Friday, February 16, 2007

They're all nuts

I have a feeling I am about to get slammed. If you see a bunch of parents wielding "Down with Peanut Butter" and "Food Allergies R Us" signs with torches and pitchforks heading in my direction, don't worry. I already know they are coming.

I kind of asked for it. I was silent no longer on a peanut allergy forum where about 90 percent of the parents are diehard food allergy "experts" and would wrap their children in bubble wrap before dropping them off at school. Michael, my eight-year-old, is allergic to peanut butter and peanut oil and I sometimes check out the peanut allergy forums to see what's new.

Short version: a parent stated she was going to pick up her child before the Satan-filled Valentine party at school because she was concerned that the nut-free room would be infiltrated with wrapped lollipops without ingredient labels. By the time I read the topic, nine parents had agreed wholeheartedly and vowed to start a revolution within all their schools across the U.S.

Now, I won't bore you with all the details, but here was my answer to this:
My PA son is in third grade. The nurse in our school is very strict about food/candy in the classroom - none! - unless it passes through her first for her approval. She usually calls me to make sure. I have often brought in cupcakes for my son's class as his is the only food allergy in the room.
HOWEVER... my point is this: I would NEVER take my son out of school before a party. I don't want him to feel ostracized. I want him to learn how to take care of himself -- which he does very well. He ALWAYS asks wherever he goes about the ingredients and calls me. I am VERY comfortable with my son being in situations where food is served without me (meaning at a friend's house, not alone somewhere). I firmly believe that is because he understands his allergy straight on.
He understands it because we live in a world with peanut butter in it - and he needs to learn how to live in this world with it. By taking him out of every situation where there may peanut butter is NOT teaching him how to handle himself without his mother or father there. Do we go into the candy store that is called the House of Nuts and Candy??? No. Do we go to the restaurant Texas Roadhouse where people throw peanut shells on the ground? No... but we go to birthday parties and other parties. And we always have.
Please don't get me wrong - I do not support putting children in harm's way. I am not saying leave out a PB&J sandwich and see if he touches it. I am saying that by not letting them learn how to live in this world where there is PB out there he will never learn how to live. He will always be scared, he will always be afraid and he will feel gypped because he never went to a friend's birthday party or school Valentine party.
I am not judging anyone out there regarding this - we all parent to the best of our ability and we all love our children. I just find that I seem to be a minority on these boards in regards to the best way to keep our kids safe. I feel the best way to keep MY kid safe is to teach him how to be safe and let him live it.


I always need to put disclaimers in otherwise people write in about how they are doing this because they love their children, blah blah blah. I KNOW they love their children. I KNOW they are nervous and just want to be 100 percent sure their child will be safe. But the point that I was making that will probably go over their heads is that I am not helping Michael deal with his allergy by taking him out of every single situation where he can learn what to do. If he is working one day at an office, do you think I can go in to the president and say, "Excuse me, please put away your macadamia nuts with peanut oil residue because my son is allergic"? Umm.... no. And that is why my eight-year-old is VERY knowledgeable about his allergy (just ask him!) and does not have a breakdown when he can't eat the cake at a birthday party (which is a hot topic on those boards, apparently). I guess I was fed up. I wanted to shake someone and say, "Seriously??!?"

This topic has me thinking about my attitude in general regarding these kind of serious situations. Michael's allergy, Brady's William's. Someone once called me laid back -- "Have you always been this laid back?" -- about Brady's condition, I think if I remember correctly. I worry. I do. Stray thoughts come through about his health, his weight, his delays. But they are what they are. I do worry, I am concerned with what the future holds and how we will live through it all. I have my own mental breakdowns on how Brady is progressing, the slow snail pace he is. But all I can do is help him get along further in life --have his therapies, go to the doctor's, have a positive attitude, do what needs to be done. Just like Michael, keep a watchful eye out there, guide him, but let him find his way. The means on dealing with both is not really that different from each other.

(I just checked the peanut allergy forum. One person already wrote back that she agrees with me - yeah! Finally, the minority speaks!)

(Sat. morning - it has begun! There are four people not just disagreeing with me, but SLAMMING me. I don't believe I slammed anyone. I have also received two private emails from people agreeing with me, but not wanting it to be known because they don't want to get singled out on the board. Disagreeing is FINE, I have no problem with that... one post disagreed with me but was not obnoxious about it.)

