Thursday, January 27, 2011
In Which I Hope I Don't Offend Real Allergy Sufferers
What is wrong with my internal WTF? reaction to the following situation:
Ms. A, mom of a sweet 3-year-old kid who has just joined DS's one-morning-a-week co-op preschool class, shows up yesterday and suddenly says "My kid can't have any dairy" after the person whose turn it was to bring the snack for everyone put a piece of cheddar cheese on every kid's plate, then Ms. A's little guy sees it, wants it, and throws a major tantrum that results in Ms. A having to remove him from the preschool building. Once the little guy calms down, Ms. A bring him back and gives him his own snack of prunes and a banana, sitting him in a different room with her apart from all of the other children, who are eating snack together at one large table with their teacher.
Suddenly, a couple of the other parents are asking me, hey, what is going on!? Because I'm the person with the dubious distinction of being 'parent coordinator,' unfortunately. Aw, shit. And because not having all of the kids eat together with their teacher is apparently a big deal for some parents because they are worried that their kid will demand his/her own special snack, and to be able to eat with mom by herself.... actually that sounds like some potential shenanigan my son would try.
So I ask Ms. A, quietly, what her little boy's dietary restrictions are, and can I please let other parents know so when it is their turn to bring snack we won't have this happen again? (The school is already nut and gluten free, FYI). She says "Well, I don't want to force other parents to have to not bring certain foods." (Thinking to myself, ok so she wants the exact opposite of whatever she just said) I said "I hear you, and BTW we have a policy of being completely nut and gluten free already, so what specifically do we also need to avoid?" And she replied, "Last night my husband and I decided to eliminate all cow proteins from our sons' diets. No more cheese, no more dairy, no more non-organic beef because it is causing our sons' constipation. So we're trying a total elimination diet for 2 weeks to see if the constipation improves." (She said as her son gobbled down 4 prunes in 30 seconds... so perhaps hers isn't much of a scientific approach if her goal is to determine whether or not 'cow proteins' are in fact the cause of constipation, I thought to myself, snarkily.)
Suddenly the president of the co-op is chiming in over my shoulder, "Have you had your son tested for allergies?" I didn't know she was standing there. And at least two other parents are listening in. Ms. A said "No, but I've just been thinking lately about how bad anything from a cow is for you, and how humans were really never intended to eat cows and cow proteins, and how one time we went to this camp for the summer and the food was all vegetarian and no one in our family was constipated, and how when I serve only pure organic beef at home everyone is fine..." Then the kids finished their snack and I got pulled away from the conversation to attend to them, while the president continued to speak with Ms. A for a bit, and a few others continued to listen in.
And I realized my immediate reaction was to be pretty judgmental of Ms. A's entire line of reasoning. And I feel a bit bad about it, but not really. Look, for the record, I respect vegetarianism, veganism, pretty much any and all entrenched cultural & religious reasons for restricted diets, and obviously I fully support institutional restrictions of any foods that cause us and/or our children anything from mild oral discomfort to very serious, life-threatening illnesses. But... between you, me, and the internets, something about this scenario doesn't quite fall into this aforementioned "legitimate" category for me. Maybe because the overall tone of how it unfolded just rubbed me the wrong way? I really ought to give her the benefit of the doubt and go along with her pseudo-scientific thinking, right?
Then the president comes up to me and says "I think you should put the word out about it." Normally, I would send out an email, but honestly I am at a loss as to what to say, and how to describe what exact foods parents shouldn't bring from now on? We have a list of recommended snacks, but I have no idea if they'd be ok with Ms. A (and honestly, I'm irritated even thinking about having to find the list again and having to inquire - shouldn't that be Ms. A's burden?). Even though Ms. A said she didn't want to force other parents to comply with her self-imposed restrictions, Ms. A seemed pretty comfortable telling everyone about her family's diet, and I'm sure she would appreciate everyone doing their part to support her parenting choice (who wouldn't?), so maybe she would be ok with an email going out about it?
I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, I wish Ms. A would have said something sooner, because it caused a disruption to the class, caused a bit of "drama" amongst the parents, and clearly seemed to make the parent who brought the cheese feel like an a-hole. While Ms. A's son is new to the preschool, her two older children attended there for years, so it is not like she was unfamiliar with the process. When she joined, I made it abundantly clear the multiple ways I and others are always reachable. Granted, I'm sure she didn't expect her son to throw a ginormous tantrum over some cheese... but let's be honest, wasn't it the least bit foreseeable in this context? Anyway, that's all my own problem of feeling irritated and eye-rollish. And I want to be clear, if she had lied and said this were something we needed to have an epi-pen ready to deal with, hush would have been ALL OVER it. I am one of those moms on the playground who has the epi-pen and knows how to use it, and BTW no one in my family is allergic to anything (yet). So maybe I should just be happy she was honest about the situation and the lack of severity.
I'm afraid if I send out an email it will sound all passive-aggressive in my head and I will over-analyze it obsessively. Could you all please tell me honestly what the kind thing to do is? Thank you for listening (I'm annoying myself now just re-reading this.)