Frustrated from Exposure at Mom\'s Group

Posted on: Fri, 11/10/2006 - 3:59am
amyd's picture
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Joined: 09/12/2006 - 09:00

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.

Thanks again,

Amy

Posted on: Fri, 11/10/2006 - 4:21am
Daisy's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006 - 09:00

Oh Good Lord,
(pun intended)
It seems like churches are one of the last places to "get it." And children's caregivers are sometimes the most frightening with regards to being knowledgeable about choking, falls, poisons, allergies. Arrggh!
Very impressive that you are past your anger and already thinking pro-actively about training. Yes, this is a very good opportunity to educate the other moms. With allergies on the rise, some may experience this in their own families or may at least be familiar when faced with other kids in school later.
The glitter experiment is a great visual aid for training for allergies (and germs). You put glitter on your hand, and shake their hands and see where the glitter ends up at the end of the discussion.
Good luck,
Daisy

Posted on: Fri, 11/10/2006 - 5:05am
saknjmom's picture
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Joined: 04/02/2003 - 09:00

Good luck with new baby and all. It isn't that hard to train people. You have a captive audience. Explain the ways a reaction can occur (airborne analogy to pollen, 2nd hand smoke, touching analogy to poison ivy, eating.)
Explain the consequences that come with exposure. Explain that it is a medical emergency, that it can be fatal.
Make copies of labels that say may contain and made in a facility and explain to them that these foods can be xcontaminated and that you have to read all labels...looking at a food does not work with this allergy. Explain how great the labeling laws are now and it makes it easy to identify foods that are unsafe for people with allergies.
Good luck

Posted on: Fri, 11/10/2006 - 7:23am
luvmyboys's picture
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Joined: 05/25/2006 - 09:00

Just wanted to let you know...I'm in MOPS and my first 2 years (I'm on my 4th year), I let my ds go to volunteer childcare with an action plan posted and knowing they only serve goldfish and water. I had the epi-pen down the hall. Nothing ever happened, but the more informed I become the more hesitant I wouldbe to do that ever again.
We now moved closer to family and my MIL comes over to watch the 2 boys who aren't in school those mornings. I LOVE MOPS and it's my sanity saver. But I am thankful I have alternative childcare. Entrusting a group of volunteers in a 'once in a while'
situation is difficult regardless.
I hope you can work this out so you can continue to connect with other moms. I have always felt that the moms who need MOPS the most are the ones who can't pull it together to get there for whatever reasons (special health needs included).
luvmyboys

Posted on: Fri, 11/10/2006 - 9:44am
Momcat's picture
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Joined: 03/15/2005 - 09:00

Speaking from experience, you cannot trust anyone else to read labels or know whether a food is safe.
The safest way to go with childcare is to allow your child to eat only the food you send with him from home. Make sure your child learns this as soon as he is able to understand.
Cathy
------------------
Mom to 7 yr old PA/TNA daughter and 3 1/2 yr old son who is allergic to eggs.
[This message has been edited by Momcat (edited November 11, 2006).]

Posted on: Fri, 11/10/2006 - 11:45pm
amyd's picture
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Joined: 09/12/2006 - 09:00

Thanks for the replies, all.
I think it's worth it to go back and try once more. The fact that it's irregular...only once a month, makes it harder because it's not on people's minds on a regular basis.
Normally if my son were in daycare I wouldn't trust snacks provided. But because I'm standing there, if I can look at everything that's being used I feel okay about it.
My questions now are:
-Do I ask that all snacks brought in for the older kids in their rooms be peanut safe too?
-Do I ask that the snack for the moms at least not have peanuts in it and that they not share those with their kids? I think having a baked good with no may contains could be complicated to ensure but is it necessary? Usually for the mom snack a mom bakes something or does some other treat. Occasionally I've seen this being given to a child, usually when the kid comes out of the room wailing and wants mom.
-Do I ask that kids who are in the room with my child not have peanut butter on the mornings before they play with him because of their age and the way they play orally?
-Do I request that anyone else who has had peanut butter or peanuts be extra certain to wash their hands? (We always wash hands after breakfast but who knows what other people do).
Thanks for the help. The more I am getting into this the more I wonder if it's even worth it. But I could say that about every situation we encounter and it would be a shame to just not do stuff. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/frown.gif[/img]

Posted on: Sat, 11/11/2006 - 2:08am
Momcat's picture
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Joined: 03/15/2005 - 09:00

