Need Help Dealing With This

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My son is 3 years old and was diagnosed w/PA 9-4-08. He is in a private church preschool. This is all new to me. But to describe myself, I have older children, none of which have any allergies. I have never ever taken any peanut treats to school or parties (even if no letter stating someone in class was PA) b/c 1. I don't want to hurt anyone or make anyone sick 2. I don't want to be the mom who hurt anyone or made anyone sick. And this was before I ever gave birth to or knew my youngest son was PA.

So, the day after my son was tested & diagnosed, a parent brought peanut butter crackers for the snack that day (the parents at our preschool sign up for turns providing snacks). I had already alerted the teacher, aide & director of my suspicion at the beginning of school, and then that morning I told them of his diagnosis.

I cried for 2 days after his diagnosis (thinking about how he was going to have to deal with this probably for the rest of his life). It's not the "can't have peanuts or peanut butter" that bothers me. It's the difficulty of it: reading all the labels, all the "hidden" dangers, cross contamination, etc. Then I decided I had to "buck up" and be Alijah's mom and protect him. If I cried all the time, then he would feel like there was something wrong with him and the last thing I want is him to feel like a freak. But it was just a bad start...freaking peanut products the day after his diagnosis, and I was already upset to begin with. And my thoughts of not wanting him to feel different or notice any difference (he's only 3 for God's sake) and then boom...the next day it already happened (what I was afraid of & wanted to avoid) and he had to eat something different from the rest of the class.

Anyhow, the preschool immediately took action and sent a letter home that day to all of the parents. Since then, that I am aware of, no one has sent a peanut product to his class. And I am pretty involved in his class, so I think I would have known.

Now, yesterday, 10-30-08, he had his first Halloween party. I was in charge of party favors. I'd never seen anything like it. I felt it was extremely rude, but most who did this were experiencing having their oldest or only child in preschool, so maybe they were just excited. But four other kids' moms brought party favors (remember that I had signed up to do the favors). That's beside the point (I just thought it was rude, they should have signed up for party favors if they wanted to do them) but when we got home I was going through everything he got and one of the parents had stuck goodies inside a cellophane Halloween favor sack and one of the items was Reece's Pieces (of all damn things). Can you believe it?

So, now I have a migraine and have not slept last night and am physically sick to my stomach. Not to mention livid. On top of all of that, I don't know how to react. This is all new to me. I am torn between determination to not make this everyone else's problem and dedication to my son. Dedication wins out, but I don't know how accountable to hold this other parent. Does the letter get sent out & received and then from there on out, it is up to the other parents, like an option? Or does the letter mean DO NOT send peanut products? The wording of the letter stated "please avoid sending peanut products", not please think about not sending them.

At a private, Not non-peanut school, what is the right reaction? Ask to send another letter home? Tactfully confront that parent? Do nothing because a letter was already sent home and it's not a non peanut facility? WTH? I don't send peanut products to my kids' schools even when there hasn't been a letter sent home! Or am I just a hell of alot smarter than this other parent??????

Please help. I need seasoned PA parents to help me sort my feelings and know how to handle this and how to feel about this.

Sorry for my long drawn out rambing...I just felt I needed to set the scene.

Thanks for listening.

On Oct 31, 2008

hi, rocket,

i don't know how "seasoned" i am, as i have only been dealing with PA for a little over a year now. however, at only a couple months in where you are now, i was still very much overwhelmed and in shock, struggling to figure out how i was going to keep my daughter safe. granted, i did not have to deal with the school situation right away, but now i do, which is why i am responding.

i have already had to pull my daughter out of one program after only two days because they JUST DIDN'T GET IT! as much as they wanted to understand, and as much as i would explain issues such as cross contamination, etc, they just kept saying/doing stupid things (which also made me distrust them on the whole).

i guess you have to ask yourself how much you trust the school? that is how i feel ... if i trust that the school/teachers understand the severity of the allergy and what to do in case of an emergency, that is about as good as it gets (besides having a completely peanut free school ;) )

i don't like the wording "please AVOID sending peanut products." to me, that is not strong enough. that is what the first school my daughter went to wrote, and on her FIRST DAY a little girl was eating a big, gloopy peanut butter sandwich, and then proceeded to leave a big smear on the table as she got up and went to play with toys without washing her hands! that was just too much for me.

i guess the point of this post, in my opinion and for what it is worth, is when dealing with this allergy, as rude, dumb and obnoxious as parents are, you have to put things in perspective, especially potential danger.

the parent who sent in peanut butter cracker for snack the day after your son was diagnosed might not have heard from the school yet. is it dumb anyway? YES! with food allergies, especially peanut, on the rise, why would you bother? but i can tell you that as a first time parent who is also in contact with a lot of other first time parents, people who do not have to deal with allergies are totally clueless!!

