Thursday, August 30, 2007

Oh, the drama....

I don't want to misquote anyone here. It is hard to remember a conversation word for word but this is the way I recall it. We were back to the subject of food allergies (honestly I need to figure out how to NOT talk about food allergies to others all the time). One of the women in the group runs an at home preschool. Someone asked her how she handled food allergies and she said, "Oh, I just weed them out." Meaning she just doesn't take kids with food allergies. She went on to say how hard it was and what a "nightmare" one of the first kids she had was, what with the hand washing and avoidance and all. She threw in an "oh, the drama." and mentioned how the mom hadn't wanted her child to always eat alone because it would make her feel "sad." She also said "No offense to Max." (maybe she should have just said "No offense to you" because I was the one feeling my blood pressure rise). I said something like "I guess I won't be sending Owen to you."

It is hard for me not to take that personally. Today I feel hurt and a little confused and disappointed. I want to make friends and yet sometimes feel like my kids food allergies even put me on the outside of things.

But to address a few points of view:

1. Screening kids for entry to her preschool is perfectly legal. She can take or not take anyone she wants.

2. A child being ostracized because of food IS sad. The day I walked into my own son's preschool and saw him sitting alone in the corner while the other children were gathered around tables eating cheese pizza, I felt sad. I fear the social implications of my kids' food allergies almost as much as I fear anaphalaxis. In the end of course I want them alive but at the same time how do I keep them from being alone, on the outside, always different from the other kids?

3. Handwashing. Children can have extreme reactions to food residue. Max remained contact reactive to milk until he was about three and still I'm sure would have a skin reaction to any of his other allergens.

4. Oh, the drama. Honestly, I hate people who create drama and I try to go through my life creating as little drama as possible. Yes, I worry about how my kids food allergies impact others. I worry people won't understand. I worry they will resent my child. I worry that they will choose to ignore that my child has life threatening food allergies. And for thoses reasons I try to make it as easy as I can for his preschool teachers and other parents. I don't ask that all foods in the room be completely safe. I do ask that you let me know you are bringing cupcakes to celebrate your child's birthday so I can provide something for Max.

My son's allergies like millions (yes, millions 2.2 million school-age children) are life-threatening. Food allergies are the leading cause of anaphalaxis causing 30,000 ER visits and 150-200 deaths every year. http://www.foodallergy.org/downloads/FoodAllergyBasics.pdf

So to me drama would be if my son had a reaction in front of your child, if the teacher had to give him the Epi-Pen in front of the students she is teaching, if the EMT's had to rush my son from the classroom to the hospital, if my son died in front of you. That is drama.

2 comments:

Ariel said...

I just read down and saw this entry. Yikes. This almost made me cry, seriously.

I can see plenty of valid reasons for not wanting to take a kid with allergies (not enough time or personnel to deal with all the extra precautions, etc), but this just sounds, well, mean. Who would want a little toddler to have to eat all alone?

Marjie said...

I know you poated this a long time ago but I just found your blog through milkfree.co.uk.

I'm the one with the food allergy. I'm all grown up. I sometimes still feel sad. But, I have an awesome job. I get to teach Kindergarten AND I get to help all my food allergic kids feel like a welcome part of the group. (Plus, I know where to buy all the okay food...AND I check with parents...and we have things like pizza (soy cheese, dough made from a safe grain, etc., and cookies, and all the good stuff.) And I get to help educate my colleagues about how to not only keep kids safe but help them feel a part of the group. Our little school has gotten quite the reputation for being able to cope easily with food allergic kids. I just wish I could take all of them under my wing and into my classroom where they can feel wanted and respected. Yes, respected. I found my calling when I discovered that one little girl had been eating fruit snacks and skittles EVERY DAY TWICE A DAY because the teacher didn't know what else to feed her! Ask her Mom! Not only did I ask Mom but I took a list of safe brands to our director who purchased snacks she could eat and showed the teacher how to read the labels and what to look for. Just in case the recipe changes. I just had to vent. I sometimes feel bad for myself but it helps when I can share with a little one how I get around it: I take food I can eat EVERYWHERE I go. Thanks for listening.
Marjie