Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Teachers With Your Child

I don't usually like to post negative things because I feel that being proactive and educating people makes more of a difference than feeding negativity. However, I have to share my most recent experience with everyone not to complain but to make people aware, to make people understand how important it is to stand up for your child. I know there are many, many articles about food allergy moms being overprotective and over reactive but if the mom's are not assuming these roles for their children, who would? Yes, there are some great Doctors, great teachers, great everythings but at the end of the day, this is your child and nobody else will protect them like you will as a mother.

Am I an overprotective mother? I think in some ways but I think I bend in other areas to even myself out. I try to be overprotective in the areas that need to be and be a little more lenient with the issues that are not life and death or do not cause any harm. I will not allow my son to sit at a regular lunch table at school but I will openly answer and and all questions that he asks me about sex, no matter what they are. I protect him yet I open him up to the true world as it is, I don't sugar-coat it and I don't use descriptions that are not true. I want my children, allergic and non-allergic, to know what is really out there and what they will have to learn how to handle as they grow up.

My most recent experience was with a teacher at the school we have been at for three years now. In the past three years, this is the first time I ever had an uneasy feeling leaving my child at school. The school has been great as far as food allergies. They are proactive, they have a meeting each year before school begins and teachers get recertified for the Epipen, questions are asked and answered, etc. That is usually my day to speak directly with my son's new teacher and I usually leave feeling that the communication is good. This year did not follow that path. This year, we attended the meeting and all were there except my son's new teacher. I was told he was here and should be coming to attend soon. Then, after the Epipen training was complete, someone went to get him only to find out he had left. I was angry but my first thought was "Maybe there was an emergency and he had to leave."

Day one of school- I walked my son into his new classroom. I was pleasant and smiled at the teacher. I stood patiently and waited to speak to him because I knew it was a madhouse with the first day of school. When he finally turned to me, I handed him all of my son's items and he stared at me blankly. I finally said "You weren't at the meeting yesterday." He did not offer an excuse or explanation. He ignored my statement and said he would "get with the nurse for Epipen training" to which my response was "Yes, but there are specific things that I needed to discuss with you." He ignored me. I handed him my sons safe snacks, a list of my wishes and his medical bag. He asked if he had his medication with him, I pointed to the bag that I had just handed to him and said "medication bag" and I repeated myself. He looked at me annoyed and I said "Again, this is why we need to have a meeting." I turned and left in anger. As I left, I was more angry at myself for allowing him to dismiss me and allowing him to endanger my child. I felt horrible that I had left my son with him.

End of day one of school- my son tells me they did a project involving food (marshmellows) in the classroom. I immediately become infuriated and my son quickly tells me "It was mini marshmellows and it's the brand we use so it's fine." I am glad my son is fine and I am glad he knows what's ok to use but I am still so angry that I can barely breath.

Day two of school- my heart is pounding and I am sweating because I am trying to think of how to approach this teacher without dragging him down the hallway by his hair. As I am walking to the classroom, he is behind me. "Oh, I was just coming up to see you. We need to set up a meeting, you and I." He looks at me and asks why. I ask him point blank "I understand that you did a food project yesterday in the classroom." His response "No, we didn't." My blood boils and I calmly shoot back "Really, you didn't do anything with marshmellows?" Then I see him stop for a minute and say "Oh, yes but they didn't eat anything." I stopped walking and said "It doesn't matter if he eats things or touches things, he's got allergies and this is why I needed to speak with you." The teacher is now defensive and says "Ok, well, let's go to the office and set that up now."

OK, I am thinking he is finally going to give me the few minutes I need, this is good! WRONG! Wrong, wrong, wrong! We are standing in the front office with the office administration there (which, I am thankful for!) and he's asking them when the nurse will be in again. My smile fades as I realize he's still stuck on the Epipen

That was it. That was the moment my head burst and I knew I must have been bright red. "You are to go upstairs right now and have my son pack up everything from his desk now! I do not want him in your classroom!" The teacher just said "OK" and the woman in the office came and hugged me. I started to cry a little but I was so angry that the tears just stopped. I pulled away and said "I have to go get my son. I don't want him with that horrible man!" As I am going up to get him, I pass by the teacher who is already telling the story to the neighboring teacher. He sees me and says "I was just explaining-" "Whatever!" I said and kept walking.

I get my son, his medical bag and his snacks and I am walking him back down the hallway. My son is confused and I just keep saying "You are not in trouble. But you are not staying in this man's room another minute!" My son asks "Why? What's going on?" I simply say "Because you are not safe here!"