in my opinion, it was up to the school to step in ... what is your arrangement with them? do you trust their understanding of your son's allergy?? what have you agreed upon for situations such as the one you described where a parent has brought in an inappropriate snack? are they supposed to reject it and serve something else? maybe that is what you need to spell out with them ... how something like this will be handled in the future (and maybe suggest they send a more powerful letter reiterating no peanut products are to be sent in).

i agree it's rude, but i think you are right about overexcited parents. i think they enjoy doing these parties more than the kids do! my daughter had her first ever school party yesterday, which i was kind of anxios about, even though i was able to attend. because my daughter started school later than everyone else, all of the school parties had already been signed up for. i did contact the mother who was coordinating the party and ASKED if i could help ... i would never just bring something in! she told me what she would be serving, and all seemed well (string cheese, grapes, capri sun) except for the cupcakes. it was her daughter's birthday as well.

my first reaction was, "OMG! I must run to the allergen free bakery and get my daughter a safe cupcake or make them at home, as i don't want her to feel left out." then i thought about how i don't want a bunch of cupcakes lying around just so my daughter can have ONE in class (she wouldn't eat any more than the one, as i don't really allow her to have sweets), and decided against it.

instead, i brought her a safe lollipop. here, i think a lot depends on the chid. first, my daughter doesn't eat a lot of sweets so ANYTHING is a huge treat. but she did not even bat an eyelash when the other kids were eating their cupcakes! (did not grab, try to touch, ask for ... nothing). furthermore, as soon as the kids gobbled down their cupcakes, the kids wanted lollipops!! you just can't win, can you?! some of the obnoxious parents were like, "where did she get that lollipop? the kids are not supposed to eat candy before they get home." i had to explain that my daughter couldn't have the cupcake, so i substituted a safe treat for her.

our kids *may* have to deal with this for the rest of their lives (hopefully not). their attitude, whether they see this as a disability or something that makes them special, will be determined by, i believe, how WE deal with it now. i explained to my daughter before the party that she would not be able to have a cupcake because they were not safe for her, but that she would be enjoying a nice big lollipop BECAUSE SHE'S SPECIAL! (hopefully i'm not raising a prima donna!! ;) ;) )

as for the snack bag, as long as the kids were not allowed to delve into it at school, personally i don't see the problem. annoying, yes, but if the parents saw this as somethinmg that was being sent home, maybe they didn't think the "rule" applied? maybe they genuinely forgot?? you really need to develop a thick skin with this allergy (hard for me as i have a tendency to take everything personally!). a couple of weeks ago a very good friend of mine brought a goody bag for my daughter, who was unable to attend her son's party. i was shocked and then hurt when i saw it had a snickers in it! then i put it in perspective ... i know my friend would not have intentionally hurt me or my daughter, so she simply forgot. imagine how strangers feel about us ... they don't care, so expecting them to remember every time is only gonna set us up for continuous disappointment. you need to make sure the school is onboard and will do the right thing when the situation calls for it.

as it is, my daughter came home with a trick or treat bag from school (why they have to trick or treat at school ONE day before halloween is beyond me, but that is a topic for a whole other thread!!) that, of course, had a snickers in it! her classroom is "peanut free" but this was a school-wide event. all the bags were put in the kids' backpacks to take home, so i just had to assure myself that that is enough precaution.

sorry this is so long .... hope you were able to make it through. i guess i really reacted to your e-mail because you expressed many fears and feelings i have had over the past year or so, and i want to tell you that as you start to wrap your head around this crazy allergy, you will find that you deal with it in a more pragmatic and less emotional way, at least that is how i have evolved. you will be stronger for it, as will your son. good luck!!

On Oct 31, 2008

Thanks for your perspective, which is part of my perspective, along with the attitude "how stupid and nervy can people be?" I guess, maybe I was more informed way before Alijah was even born as to how serious it could be. Maybe from watching the news or reading parenting magazines. I didn't know everything, but I knew it was serious, so it was beyond me as to why anyone would risk that. That letter, had it not been regarding my child, would have went into my preschool folder or on my fridge so I wouldn't forget. Maybe I need to give someone a break; maybe the mom forgot, but as I reiterated in my 1st post and will now: Why would you want to risk it, or be the mom who caused a reaction? I would be terrified of being the mom who caused a reaction of any kind, let alone fatal.

I am taking it personally, but I am trying not to. This preschool is the best in our area, but my son is the only one with any allergies enrolled this year. I don't know how many they have previously dealt with. But the director and the teacher, along with the aide know it's serious business. I have provide a Twinject pen to the school and showed them how to use it, too. They have good attitudes and show concern and care regarding the PA.

The peanut cracker episode was before a note was sent home, I just think it's ignorant to even risk it. And this deal yesterday, was a goody sack that the mom passed out at the last minute and went home with the kids. The teacher probably didn't even know what was in it b/c I'm sure the mom only passed them out to the kids. I have no hard feelings toward anyone except the other mom.

