A friend of mine says that, as a general rule, if she wants to feel like a good mom, she reads some of the questions people are asking on parenting forums. On the other hand, if she wants to hear that she's the worst mom this side of Greek tragedies and reality shows, she just needs to post a question of her own.
That makes me think that she must be familiar with New York-area parenting site UrbanBaby. Last week, a busy mom typed two sentences about her daughter's PB&J on one of its forums and was immediately called a number of names that I'd honestly be uncomfortable typing here.
Act 1: The Innocent Posting
"Has it become unacceptable to eat peanut butter in public?" the as-yet-unidentified mom wrote. "[Dear Daughter] was eating a pb&j at a store today, and a woman stopped me to lecture me about peanut allergies."
Ooh boy, she could not have expected the hostility that would meet those 30-ish words. It seemed like everyone chimed in to tell her that she was "awful," "lousy," "insufferable," and "low class" — and that's just the beginning.
Act 2: The Outrage
"That's really inconsiderate," one typical response read. "So many kids have life threatening allergies to peanut butter. Eating it in a shopping cart GUARANTEES it will be smeared on the handle, etc. It's really awful you would do this. Sorry, but imagine if it were your child with the allergy."
The original poster tried to chime in and respond to some of the criticism, saying that she'd packed her daughter's lunch so they wouldn't have to buy food while they were on their Target run, and that she would always take care to accommodate any child's nut allergy, if she'd been made aware of it. "I follow all rules everywhere about nuts. [I] don't send them to DD's school and respect nut-free places," she typed. "But I feel like if there is no specific rule, it's fair game and on the people with allergies to protect themselves."
That led to another barrage of criticism, because she was clearly a terrible mother for letting her kid snack between meals, because her daughter probably went full Picasso with the peanut butter and painted the entire cart with it (she said her child is capable of having a sandwich without making a mess) and because only a monster would allow their child to eat while sitting in a shopping cart.
"Totally fine with the [PB&J] part but I would judge you based on feeding your child in a Target shopping cart. Depending on the age, squeeze fruit or yogurt may be acceptable but to feed a sandwich is just too much," one commenter harrumphed. "Don't they have tables at Target?" (This same human delight also slammed the mom for wiping her kid's hands first, because she was "consuming the chemicals.")
Act 3: The Exit
The original poster eventually excused herself, but the debate raged on in hundreds of comments afterward. There was no consensus about anything — even the prevalence of peanut allergies. SFGate, which first reported this PB&Crazy, cited a study from The Peanut Institute, which said that "only 0.6 - 1.0% of people have a mild to more severe peanut allergy." (The Institute also mentioned a controlled study, in which 30 children with "significant peanut allergy" had peanut butter pressed against their skin for one minute. Although some of the kids experienced reddening of the skin, none of them had an anaphylactic reaction.)
In a section about monitoring peanut allergies, the Institute suggests that parents of affected children should take precautions to avoid accidental exposure, including sanitizing anything the child might come in contact with — like, I dunno, a shopping cart — "to remove cross contamination."
There were occasional beacons of sanity on the forum — although who knows if the original mom stuck around to read them. "OP, I'm with you on this," one rational person wrote. "People are doing the best they can with their own kids. If a child has particular issues, their parent needs to take responsibility for it."
Responsibility? But it's so much easier to shout at strangers on the internet!