Food Allergy Awareness: I am a Mean girl
I don’t like being a mean girl.
I was mean to a fellow mom this week. I thought about my behavior after the fact and I actually don’t think I would’ve changed my response despite the fact I am now cringing when I call myself a mean mom. I don’t want to be a mean mom. I don’t want to judge, I don’t want to exclude and I don’t want to alienate. In my *perfect* mom world, we teach kindness and we include. We also educate.
I’m a class mom this year for my oldest daughter, who just started her first year of Kindergarten. I didn’t want to necessarily take on the job because I was nervous as to what it entailed but after I spoke with the teacher and another class mom (who has an older daughter and has kind of been through this once so I could follow her lead) I jumped right in. My daughters teacher did a “Class Mom Tea” one afternoon to discuss expectations and we indulged in some delicious treats and sipped on tea, which was served in some authentic personalized school China that had been used decades ago during PTA meetings (it was very cool!).
One of the changes in the school district policy this year is food served during celebrations in class. Classes are only allowed to have four celebrations during the year in which food is served and it needs to be approved by the teacher. As an allergy Mom, I appreciate this policy. Last year both of my oldest children attended a preschool that had a “no nut” policy and for all celebrations, no food was served. Each student brought their own “no nut” snack every day and for the most part (at least pertaining to each of them in their classes) this worked. It took the worry out of what was being served to my children, and limited the chance that my son could potentially have an allergic reaction during class. This new policy in their district sounds wonderful to me. I realize that a big change like this to their school district can cause some disruption in a system that has typically celebrated with food, but change is a good thing. We are constantly evolving as humans and need to embrace the change and educate our children as to why it’s necessary.
So, I’m a class mom and we have been discussing our Halloween celebration for the children. My daughter, the one in this class, does not have any food allergies that we are aware of, but I am sensitive to the comfort levels each of the allergy parents may have with respect to what their children are allowed to eat. There are two children in class that have allergies, an egg allergy and a tree nut allergy and in speaking with the other class mom’s, we have discussed getting the snacks approved by the food allergy parents in addition to the teacher. The last thing I’d want to do is cause harm to any of the children, so checking with their parents is a priority of mine.
Our son had bloodwork a few weeks ago to see if his numbers have gone down from last year and it did. His allergist suggested a scratch test to see how he reacts and if he reacts minimally, he can orally challenge peanuts. We had the scratch test on Wednesday, he failed, and we won’t be doing any more testing for another year. My frustration as an allergy parent was further aggravated the following day.
At school pick up one day, one of the class moms showed one of the allergy parents the eyeballs we planned to use on the Oreos so she could read the ingredients to confirm they were okay with them. This started a conversation about food allergies and I started with, “my son is allergic to peanuts and I just wasn’t sure what you were comfortable with respect to his tree nut allergy.” Another mom that happened to be standing there listening says, aggressively and matter of factly, “Well they are different NUTS.” NO SHIT. I snapped, quickly and confidently, and explained about how yes tree nuts and peanuts are different allergies, however some parents don’t even want their children to have a treat that *potentially* has been cross contaminated with their allergen. I also explained how some children can’t be in the room with peanuts because they are airborne to the allergen and luckily, this is not the case for my son, but I don’t assume my comfort level with my sons allergy is the same as another parents comfort level with their child’s allergy. I wanted to ensure the safety of this other women’s child, and since this is our first party with our first treat, want to make sure she’s okay with it. I then got a muttered, incredulous, “oh really? Some parents are like that?” And I’m glad I spoke up. I probably could’ve been a bit kinder in my response, and not as aggressive, so I was a mean mom. But for being given the opportunity to educate, I’ll wear my mean mom crown and remember my grace the next time this happens.
For more information on food allergies and the “Teal Pumpkin project” please visit the FARE website here.