We wait patiently for the Principal to finish announcements and my son puts his arm around me and says "I love you mom." This makes me feel better. Just that one, tiny moment.

Needless to say, the Principal switched my son right away. He went home that day (which made him oh so upset, I'm sure) but first thing, before school started, I met with his new teachers. Our discussion took 15 minutes. Just 15 minutes to prevent anything from happening. Is it that difficult for other teachers to handle? How many minutes have parents given to the teachers in donating, helping, being at class parties....is it that teachers' time is more important than my time and my son's health?

I am thankful that this happened because I truly feel there would have been something that would have happened to my son. And I truly feel that the previous teacher would have dismissed the warning signs as quickly as he dismissed me. And then I would have been writing about something far, far worse than this....I am just thankful.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Don't Pick on The Peanut People

Before I start this article, I would like to tell you about myself. I am the mother of a child who has multiple food allergies which includes peanuts, uncooked dairy, eggs, gluten and watermelon. I have spent the last 10 years making sure that my son is as safe as he can be. I have cooked for countless hours, trying (and failing) with new recipes so that my son could be safe and nourished. I have become the annoying mother that always attends class parties and always helps out during class activities when there is any type of food being used. I am the mother that shows up bringing an insulated bag for my son at every event.

That being said, what I would like to express today is my opinion that may seem controversial, especially considering my circumstances. I would like to say that people who use peanut products are not terrible people and should not be frowned upon. I say this because I can see both sides. Before I had my son, peanut butter was always used as a staple in our home. There was never a time when I did not have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or peanut butter on toast on a chilly morning. The fact is, peanuts are a great source of protein for those who are not allergic to it. It’s convenient, it’s easy and it goes with a lot of different foods.

I have noticed over the past year or so that parents of allergic children have become defiant toward parents that won’t stop using peanut butter. Do I agree with this- no, but I also understand that you do what you have to as a parent and that sometimes what is our best is not the best for everyone else. In this day and age, I believe most people try to be a good person. I believe that parenting skills and habits are different for each and every family. I also believe that you use the coping skills that work best for your family unit. I understand the anger that is felt toward parents that don’t see any reason to compromise just because it would be a hassle for them to make a different sandwich or pack a different lunch. I understand the mentality of parents that are working hard, trying to even remember to pack a lunch for their child after working a long day. What I do not understand is how we, as parents, have begun to fight against each other instead of joining together and helping each other out.

Life is about compromise and doing onto others. Perhaps there are parents out there that are just not educated enough about how severe the reactions are with children and peanuts. But what is the correct thing to do? Do you bash them and call them inconsiderate or do you try to understand them and educate them so that they can understand you and know that you would do the same for their child if the situation was reversed?

I have a friend that literally told me she would not like being told that she could not pack her daughter a peanut butter sandwich for school because it was her right to send whatever lunch that her daughter wanted to eat. At first, I was really angry and I couldn’t believe that a close friend of mine could say this directly to me. Then I remembered that she doesn’t live my family’s life. She doesn’t have to pack everything, cook everything, check and recheck everything. I almost felt as if I should feel sad that she didn’t get “it”. You know, “it”, the reason life is good and why we all like each other. But put it into perspective- she is stuck in my before time when I could eat toast with peanut butter when I really, really wanted too and nobody told me differently. I don’t blame her because she is uneducated about my situation.

I think it’s human nature to do what you want first. It’s not because you wake up each morning and decide that you want to be selfish or put anyone’s life into jeopardy. That‘s not how it works. If you worried about harming everyone in any way at all, you would probably never even leave your house. We are so programmed to fight for what we believe in that it takes us over and blocks out all other possibilities at times. For some of us, we are lucky enough to have that flash of doubt that pushes us back down a little and makes us say “What if I am not right?”.

This happens to all of us- peanut people and anti-peanut people. We all have our battles to fight for and we all have people that will not understand or agree with what we are fighting for. The important thing is to fight for what you believe but be willing to listen to what others have to say. Be open-minded because your situation could change at any moment. The fight that you are arguing for today could be stopped abruptly in an instant. One of those peanut people could wake up tomorrow and find out that their child almost died or worse, that their actions caused another child to be deathly sick.

Don’t pick on the peanut people. They may need you some day and may need your support. They may need to hear you say to them “I understand and I am here for you”. Would you turn away a parent that just found out their child was allergic too? Would you tell them they are not good enough for your knowledge and resources so that their child can be better protected? As an allergic parent, I would be there for them. I would erase anything from the past and look forward so that they could look forward as well. This is what’s important.