Thursday, April 16, 2009

How can they not get it?

Andrew goes to a great school. He loves his teacher, and he has great friends in his class. Every newsletter that comes home (they're in the process of switching to an email version which is even better) reminds parents about the nut-free status of the school. The kindergarten teacher sent home notices to all the parents about not bringing peanuts, nuts or sesame products to school. Andrew's not allergic to sesame, but someone's child is and we respect that. We don't send sesame crackers to school even though he likes them, and the dim sum sesame balls stay home.

Today was the big field trip to the aquarium. Dad got to go too. We were all instructed to arrive at the school 1/2 hour early, and we would be back around 3PM. Both the morning and afternoon classes would be going on this trip, so I guess the afternoon students were to arrive about 4 hours early. We were instructed to bring a lunch too!

(he's not actually sleeping, just pretending)

So, Dad spent a few minutes this morning making and packing lunch. Bananas and apples are good (and we actually had some in the house), so in those went. Granola bars are a nice treat, so in went a couple of NoNuttin' bars; one for Andrew and one for me (I am a certifiable nut addict, but don't eat them around Andrew abviously, and I like these bars). Sandwiches are good. I like meat and cheese in mine, but since I was packing the two sandwiches together, Andrew had PeaButter and I had Sunbutter. I was going to put jam on mine, but Andrew doesn't really like jam and was concerned that my jam would get on his sandwich. I know how that story ends, so "fine, I'll have just the sunbutter". I threw in a waterbottle I'd filled from the Brita and a couple of apple juice boxes (when Andrew gets tired and hungry, juice hits his blood sugar faster than food and prevents a melt-down - useful trick) for drinks and we were off. Andrew prefers the PeaButter (which I can assure you tastes remarkably like smooth peanut butter). I prefer the sunbutter which doesn't really taste at all like peanut butter, but looks a lot like it, and tastes exactly like ground up sunflower seeds. For the record, we use McGavins bread, usually "Ancient Grains", "12 Grains" or some other birdseed-like bread. We've never (knock on wood) had a nut or dairy problem with any of them.

It's really fun to watch 5 year-olds explore an aquarium. Sharks are totally cool, at least until the big kid pretends to be a shark and tries to eat the other kids using his jacket as a shark mouth. No, I take that back...that's fun to watch too. The jellyfish mesmerise the kids and watching them in the touch-tank stroking sea cucumbers and sea stars is fun too. I like watching kids learn, almost as much as I like teaching them (I'm not a teacher by profession).

Lunch time rolled around, and I could feel the usual apprehensions building. What were all these kids having for lunch? We found a table outside at the cafeteria (it was a nice day today, no rain and the temperature was around 13°C/55°F), and Andrew, another parent, two other kids and I sat down. One child was happily munching on her Wonderbread and Kraft singles sandwich. No worries there, Andrew doesn't react to cheese unless he eats it. No nut bars, no suspect treats there ... CLEAR!

So, I turned my attention to the other child at my table. A sandwich that looked a lot like mine, but he had jam on his...diplomacy... "So, what did you get for lunch?" That's a safe question isn't it? The question may be safe, the answer wasn't!

"Peanut butter and jam...want some?", as he thrust his sanwich at me spraying partially chewed bread as he spoke. Remember the siren sound signalling "red alert" on the Enterprise in the original series of Star Trek? Yeah, that's what was sounding through my head by that point.

Andrew, being such a polite child (okay, occasionally polite) offered some of the rice crackers he was eating (I think Andrew added them to his lunch, I didn't pack them) to his friend who reached in a PB&J smeared hand to grab a couple. I quickly grabbed (gently, but deliberately) his hand and 6 of the Ritz-sized crackers from the container and moved the whole handful over to the child's side of the table.

"I need you to keep your hands and your lunch away from Andrew, he's not good around peanuts, and you have peanuts in your lunch." Firm, but not yelling. The other parent at the table's eyes went wide and her eyebrows moved up at least an inch.

Immediately after lunch we went to wash our hands. In my left hand I held Andrew's hand, and in my right hand I held the other child's. I figured that way Andrew and his friend wouldn't hold hands.

Lunch eaten, crisis averted, I moved into reporting mode. The teacher will bring it up during the upcoming parent-teacher conferences, and none of the other parents I asked/reminded about the nuts could believe what had been sent for lunch.

It really was a fun day at the aquarium. Honestly. I had a great time, and have many great photos of the event. Andrew learned a great deal about sea life, but still struggles with the word "cartilage" (shark bones are made of cartilage and sharks are cool). I'm just left with this little voice inside my head cursing and swearing at this parent I've never met. None of what happened here was the child's fault, and at no time was I loud or physical with the child. Kindergarteners don't get the food allergy thing; parents should. (end of rant).

Sorry for the rant, and thank you for reading, I'll be back on track with the first Beaver camp's menu next post. I just needed to get today's events off my chest.


Elisabeth said...

Oh man, your post makes me so upset! I hate that!! People are so oblivious sometimes.

My son had a substitute at school one day - so after my usual drill about foods/allergies/no contact, etc. - I find out the next week (from his normal teacher) that the sub had called her at home to ask if she could eat her PB Crackers at lunch with the kids!?

Really?! I was glad that she asked, but how did she not get it?

Food Allergy Assistant said...

Field trips are so tricky because the kids are not in their typical environment. More food sharing seems to go on. The kids are moving around more and may have different items than usual in their lunches. I usually take 2 Motrin when I get home from a field trip due to my pounding headache.

That said, it is also a great opportunity to educate others about food allergy- without sounding preachy or judgmental, of course. Kids usually like to help other kids and when they find out there are things they can do )like keep their food away from another child's food, etc.) they think it's cool they can do something.

Good for you for being on the trip and gently managing the situation.

Susan Weissman said...

I am so sorry. What I hate is what if you had not been there? It's one thing to ask an older child to be responsible for his allergies but my son is in Kindergarten as well and those kids are just plain messy! He can't control what might get on him.

Tony said...

Thanks for feedback - it's nice to know someone other than my wife and I are reading, and even nicer when people agree.

I picked up Andrew this afternoon, and was instructed (as only kindergarteners can instruct their parents) that I had to clean out his backpack. When I asked what had happened, I was reminded that he (the other child) had had his nut and dairy lunch in that backpack (in a tupperware in a bag in another bag for the record), but nevertheless, Andrew was correct.

I love my kid when he takes charge of his allergies.

So, I'm off to scrub out the backpack now...Another Friday-night party at our place!

Nicole said...

I hate it when perfectly good days leave a allergy-related anxiety and ickiness behind. You handled it very well.

I had to pick up my son the other day after school and go to his classroom a minute. He'd had a sub that day that had no clue he was allergic. All the information is supposed to be in the sub folder. Either it's not or she didn't look at it. He's in 3rd grade so the food sharing and messiness isn't quite as much of an issue, but it's still frustrating. Good thing our allergic kids are so responsible!

Jane Anne said...

Oh wow, this story is just another reminder that you cannot be too careful. I just found your blog today and this story caught my attention. I am going to check the rest of it out now. I posted about starting school with a peanut allergy today: My latest post: Kindergarten Bound with Allergies. I am pretty nervous about it.