It is difficult to ask other people to change what they eat in their own homes. And you have no way of knowing whether or not they have complied.
I would suggest that you bring in a box of baby wipes and have everyone in your son's room (including you and your son) wipe their hands when they enter the room. This kind of simple routine is easier for people to remember. And you can explain that it benefits everyone by cutting down on germs.
Also, I understand that you have personally checked the snacks. But I still recommend that you only let your child eat food from home. The reason is that it is easier for young children to understand that they only eat food that mommy or daddy gives them instead of learning that sometimes a particular food is safe or unsafe. As you know, safe and unsafe foods can look identical. This can cause confusion for a young child. If the rule is "only food from mommy or daddy" that is easier for them to remember. If you are packing a snack for the childcare, get him a lunch box and show him how you pack his food in his box. Explain that the food you put in there is his safe food. You won't regret beginning to train him now!
Of course, you cannot rely on a young child to follow rules. But the rule that your son only eats food from his lunch box will be easier for the volunteer caregivers to remember. Otherwise, you will run into misunderstandings like--she checked this last month and said it was ok so we don't need to ask her; one person says you checked the graham crackers but the other person doesn't realize her box is a different brand; someone assumes you checked something, but you hadn't for some reason, etc. Believe me, these and other mistakes happened to my kids before I began allowing only food from home.
I understand that you need to do what feels right for your particular situation, but if you want my advice--which I am giving you from painful experience--only allow him to eat food from home.
Cathy
------------------
Mom to 7 yr old PA/TNA daughter and 3 1/2 yr old son who is allergic to eggs.
[This message has been edited by Momcat (edited November 11, 2006).]

Posted on: Sat, 11/11/2006 - 9:31am
amyd's picture
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Joined: 09/12/2006 - 09:00

Thanks Cathy, those suggestions make it way clearer on how I could handle this.

Posted on: Sat, 11/11/2006 - 11:39am
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Joined: 05/25/2006 - 09:00

I can tell you how they handled it when my kids were there. All kids had the same snack...goldfish and water...regardless of room or age. No food from home was permitted except bottles in the nursery. We sent home a note with the moms and made an announcement. Unfortunately i can't find the note but it said something to the effect of 'We know the mornings are hectic but please don't walk into the rooms while your kids are still eating their breakfast. Residue on hands could even cause a reaction...' And like I said I posted the action plan at each meeting and pointed it out to the childcare workers. I did pop in a couple of times a meeting just to check in. We didn't say anything about the 'mom food' but my current group is really great and tends to label their food: 'has nuts' or 'nut free'.
Like I said, I don't think I would be too comfortable today with the situation I had set up...I didn't worry about residue at the time and I think I placed too much trust to recognize a reaction in elderly childcare workers but at the time it was my only way to meet other moms like me and get out of the house. It is such a blessing not to have to worry about it now since my MIL watches the kids at my house.
Luvmyboys

Posted on: Sat, 11/11/2006 - 1:26pm
Momcat's picture
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Joined: 03/15/2005 - 09:00

Quote:Originally posted by amyd:
[b]Thanks Cathy, those suggestions make it way clearer on how I could handle this. [/b]
I hope I'm helping you [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img] I'm not sure I would have taken my own advice in the beginning either, LOL, but like I said, my kids (especially DD) suffered many reactions before I figured out a routine that works for us.
Part of it was just ignorance on my part. I had no idea that 14 month old DD would be covered in hives after picking up a fallen Ritz Bit cracker at a mom's club meeting. I was just as surprised as everyone else. You are ahead of the game since you have been reading people's experiences on this site.
I think you can work out a way to do this MOPS group. It would be a shame to have to give it up. But I would say that the less your son's safety depends on others, the better. More than once, I have trusted someone who seemed to "get it" with my kids' safety and been disappointed. I guess I'm just trying to warn you that what happened with the KitKat bar is all too common both from my own experience and what I read here.
Cathy

Posted on: Sat, 11/11/2006 - 1:34pm
McCobbre's picture
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Joined: 04/16/2005 - 09:00

I'm glad you aren't letting this deter you from going back. Really, this is the first of many situations you'll run into. Best to learn a bit about handling it while you're across the hall.
And it sounds like you've handled it beautifully.
I must say that I am actually impressed with them, though--for everything else they've done. Really--they've done everything they can to show you they want you there and that they're trying to be conscientious.
This was a volunteer worker who actually messed up right?
But I'm impressed that they were concerned enough to [i]call you at home[/i]. Some people honestly might have blown it off since he didn't react right away. Something connected about the seriousness and that this candy could be dangerous. That speaks quite loudly to me.
I mean, I think Kit Kat here in the US simply has a may contain warning. A lot of folks would not understand the seriousness of that (one of us on the board--an adult--actually eats them because the ones that she consumes are made in a factory where any nuts are on a different floor. I haven't given one to my DS though).
I think it's interesting--and this was a volunteer, I know--that someone would actually give candy to a child this young who wasn't theirs. Why would an 18 month old be given a Kit Kat??? Really.
Aside from that, it sounds like this place has handled things well.
I do let DS eat Goldfish at church that we approve and that are given to the whole group. He reads the label first. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
At his age (8) there are some things he doesn't have to receive directly from us if he knows the product really, really well and can read the label (like regular Goldfish). But we did teach him when he was little "no food unless we say it is okay".
Good luck. And enjoy getting out.

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