19 comments:

Jen Z said...

I agree with you too! And I think your approach with Michael is right on. Don't let anyone make you second-guess your approach: your instincts are good ones, and you're a terrific mom.

Nancy said...

I wish that more parents were like you. People tend to be so dang extreme about everything on this planet and ruin things! Even freaking parties at school. It makes me really sad, and I think people are getting wimpier and wimpier about things, giving their kids GIGANTIC hangups. Just my two cents.

You did a great job with your post. You couldn't have said it better.

Catherine said...

I am a board certified pediatrician and I must say your post is all well and good if your child is not contact sensitive and airborne sensitive. Unfortunately, not all peanut allergic children are able to safely attend parties where peanuts are present. Congratulations that your child is not airborne sensitive. The children that are airborne sensitive, though, would be unsafe at a Valentine`s Day party where peanut products are present in high numbers. Studies have shown that the risk of an airborne reaction goes up when more than 25 people are eating peanut products in a room. Try to step outside yourself for just a moment and notice the fact that peanut allergy varies quite a bit in severity from child to child. What is safe for your child may not be safe for another. Pretending that all children are the same in severity of allergy and require the same rules for safety does not make it true.

Kerry said...

Thank you all for your comments. Catherine, I do understand the differences in allergies. I believe 99% of all parents of PA children know more about food allergies than anyone because we live it. In fact, I comment regularly that Michael is not airborne allergic. Some of the children on the peanut allergy site aren't, some are. Again, I understand it is to everyone's comfort level. I also said I did not think anyone should be put in harm's way. If you are on that board much at all you will note there are not that many comments from people who feel as I do, because they feel that they will get slammed, like I am being right now! ;) I have received emails in the past before who have commented to me on topics on the boards but they don't want to go on record for that reason.

Catherine said...

You were not slammed. I just pointed out some facts that you appeared to be unaware of. When parents of a less severe child make judgmental comments about the precautions necessary for the safety of a more severe child, it undermines the efforts to keep the more severe child safe. It is not about whether or not you are getting slammed; it is about safety.

Nancy said...

I was not aware of airborne peanut allergies -- BUT, even so, there are parents who handle things very poorly and end up creating more anxiety in their children by going to extremes and and end up making their kids feel like pariahs for having an unfortunate and, yes, admittedly sometimes deadly allergy.

My son isn't allergic to peanuts. However, he has a disability that may make it hard to judge just how far approaching vehicles are from him. Am I going to let my anxiety about this situation fuel his and throw a loud fit every time there is a car approaching and we are on the sidewalk? Not if I can help it. We have to live in a world with cars and trucks that could run him over and kill him if he isn't careful.

I will educate him as best I can and protect him while I teach him how to protect himself.

Easier said than done, I know. Education is key. Color me educated.

Kerry said...

Catherine - I didn't mean you when I spoke about getting slammed, I was writing about comments on the peanut allergy board. I understand you wrote your comments because you didn't know if I knew all the facts, but I stated I did. Again, I wrote everything was at everyone's comfort level, regardless of severity. Just having a peanut allergy is serious and not to be taken lightly, which I don't.

Thank you, Nance, you understand where I am coming from! I am now done writing about this.

Taylor said...

Hmmm. I was here yesterday and saw more comments than are posted today.
Are you only accepting comments that you argree with? I'm not sure if I want to share my feelings if you are going to remove them later.
Good luck with you children's special needs. I know how hard it can be. We're in a similar boat with our kids.

Amy said...

Oh, damn, I so want on on this forum so I can support you! Cuz everything you said makes SOOOOOOOOO much sense. Death looms everywhere, but that shouldn't stop us from living!

Lisa R said...

HEHEHEHHEHE LOL you are the best...Those lucky boys :)

Amy said...

P.S. I also wanted to say that I understand the severity of this issue first hand, and how scary it can be. I had a food allergy, to of all things mushrooms. So that meant no pizza or pasta sauce cooked by other people because I had no control over what they put in it. I learned the hard way how to avoid it, going through an episode was enough to teach me how to take care of the problem, and learn how to cope. Since, I have outgrown it, I found out about 3 years ago after a routine allergy prick test done on my back. Now I eat mushrooms, it freaks my parents out, but I have learned to trust that I know how to handle myself and my health because my parents dutifully taught me to deal with it, not to run out of the room like a screaming mee-mee because a pizza had mushrooms on it. (This post does not address the airborne PA issue).

