Friday, January 4, 2013

13 Things NOT to Say in 2013

I know that not everyone "gets" food allergies or can even begin to fully understand every little detail. Even I am still learning- it's a never-ending process. I can say that what angers me and I am sure, most other food allergy moms, are a few key phrases. A single sentence can turn happy, workable allergy mom into take off her shoe and beat you with it allergy mom. It's not that we strive to become vicious or unable to hear whatever you say after these phrases. It's more like an innate defense mechanism that kicks in but ours goes into overdrive immediately and doesn't even begin in slow. After all, doesn't every parent want to protect their child? So do we but we are just faster to react. We have to be because that is what having food allergies is about- acting fast.

This blog may seem a little like it's a rant and maybe it is but it's hard for me to not be so blunt to get my point across. I try to educate and sometimes speaking with birds chirping and rainbows coming out of your ears just escapes people. Blunt, yes but most definitely written to give you an insight of what allergic moms are truly thinking. You can't take anything personally because no matter how it may sound to you, it's not at all about you- it's about keeping everyone safe.

"As an incentive, we give out Chick-Fil-A coupons each semester" Ok, stop right there. I know there has been controversy regarding Chick-Fil-A...some people are fine with the peanut oil, others are not. Does it even matter? Am I the only parent that sees something wrong with enticing our children to do better in school by offering coupons to fast foods restaurants? Especially with so many types of food allergies on the rise, why even consider that this is acceptable? What happened to homework passes or crappy dollar store items that the kids seem to go crazy over? There are so many non-food prizes that can be used and not cause a stir.  

"There is a class party in an hour, is it safe for your child?" Although food allergy moms always love a heads-up, we appreciate more than one hour's notice even more so. For most of us, it usually means that we are sent into a panic, racing to make sure that we have safe snacks for our child and then racing like a crazy person to get to the classroom and help out. Sometimes, we do have great parents and teachers that we can depend on but for the most part, I feel pretty safe in assuming that most food allergy moms will make sure they are there to help out and to keep an eye on their child to make sure their child is alive by the end of the party. Please, if you are a non-allergic parent and reading this, please remember this and give a day or two's notice to one of us. We will be so appreciative and it's so little effort to do.

"We are taking a class trip to the Krispy Kreme factory" Again, I am not a party-pooper that doesn't ever feed her allergic child any fun foods. Is it really necessary for the children to see how they make the donuts and what they fill them with? And how about the part when all of the kids get to taste them while your allergic child stands there. Is this function so necessary that it boots out class trips to actual important places like museums, government buildings and historical places? (BTW, most historical class trips even give out a food but I won't start on that one)

"The PTA is hosting an Ice Cream Social for all of the children" I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream because we a re freaking allergic to dairy, nuts and whatever else there will be at this function. What better way to get to know your classmates than to be exposed to a highly allergenic food and have to be rushed to the ER while injecting an Epipen? I am sure the PTA is trying to raise money and school support so why jinx it? Have a nice soccer day or throw water balloons at the teachers...just saying.

"The Science Fair this year requires each student to incorporate a food in their project" This is a true thing that happened to us when my son was in Kindergarten. Although his grade was too young to participate, the teachers still walked the younger children through the Science Fair to see all of the projects. I went with them and the whole scene just freaked me out (silently). It was a gymnasium filled with table after table after table of these awesome projects and children handing out everything from peanut butter balls to nuts to packaged whatevers. Food, everywhere, on the tables, on the children, smeared on the floor. I could not leave fast enough.

"I know how to use an Epipen, my daughter is diabetic" This was something a Vice Principal said to me when I toured the school for my son. I was so floored that she didn't comprehend the difference of giving a syringe of insulin verses administering an Epipen that I just turned and left immediately. I'm sure she was trying to seem supportive but when you are a Vice Principal, I feel it is important to investigate and be educated about what parents are going to speak with you about. Or, in the very least, if you are unsure simply be honest and say you are not sure but you will find out. I'll take honesty over ignorant comments any day.

"Our school cafeteria is nut free. Would you like a granola bar or a bag of Chex Mix with lunch?"
This is something else that I cannot understand. Many schools make a huge effort to post nut-free signs in the cafeteria, have a nut-free table and yet school lunches and items available are foods that contain nuts. Am I confused? How is this a nut-free cafeteria? Do the schools understand that nut-free pertains to foods that are already in their cafeteria as well as foods being brought from home?

"Yes, the tables are cleaned every period with a spray bottle filled with water" Water? Did you really just say water to me? Because I know that not only does plain old water not remove dirt and germs but it absolutely doesn't remove food particles either. Is it safe for me to think that the school staff cleans their homes in this manner as well? (Gross!) Especially in schools, where children are constantly coughing, sneezing, spilling....I understand that, that's not my pet peeve because everybody spills and sneezes. But nothing to clean the tables? Ugh!

"We are planning a class activity using peanut butter but don't worry, the kids don't actually eat it" For some reason, it doesn't sink into people's brains that when someone is allergic to a food, it's also not safe to handle it or even be around it. Ok, so your child may not be eating it but there is still the possibility that it stays on the skin and can be ingested. There are other children in the room that are spreading it all around, unknowingly, for future allergic reactions. And why push the issue of using an allergic food when there are so many safe alternatives that can be used?

"I am sending in donuts for the class as a surprise today. I thought I would send in fruit for your child" Have you ever been graced with this option for your child? Fruit compared to a donut, really? If fruit is so great, then why not just bring in fruit for everyone instead of the donuts? It's like me saying to someone "I'm going to eat this steak and lobster dinner but hey, I made sure I ordered you a few dry crackers, that's ok right?" Again, I know non-allergic parents are trying to be able to bring something that is safe but it's just as easy to work with us. We may look mean but we don't bite..often.

"I checked the ingredients on the package and it's all safe- it says it's organic" For this, I will gladly post the meaning of organic "of, relating to, or derived from living organisms <organic evolution> (2): of, relating to, yielding, or involving the use of food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides". Just for clarity, this says it may be environmentally-friendly but does not mention anywhere that it means it's allergy-friendly. Peanuts can be organic but that does not make them safe to give to a peanut-allergic child. It's still a peanut. Organic foods are not necessarily safe for allergic children so please, please don't argue this point with a food allergic mom.

"We don't want to make a big deal out of the food allergy thing in front of the other children"  Neither do we but guess what, it is a big deal. And what difference does it make if the classroom knows that my child has food allergies? In my experience, it seems the non-allergic children are more aware and more proactive about food allergies than the parents are. You know what would be making a big deal in front of the other children? Watching their classmate go into anaphylactic shock and die. So what's it going to be? I think the choice is quite clear.

"You can just take your child home early and avoid the whole party to be safe" This is your remedy? This is your safety measure? Bringing my child home early, not being with friends at school and having fun because it's too inconvenient to work with me on planning something together? Not to mention how the children will be talking about the class party days afterwards and discussing what they did, what games were played, what prizes they received. And my child's response to that would be? Way to be one step closer to Teacher of the Year, a person who should be shaping our children for the future and making them responsible, well-rounded, intelligent people.

Please, make a resolution to be more proactive and aware. Let's work together rather than against each other to have a better year.