Tuesday, June 30, 2009

um, er, well - you see...

There's no real way to follow the previous posts. I'll offer a proper coda in due course, but for now, allow me to detour long enough to offer today's quote, spoken by a really lovely (and puzzled) parent:

I just found out that dairy isn't allowed in the first grade classroom anymore! They should send out an email to let people know, don't you think?

[insert strangled guttural sound here]

oh, where to begin. When did they allow dairy in the Eldest's allergy-friendly classroom? And why, exactly, did they stop? Hmmmm? And yet (counsels a less panicked section of my brain), this might just be one of those times when it is better just to nod and smile. 

Which, of course, is exactly what I did.

The allergy thing has finally begun to make any number of little encounters uncomfortable, and I'm getting the distinct feeling that a proportion of the parent population now think I'm a flaming idiot.  They're building effigies, and while last year I might have been determined to go forth and educate, this year I'm tempted to light the thing up myself. I'm tired of being an idiot. I'm tired of not understanding enough to explain things to people. Oddly, I don't know isn't an answer that tends to build credibility, or to reassure. But there's a lot about the Eldest's allergies that I don't know. What, exactly, will kill him? What, exactly, will scar him psychologically? I don't know. And the docs can't tell me.

Oh, yes - and puzzled mom? she's throwing her son a birthday party. She told me about the menu, and I failed to edge a useful, educational word in. Natch. I have a feeling that the simplest thing to do is to go for the fun, and just leave before she brings out the food. Avoid the issue, avoid the baffled and hurt expression on her face when she realizes that the treats that she's already bought (allergy friendly! she said), won't really work.

(this is me, not being nastily snarky, btw, because she really is a nice person. This is also me, not banging my head on the wall. And yes, this is me, adding overhaul school allergy policy to my summer To Do list.)

Oh, but the allergy thing has turned messy, then frustrating, and now I'm flinging my hands up and looking for a sledgehammer. Take that, o unenforced allergy policy. Take that, ye complaisant staffpersons. I'm not swinging at the parents, because, hell, I have to function with these people. Worse, I really like some of them. (Although those aren't the ones who should be carrying rain-o-fire proofing, anyway) But for the miscreants, well, y'all can watch me go and tell the Grand High Idealist that all is not well. 

And then, beware all ye peoples, for lo, there shall be A New Policy. Shiny, sparkly and who knows. somewhat more functional? Which yes, lacks a certain shock-and-awe quality, but I'm just so absolutely sick of this allergy mess that at some point any anger turned into a muted, resigned mad.

And sad. The Eldest is just not a good advocate for himself right now, he's not being responsible about handing his EpiPens to adults in charge. We've gone over this ground ad eyeroll, the kid and I. When you get into someone else's car, hand them your backpack. Show them where the medical kit is. Pull it out. Show them the EpiPens. Always, even if it's someone you know.  He nodded, solemnly. And yet, today I watched him bounce into a friend's car, never before ridden in - and he didn't check first with me, or ask if the car was safe for him. And he left his knapsack (and EpiPens! and contact sheet! medical etcetera!!) dangling in my hand.  I flagged the other mom down before she drove off, and stood there, smacking my head on a reality.

Okay. So the kid is not a good advocate for himself right now. I understand why, and that understanding may be useful, once my blood pressure drops back down. I can see how the urge to socialize, to blend in is trumping any sense of responsibility (need?) to be safe. It's not even a strong need right now, really, since he's been safe for so long that he's forgotten what it's like to have a reaction, a bleed, or who knows. He's been swimming happily in the class' social currents, and now doesn't want to be fished out, or even slowed down in order to be some mom-determined concept of safe. Good grief. In keeping my child safe, I've put him at risk?

really? ack?


Please, please let this be a phase. (of course it's a phase. I do know that. And yet, please please please please) I don't want to think too much about a future for a child who is this medically challenged *and* problematically impulsive. I will if I have to, of course, but I just don't wanna. And, I can't help remembering a story the child told me about the last time that the grandparents babysat for a weekend:

Oh, yes, the Grandparent let the Toddles pet a dog.* And he didn't clean him up, after. But he DOES know a thing or two about allergies, you know. [pause] But I did tell him that the Toddles is allergic to dogs. [thoughtfully] I guess he's not, anymore.

