Frustrated from Exposure at Mom\'s Group
BLEH I am still sorting all of this out in my head so hopefully it will make sense. I feel angry (at a few people plus at myself) and naive, especially after reading some of what I have here. I should have probably been more aggressive before allowing my son to be in this situation. Anyway, here's the story:
I live in a very small town that's a pretty big drive from larger cities and I have felt pretty isolated because of it. I have a 16 month old son, Elliott, and I often feel desperate to get out of the house with him to talk to some other adults. There is a group called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) in my town. It's a Christian-sponsored group, which isn't really my thing necessarily but most of the people there are really nice, and it's a very easy way to have a few hours to talk with adults while Elliott gets to play with other kids. He loves it.
When we found out he had this allergy a few months ago, I immediately spoke to the leader of the group, who is the wife of the pastor at the church that hosts MOPS in our town. She said that they wanted to do whatever they could to make it safe for Elliott to be there. That felt wonderful to hear.
There are volunteer childcare workers at the church during the meeting. They are church members, mostly retired women who are moms and grandmas and love looking after the little ones. The kids are grouped by age... 0-13 months, 13-18 months, and a room for older toddlers and preschoolers. There are not many kids in each room... and Elliott's room has 2 people in it, with maybe 5 kids on a typical basis. One of the women in Elliott's room is one of 2 women who is in charge of the other childcare workers.
I told this head worker about Elliott's allergy and how it wasn't just for things that had peanuts or peanut butter in them... but anything that had contamination with traces of peanuts, like on manufacturing equipment, etc. was potentially harmful. I said that was the reason that we had to read every label before Elliott could have the food. I explained the kinds of reactions he might have and what to watch for. Because I'm right across the hall I can be called immediately if he does seem to begin reacting. She and the head of MOPS agreed that we should stop having moms bring in snacks for the kids and have MOPS provide snacks that I would help check to ensure safety. I gave them advice on some good snack ideas.
Then I spoke with the moms at the end of the meeting last month. I was a little frazzled about this because the leader forgot to give me time to speak until the very end. Some of the moms seemed rather preoccupied and a few weren't even in our room. I said that if anyone had peanut butter or food with obvious peanuts in it that it would be good to just wash hands well before coming. It's only a once a month meeting so this doesn't seem like a huge burden. And if they have a child between 13-18 months in Elliott's room, that they not give their kids peanut butter on those mornings because the kids tend to have a lot of contact... I know that kids have kissed Elliott before and I saw him plant one on a little girl once! I don't know if this request was going too far or not. Nobody seemed miffed by it and I ran it by the leader before suggesting it to the group.
They also put a reminder in the monthly newsletter. But I don't count on that for great help because I know that I don't always read newsletters all that carefully.
SOOOOOOOOOOOOO that was what I did to prep. In retrospect, it was not enough. Clearly.
We went to the meeting yesterday. The leader showed me the snack for his room, Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers, which I said were fine. The head childcare worker came in and I showed her the crackers, made sure we were on the same page. This other worker came in and I reminded them of symptoms that Elliott might present and to never hesitate to come get me if anything seemed off. I kept things positive and I thanked them for the help and left the room.
Moms take turns bringing a treat just for the moms. I went in our room and noticed some turtles. The leader was eating one and was talknig about how good they were because instead of pecans they had PEANUTS. She was the one who was going to hold Elliott and bring him home for me because I'm so pregnant right now I can't lift him into a car seat. EEK. As soon as she said that she realized... and said she'd wash her hands well. I kind of smiled weakly and wasn't sure what to think about this situation. Do I worry about the mom treats? The kids don't generally come in until the end of the meeting but yesterday at the end we ran out of time and were told to go get our kids. I didn't feel good about bringing Elliott into that room because there had been something that I KNEW had peanuts in it on the tables and he puts his little mitts everywhere. So that's one issue I have to figure out.
Then I got Elliott from the room... no mention was made of anything wrong. I thanked them for looking after him and held his hand as we left the room. Of course my little maniac toddled off quickly to the kitchen/cafeteria area where the older kids had been. I can't pick him up easily right now because of the pregnancy difficulty and I don't move too fast... but I was fast enough to catch him begging for a cookie from an older woman who was a caregiver in that room. She was about to give him one and I said "wait please don't, he can't have anything unless it's been approved for him, he has severe peanut allergy". This seemed to be news to her. So not everyone who is taking care of the kids knows what's up. And the box of cookies was from Dollar General, a no-name kind of brand that I knew nothing about. He has a nametag on him that says that he has this allergy but I really think that does very little, at least here.
So we went home, and I fed him lunch, and put him down for a nap. A few minutes later I received a call from the MOPS leader. She told me that the head caregiver who was in my room just spoke to her, telling her that she saw the other caregiver reach into another child's diaper bag and GIVE ELLIOTT A PIECE OF A KITKAT BAR!! What the **** ? She wanted to let me know right away in case of a reaction. Because I'm new at this and it still hadn't really been 2 hours yet, I went upstairs just to make sure he was okay. He was fine, but I woke the little bugger up. So much for the nap.
So they go about finding out more and learned that this worker was trying to placate another child. She reached into his bag to find a toy or something, found the kitkat bar, and gave him some. Parents weren't supposed to bring food from home, although I know that sometimes I stash junk in my diaper bag that I forget about. I can't really villify the parent there without knowing more. The real thing is that the caregiver should have known not to give snacks from home to anyone in that room. And then Elliott saw this and began begging, as he tends to do when he sees others eating. So she gave him a piece too. GRRRRRR.
The MOPS leader called me this morning to tell me that after talking more to people that it seems like the caregivers don't seem to get that the food can be dangerous even if it doesn't have peanuts in it. I thought I had made that clear enough and that the head of the childcare would have passed that information along but I was wrong.
She wants me to give a presentation to the childcare workers before the January meeting. (I won't be at the Dec. meeting because of the newborn). I have the FAAN video and could probably put something together. This seems like a good idea if we're going to continue to participate.
And then we thought that the moms should probably have a formalized presentation on food allergy too. Many of them are having babies still and have very young toddlers and may not know about what to look for for allergies or precautions to take.
So I guess this could be a good public service gesture while keeping Elliott safe. I really don't want him to live in a bubble and these outings are good for both of us. I think that people there tried to do the right thing but it just wasn't enough. I was really spooked and upset though yesterday because I let my guard down enough to feel comfortable and then this happened. It just reminded me that we're going to face instances like this again and again. And of course it was scary to think that he could have had a reaction... and that if someone was that careless with the food that they may have had just as poor judgment if he'd reacted. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/frown.gif[/img]
If you're still reading this thank you. I would LOVE any advice on how I should handle a situation like this. Nobody HAS to make things safe for us but since they seem to really want to include our family, it seems like it would be a good venue for trying to make this situation work.