I've finally gotten rid of the migraine that was onset by the stress of this that I've put on myself and have thought about it some. I think my 1st step will be to notify the teacher (nicely) and maybe seek her advice. In addition, notify the director of what has happened and request that a reminder letter be sent out.

I know the teacher couldn't have known. It was very chaotic at the party and the mom just kind of popped her treat sacks out (after the other 3 moms did, too).

I'm still learning how to deal with this. I hate it. I hope it gets better. I feel like it makes it worse when there are all the other allergies out there. I wouldn't feel at all bad about demanding that they become peanut free if peanuts were the only allergies out there. But what about kids (in general, there are none I know of in his school) who are allergic to milk, soy, corn, eggs, strawberries, wheat, etc. It just kind of complicates things. I feel like in this world I would be asking for special treatment, eg: peanut free just for my son. I'm so confused on how to feel.

On Oct 31, 2008

My school situation is similar to yours. My son is now 5, and was diagnosed about a year ago. My son was also their first food allergy kid, now there are a few more. They are not peanut free either, and it is associated with a church. I would be very uncomfortable having other parents bringing in snacks on a daily basis, you are putting your childs safety into the responsibility of other parents who know nothing about food allergies, and into the hands of the daycare workers because now they are going to be responsible for reading all of the labels for all of the snacks that parents bring in. I will just tell you what I do, and what works for us. The school provides all the lunches and snack. I get a copy of the meal plan for each month so I know what is being served on a daily basis. My son is also allergic to chicken, so when I see chicken on the lunch menu, I make him a sandwich and he eats that. As far as the snacks go, I brought in a big shopping bag and I put all of his am and pm snacks in that bag, he never eats snacks that the school provides because they do a lot of 'may contains' so I would just rather him eat what I bring in, and not have the teachers be reading labels and figuring out what he can and can't have. When he was diagnosed, I sent a letter to all the parents in the class. Has that helped? Not really. Today when I dropped him off, a parent had brought in taffy apples with peanuts all over them, and several other obvious offenders for their Halloween party. I don't get angry at other parents for doing this because I believe they are just ignorant and don't have do deal with this with their child so I think it just slips their mind. It does bother me that my child has to eat something than all the other kids at snack time, but he and I have both gotten used to it. I really think it bothered me more than it bothers him, its just the way it is and he realizes that. People are morons and if they don't have a food allegy kid, they just don't get it. They are not intentionally trying to freak you out or harm your child, its just not in the forefront of their brains as it is for us.

On Nov 1, 2008

My child is not at 4. He started public preschool this year I was a mess inside with worry. I never let him see me in a fright state because I dont want him to be that way. We go to public parks, we have flown on planes, stayed in a little cottage for a week during the summer, at hotels and with families. BUT he was always with me. For preschool I had to trust the school and that was big!! The nurse tried to convince me it was ok to leave his epipen in the nurse's office and if they needed it the teacher would call her. I said no way and his Teacher agreed no way-she has a food allergy herself and did not want his epipen far away. I Thank God she is his teacher because she knew how important it was to keep him safe. They can't have any food brought in to his class, they give out the peanut free snacks(I supplied a list and so far so good.)They wet wipe all those little hands every time the enter the class(which is a lot of work) since there are 11 kids. I feel alittle better still it is a worry , my son has a chance to out grow this Pa and I dont want one slip to mess it up but I dont want him to live in a bubble either. I heard a parent the other morning when I dropped him off say "she did not get the notice about peanut allergy or peanut free class and her son has been having a peanut butter bagel every morning thank God you have been washing his hands". The teacher replied maybe "on school mornings he could have a different breakfast or wash his hands at home and school. Because she did not want to have to use my childs epipen in class." I smiled a small thank you and left. Im not sure what I will do when he is older enough for lunch time and has a different teacher but I would not let my child stay in any place that serves peanuts or nuts of any kind because then the whole area is contaminated!!!!!! My parents hated me Our first Thanksgiving because I did not want a pecan pie served. And the next year I did not want my child to eat thier food if they were going to make a pecan pie in their kitchen. We ate apple, blueberry and chocolate pie both years and did not miss pecan. Your child may outgrow this-keep the exposure down..avoid avoid avoid and if that school cant supply him/her with a peanut free room I'd go somewhere else. Its like sending him to an icecream parlor and hoping nobody orders a sundae w/nuts. And we are stuck because they are to little yet to help, they cant read and stay away from peanut products or even keep they're hands out of they're mouths they are too young. My little guy is real good in the peanut world like parks etc. but I am with him. I really feel his class room space should be safe from worry so he to can learn and have fun too... ANd i will do everything I can to make it happen. Good luck its never fun to stand up for yourself or someone you love, I hope they will help your child stay safe. Deb DS PA

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