Consequently, we learned more vocabulary words and came away with a better appreciation of what it means to live as Parisians.
There’s a larger truth revealed here, one much greater than “We played it safe on our vacation and avoided an allergic reaction.” By intentionally putting safety first we didn’t narrow our experience of Paris, we expanded it. Moreover, on the trip we were reminded that cultivating safety is as much about nurturing well-being as is eating right and getting enough sleep.
Which really makes me wonder why we parents don’t openly talk about it as such.
Along those lines, I can recommend to you an excellent children’s book on the topic of safety that will help you open the door to thoughtful, intelligent, and loving discussions about it.
The book is published by Little Pickle Press, written by LPP founder Rana DiOrio and is titled What Does It Mean to Be Safe?. Sandra Salsbury’s illustrations are warm, colorful, and engaging. The text is direct (“Being safe means… not tolerating bullying… not revealing information from yourself to strangers…”) and therefore easy for parents to riff on the themes at story time. In short, it’s a winner.
As mentioned above, today’s post was written as part of LPP’s blog book tour. If you’re interested in purchasing the book from LPP, note that there is a free shipping code (BBTSAFE) that you can use at checkout. If you do use it, be sure to add a Safe poster to your book order, and you’ll also receive it free. It’s printed on TerraSkin, a tree-free paper.