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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tumbling Peanuts

So today we had another of many firsts to come in dealing with our suspected peanut allergy. Our daughter went to 'Orff Tumblers', a class that focuses on music and movement ... two of our daughters favourite things!

The difference today was that my wife was a 'Peanut Parent' for the first time in a group setting. Being a Peanut Parent of course entails a whole host of standard precautions including making sure your child is wearing her Medic Alert bracelet, carrying two Epi-Pens and bringing along snacks from home.

The newest precaution is having to 'talk to the teacher' about our peanut allergy.

My wife felt a little uncomfortable heading into the community centre, fearing a negative reaction from the instructor. She did not want to be perceived as being the ridiculous, overcautious parent and she did not want to face condescension from the other parents at a supposed inconvenience of their peanut-loving children. My wife was also concerned over our daughter standing out and being some sort of pariah.

This is a walk that we will surely become accustomed to. I have not done it yet and I have to admit it's not something I am looking forward to. Though nobody wants to be 'that parent', we have no choice. The safety of our daughter has to trump our personal insecurity.

I have a theory (based on parental intuition) that the way our daughter manages her allergy throughout her life will largely be based on her observations of how we handle it now. We must be confident, consistent, logical and thorough. We will often have to maintain an even keel despite the fact that at times we are truly afraid.

NoPeanuts Tip:
Managing a peanut allergy is an education process, both for yourself and for others. Parents must have the confidence and strength of character to assume the role of teacher whenever it is required. Not doing so will likely put your child at risk.

So what happened with the instructor today you ask?

Thankfully the instructor demonstrated an understand of the situation, made the announcement to the class and ensured that our daughter had a great time, without singling her out. Our daughter enjoyed the class immensely and we felt it was an initial Peanut Parent success. She has no idea that she is any different from the other kids and we hope to keep things that way.

The one wrinkle in the day was the response of the other parents to the instructor's announcement that our daughter had a peanut allergy and it would be best for any peanut snacks to be consumed outside. Our nanny was also in attendance and she clarified for the parents that the peanut allergy was severe and that an anaphylactic episode could be triggered by a even minimal exposure to peanut ergo it is best to leave peanut treats at home.

The response from the parents was interesting, or should I say their lack of response was interesting? None of the parents said a single word and many wore expressions that ranged from indifference to annoyance. I suspect this is going to be a common response. I suspect that we will frequently encounter resistance, a lack of understanding, a lack of knowledge and perhaps even an air of indifference when we explain to people that our daughter has a peanut allergy and that we need their help. It is going to be important to be patient and strong in those situations.

Though we need to ensure that we do not scare or shock the other parents, it is important that they understand the risk that they could place our daughter in by introducing peanuts into the room. It is not our goal to make them care, just to ensure that they are aware of the allergy.

Next week we are going to bring peanut-free treats for everybody! Our daughter made many new friends today and we want to make sure that she is not seen as the 'Snack Monster' for any of the other kids who enjoy their peanut-filled snacks.

Of course the irony in all of this, is that based on my research these parents should probably not be introducing peanuts to their children at this age anyway, so an announcement should not really be required.

1 comment:

Peanut Mommy said...

Today was definately an eye opener for my new reality as a parent of a child with a peanut allergy. Usually when our daughter is off to a new class we are excited about the friends she'll meet, the fun she will have and the new skills she will develop. Today however, as I approached the community centre I saw it in a completely different light...a terrifying world of possible, uncontrollable risks for my daughter.

As I walked into the room where the class would be held, instead of seeing a fun, welcoming environment for my child to play I scanned the room thinking "It's carpeted, what if someone dropped a crumb of cookie and she picks it up", "what if, what if, what if...". Everything looks different now.

But as mentioned earlier, we need to be confident and diligent as we encounter each of these situations to be good role models for our daughter.