Food allergy police

Every Friday in the Man-cub's class, the preschoolers have a cooking activity. I think this is great because I believe cooking is a life skill everyone should learn.

But.

It's also just another reminder of how the Man-cub is different from the other kids because his food allergies keep him from eating what everyone else is eating.

Today, it was pancake day. There is nothing about a pancake that the Man-cub can eat. Pancakes are made with wheat, milk, butter and eggs -- not something he can eat. Then, pancakes are usually covered in "syrup" made with artificial colors and flavors.

Before school started, the teacher told me about cooking every Friday and asked if I would bring in alternatives for the Man-cub. Absolutely. I had warned the teacher, though, there might be some things there aren't any alternatives for.

Right out of the starting gate, this first week of school, we met our allergy match. I have yet to find wheat- egg- and dairy-free pancake mix, and I wasn't about to attempt to make my own and send the Man-cub to school with something that could easily be mistaken for the "regular" pancake mix. So this morning at school, he had a frozen Van's gluten-free waffle with real maple syrup.

He didn't eat the syrup because syrup is sticky and he doesn't like sticky things.

And then later I found out there is pineapple juice in the waffles, and he and I are both allergic to pineapple.

{smacking my forehead repeatedly}

Thank goodness he doesn't appear to have had a reaction.

There are lots of different ways a person's body can react to allergens. I used to think if you were allergic to something, you went into anaphylactic shock. But that's just one way you can react.

We are fortunate that, although the Man-cub has several food allergies, they don't seem to be life-threatening. They affect his digestive system more than anything. No one wants a pukey kid.

I told his teacher that too.

The first day, she sent out a note to everyone in the class that I'm sure is the school's stock letter that gets sent to anyone who is in a class with a child who has a peanut allergy. The note stressed how important it is for the kids in the Man-cub's class not to bring any peanut products to school with them and to read the labels.

The next time I saw the teacher, I told her that a child bringing peanut products to class was OK as long as the Man-cub didn't eat them. I told her that, heck, sometimes my husband and I eat peanuts at home. That a classmate bringing a peanut butter sandwich to school gave the Man-cub no worse reaction than someone bringing in a banana-walnut muffin or an almond cookie. He is allergic to all nuts, but not severely.

Despite this, the teacher told me the note had already gone out and the class would just remain peanut-free.

I worried the Man-cub might be bullied like the little girl with a peanut allergy in another Florida town. Some parents get up in arms when told they can't do something with or for their child to benefit someone else's child.

And here I was, telling the teacher and also the office that it's OK for the Man-cub's classmates to have peanuts, but they chose not to tell the other parents. The school didn't tell those parents about the other nuts, or the dairy, or the eggs, or the wheat, or pineapple, or kidney beans ... but peanuts have a way of making schools jumpy, I guess, because they can be so life-threatening to some people. (And yes, the school has an epi pen for my son in case the worst actually does happen.)

So on the one hand, I have the frustration of finding alternative food for the Man-cub to take for cooking class, and on the other I have the guilt that mothers are taking away granola bars and using sunflower butter in their children's lunches because of the Man-cub. (I know, because one mom told me this after she overheard that my child is the one with the allergy.)

I can't be the allergen police for the whole class. I can't go behind the school's back to tell the parents myself about the peanut policy, that it's OK for their kids to eat them around the Man-cub. Nor can I request parents stop having their kids' birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese, where the only thing the Man-cub can eat is a plain salad that I have to pay for that he doesn't even want.

Basically, food allergies just aren't fun. It's tough to navigate all of this, when the Man-cub just wants to be a regular preschool kid and I just want to be a regular mom. We don't want to have to worry about what he's going to eat so much.

I love my son's school, and I know many other schools would likely be the same way. But it's almost enough to make a mama want to homeschool.

 

Holly

Tropic of Mom

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