Anonymous said...

I can not believe the way you all have read into and torn into this poor woman...first off her blog is her blog whatever she wants to write is her business...Really don't yopu all have better things to worry about then some blog that you do not agree with. I think that some of the responses direct at the blog owner were very judgemental rude and hurtful. Funny thing is she did not mean to be hurtful and sure seems like some of you all did.

Indepent kids or not as independent kids they are all the same and we are all faced with similar situations and they are all handeled different. Atleast she had the guts to voice her opinion to begin with and hide nothing. I am sure as mothers we are all doing a good job but goodness just move on...

I would have to imangin that no one thinks that we are nuts especially the blog owner I thought the pun was funny. I am sure that the people that read her blog are just as sensitive about special needs as we all are.

Oh yes and to Taylor...on a blog if comments are deleted you still can see that a comment was left and deleted...Very bold accusation.

NoPeanuts said...

I agree with most of what Kerry wrote. I tend to have a reasonable approach in dealing with our 23 month old daughter's severe peanut and egg allergies.
I author a blog at www.NoPeanutsPlease.com and one of the concepts I blog about is that 'It Takes A Village' to manage anaphylaxis or to avoid a peanut (in our case). I have numerous posts that consider the perspective of others in managing our allergic kids ... teachers, other parents, even the peanut industry itself!

I concur that it is up to each parent to figure out how they want to manage their child's allergy but it is critical to make sure that the allergic kids are seen as otherwise normal in all but the most severe of cases.

Once we are at school age I would approach the situation you blogged about by discussing the party with a teacher and hoping that we could make it safe for the allergic children in the class (not just the peanut allergic kids).

If we could not make it safe then I would probably default to attending the classroom party myself (if possible) versus removing my daughter.

NP

www.NoPeanutsPlease.com
It Takes A Village ...

Anonymous said...

I just read another web site about Peanut Allergies ( http://www.abcpeanuts.com ). Most of the parents there put their children in a bubble only because they have experienced something that scared them. Their mission, to protect their children.

Lisa R said...

Wow Kerry I have now heard and seen it all. I would stay away from that PA site my main reason being is that those parents have no right to treat you so poorly for your opinion it is pretrty sad tht people on moral high horses are so darn mean...My advice to all you PA parents slamming Kerry's blog, let it go!!! She meant no harm and you all had her for lunch!!! Talk about judging!!! Also I never thought any of you mothers were crazy untill I read you all going on and on about it...What nothing better to do LOL

NoPeanuts said...

I would like to read the actual peanut allergy blog. Does anybody have the URL please?

NP

Kerry said...

For those who want to check it out... peanutallergy.com
Go to the Discussion Boards, click on Main Discussion Forum, then to the topic marked "They Rescheduled the Valentine's Day Party" about 3/4 down on the page with a red mad face next to it.

I appreciate the support I have received here about voicing my opinion... don't feel you need to show it on the peanut allergy forum. I think I have said it all already. Thanks :)

Kerry said...

P.S. Regarding my last post - do whatever you want... far be it from me to tell people what to post and what not to post :) I just meant I do see the support so I don't need you to show it again. :)

Amy K said...

Hey PA mommies, Go easy on Kerry, I think she may come from a point of view that is valuable to listen to. Like her I have a special needs kiddo too. What we want the most is for or kids to have the most typical experience possible, we understand the value of this, a harsh lesson to learn. However, it may never come true for our WS kids, as much as we try and I think she just wants to let you know, as do I, is that kids need to be kids as much as is possible for them. That is a gift you can give to them by letting go of some of your fears. You can never control it all, and sometimes that’s ok.

Also, she is just venting, because she NEEDS to vent on her blog. I personally found it quite amusing and it put a smile on my face. As mommies of special kiddos that have life long disabilities we deal with so much crap every single day, so different to a food allergy because we can't protect our kids from heart failure, stoke or kidneys shutting down by putting them in a bubble, so venting is important. And it is just that, venting, if you took it personally perhaps you need to examine your life if a blog would upset you so much. Different points of view are valuable, and worth listening to with an open mind. I know I learned a lot from this discussion and will myself make an effort to keep all my snacks free of nuts.

XOXO
Amy