Friday, April 26, 2013

No Drama Mama

Dear Parents,
The fourth grade is having a pizza party to celebrate the completion of the OAA testing.  Please bring in a snack to share with the class for our party.  Remember, due to allergies we can not have any nut containing snacks.  Please consult for ideas of safe snacks you can send.
                                                                                 Thank you, Fourth Grade Teachers

That was the gist of the note sent home to every fourth grade student.  *Sigh*  I do detest food parties, but I accept that they are part of our culture and I try not to get too grumpy about them.  In the last school the room moms always sent a specific list of snacks to bring.  (ie: We need a volunteer to bring 100% juice Juice boxes, grapes, plain potato chips, plates and napkins)  It's also helpful for a food allergy mama to know ahead of time what will be served!  And?  Usually the snacks were safe.

With a general call to bring snacks, I have to stop in and check ingredients before the party (which I do anyway).  But, they were given a list of safe(er) options.  You see, with my daughter's many allergies, I don't ask that the children avoid all of her allergens, just the one that is most likely to kill her.  My only requirement is that there are no nuts in the classroom.  Ever.

Imagine my surprise to find this: two tables full of baked goods.  I separated them into two groups, nut free and contaminated.  One full table marked with 'may contain' warnings.  Yep.  When the teacher came out into the hallway to ask how everything looked, I was honest.
The table on the left contains treats with a 'may contain' warning.

I clearly stated that the may contain products were not safe for classroom consumption because studies show that the majority of products with a may contain warning do actually contain traces of nuts.  I was quickly driven to the edge of insanity by the teacher asking ME to decide if they should be served. Um.

Her suggestion: How about if the students in her classroom chose from the safe table, and the other classes can chose whatever they would like and eat in their respective classrooms, then clean well at the end of the day?

Except that her 504 clearly says no nuts in any of her classrooms, so the other children can't have it there either.

If the warning said: "May contain traces of anthrax." Would it even be a debate?

But it said no such thing, so it was a debate.  Should I allow these treats to be served?  They were only 'may contain', not actually products with nut ingredients. My choice: Ask the school to step up and follow the policy we put in place with my daughter's 504, keeping her learning environment safe but causing her to be singled out as the reason that the many treats brought in would not be eaten (and the kids walked by them all, so they knew what was there.) or allow the treats to be eaten so that there would be no hard feelings from other parents and students, and no embarrassment for my daughter.

And?  I'm the heavy.  Either way someone is upset.

This is the reason the 504 was drawn up in advance, the reason that a plan was devised and a note sent home to the parents to explain.  So there would be no game time decisions.  I finally asked the school to step and not serve the items in question.  I was ready to be the heavy, and I was incredibly angry about being put in the position that it was my job to do it.  I was ready to have moms angry that their treat was not served, and children mad at my daughter because they didn't get to eat the treat they brought.  Why? Because anger fades.  Dead doesn't.

It's hard to believe that I had so much angst about whether to allow children to indulge in sugar so my daughter would not be singled out.  Anyone with a child that is approaching teen years knows that fitting it is becoming a much more important part of their life, and decisions they make are designed to help them fit in.  This is why anaphylaxis risk peaks in teen years.

I pride myself in being the low maintenance allergy mama.  I do.  I roll with a lot, and I try to teach my daughter to roll with a lot too.  Life is always going to be full of food, we need to learn to handle it with grace.  Today?  I felt like a drama mama.  I was upfront with the teacher about how conflicted I felt, and how upset it made me.  I marched myself into the principal's office with the same concerns, again being honest at all levels.  (Including apologizing for being emotional.)

In the end?  The drama was solved by taking it outside as a picnic.  Thank heavens for lovely weather, as I'm not sure we would have had such a peaceable ending if there had been rain.  This mama was ready to stand firm and confiscate the contraband myself if need be.  I'm still angry it was even a source of debate.  The other parents clearly were not in line with the instructions sent home, and the snacks should not be served because they are a safety hazard.

Because dead can't change it's mind, be embarrassed, admit it made a mistake, or hold a grudge.  I don't negotiate with terrorists, and dead?  Nothing has more terror than that.


  1. Way to go, mamma! I couldn't agree more. I constantly try to walk in grace and with grace when dealing with all things but especially dealing with others and my boys' food allergies. At the end of the day, I want others to take me and my boys' allergies seriously! I loved your anthrax comment - so true! Why is there even a debate?!?!?!? I'm so sorry that you had to deal with this today! UGH! I'm proud of you. Thank you for setting such a wonderful example for me and other food allergy parents. You're truly an inspiration! Now go have a glass of wine! :)

  2. Kudos to you! It's always a diffucult situation, but you handled it with much grace. As the school year winds down, I find myself happy and grateful for a fairly uneventful school year, but emotionally exhausted too. Blessings to you for doing the hard, but right thing. Xoxox

  3. Well said...the most important thing we can do as parents is advocate for our children. hope they get their crap together ....hugs

  4. my eyes just bugged out and my mouth dropped at the photo. Maybe because my children are anaphylactic to dairy, egg, beef, lamb, peanut, treenut, shellfish, banana and kiwi, (the sight of that in a classroom made me gasp). But nonetheless, ANY severe allergens in the room is scary. My last allergist meeting left me with this inspiration: the dr. simply said to me, "I give you every permission to freak out in public. If you didn't, I'd report you to social services!" SO, that said, BRAVO to you, for being angry, for being a FABULOUS mom and for being completely bothered. If you didn't, what could the alternative have been? Such a scary thought. Bravo, sister, bravo. You are an excellent food allergy warrior.

    1. I love that you have your allergist's permission to freak out. A little professional justification can go a long way to empower food allergy parents.

  5. Go above the principal....enough is enough!

  6. This whole scenario is all too familiar. I commend you for making the tough choice. It shouldn't be this hard to keep our children safe.


Always happy to hear from you, but please remember to play nice!