It would be unfair to blame the Eldest's lack of caution? fear? internally monitored responsibility for himself? on the Grandparental One, and I won't. But dang, that didn't help the stew bubbling away in my psyche.


*the Toddles is, of course, allergic to dogs. And cats. And feathers. This is hardly news.


Jen said...

Actually, Eldest keeps his hands in the air (and off my allergen-coated surfaces) and is quite careful --even without reminders-- in my car. I wonder if having danger-made-manifest is actually safer than cleanliness in that sense. But I do want to emphasize that the gun-safety research I pointed out in my LJ basically demonstrates that kids his age really *can't* be trained perfectly. And that there are better and worse training methods. You're also facing the problem that there's a very high degree of abstraction required for recognizing a potential allergen tucked into a foodstuff.

That said, as long as the entire world around him's safe, he's never going to learn how to act when it's unsafe.

Once you've figured out a policy, why don't you host a get-together (cuz, you know, you have nothing better to do, right) to explain the policy, directly, as a person rather than as a memo? Or more likely, piggyback on the class parent get-together in the Fall, assuming it ever happens?

In any case, I'm sorry for the suckage. To put it mildly.

Jen said...

Actually, I just re-read this. It was the driving-off mom's responsibility to obtain the epi-pen from you before driving off; and if it was in your hand (as opposed to on the ground) when Eldest jumped into the car, then it was reasonable for him t assume you'd take care of it.

Also, I certainly hope that the new policy, despite your mad, won't leave the fortunate many with functional immune systems eating matza and water for every in-class party.

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

Yes. It was her responsibility, and she apologized, to be fair - she's not used to allergies, which really makes it my responsibility.

It merely stings because, of course, the kid and I reviewed the pattern, just that morning, and agreed that he'd rehearse it with me there. He's flung his backpack at me on other occasions, and raced off with friends. Out of sight, to boot - and it doesn't occur to him that this is a problem. Until afterwards, when I point it out.

So, yep. It was my responsibility. But he didn't actively make that calculation, and that, too, is my responsibility. To manage, mind you - I'm not sure how I could fix it.

and matza and water? good grief, no.

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

relevant gun safety studies:



They conclude that children (ages 3-4, 6-7) require training not just in the general safety protocols, but also in the specific locations where those protocols might be used (in situ). And some children required multiple in situ reviews, or another person to be present, for them to properly use the safety training.

which means: not reliable.

Anonymous said...

I can remember being confused when caretaking relatives told or instructed me opposite to what I knew yet accepting of their authority and the facts they presented or activities they orchestrated. It's a tough position for a trusting, generally compliant child.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Because last week he asked me whether I had vacuumed the car (twice, I think, and I thought he was testing me for thinking of his needs :)), and also pointed out the outside pouch on the backpack. I assumed that was because the arrangement was new-- I was used to the inside the front pocket thing. So, maybe, spotty rather than hopeless? Like the gun studies say. Funny that.

And for the record, IN the classroom? Never bloody allowed. Lunches-- yes, but not inside the damn classroom. I knew that even before I was trusted with care and feeding of your offspring. :)

Anonymous said...

I had hoped that this school piece of it was going 100% smoothly to make up for what had gone on elsewhere! Personally, I think it will all work out because we all care about your kids. :)

It seems like it would help you so much if some slightly-more-definitive answers could be given from medical people! It must be frustrating for you all.

Perhaps, some parents haven't heard about the allergies in a while, and might think it isn't out there anymore. They probably didn't realize we could have awesome cake and sushi and have it all be allergy-friendly. Some things are confusing, too (like the 365 popsicle dilemma). Maybe an updated monthly list of ok birthday treats?

There will definitely be a parent get-together (there has been one the last few years). That could be a time to mention this, or at least hand out something in person. If mentioned in person, perhaps enlist dad to be the speaker. We've talked about this--moms "always" think something is going to hurt their kids, right? (I hate that it is that way.)

The big thing seems to get some clear medical information. Will cross-contamination likely be highly risky? If so, for which allergens? Will touching something with an allergen be likely to cause a reaction? If so, how likely? Is it possible to allow certain allergens around him? And, if so, parents need to provide ingredient lists to him before he eats. (At least one or two of the other kids there does check with me as to whether it's ok--yours doesn't, actually--if it's there, he seems to trust it.)

The one place he was not so trusting was the car...good news, though, mine are happy to make the car a fruit/veggie only zone. Food is food!