Poor, poor Kid E. By the time he does anything we are so “been there, done that” that we just roll our eyes and sigh as we go through the motions. This weekend was his fourth birthday. We had a family party and invited his aunts, uncles and cousins. Technically, I feel that most three-year-olds are too young to have any real friends. I do not count the few kids who don’t bite them or hit them or steal the toys they are playing with to be “friends.” I guess I could have invited some of his little preschool classmates, but he doesn’t even know their names. He just calls them by the color of their shirts when he recounts the events of the day.
Quick aside… I actually thought that my kid was really racist when he first started doing this. He would tell a story about “the black boy” or “the yellow girl” and I would be like, “What did you call them?” But he would point at them and I would see that the boy was actually wearing a black t-shirt and the girl was in a pretty dress with yellow flowers all over it. Whew. I thought I really screwed up for a minute. Nothing like thinking that your kid might be a sociopath. Imaginary crisis averted!
So my sisters and their husbands (minus the one who needs to be in his man cave for the entirety of all Tennessee football games, bar none… we missed you/ are offended by that, B!) and their many, many children came over on Saturday afternoon to help us celebrate the four years that my youngest son has spent as a member of our crazy family. We hung out, the older boys wrestled to the point that the house shook, ate some yummy food and we just generally caught up by spending time with one another. But it is not a real family party until somebody cries. Here’s how this one met the mark…
Sister B has not one, but two children who have peanut allergies. One of them is severe – it can mean life or death to this child. She has a prescription for an EpiPen and she leaves one in the school clinic (the “nurse’s office” for you old-schoolers) for an emergency situation that we all hope never occurs. Our family is familiar with the fact that her kids can not be around nuts, and we plan accordingly when having a party. It has taken some pre-planning, some reminding and a slight learning curve (Who would have thought that pretzels could be a no-no? Snyders also makes peanut butter pretzels, so the disclaimer “processed on equipment that processes peanuts and tree nuts” is on their regular pretzels package. If you have a nut allergy it is best to just say no.) And even with several children in our group who will eat nothing but peanut butter sandwiches for two of the three main meals of the day (we have tried everything you can think of, and we continue to try periodically…) it can get dangerous. And the discussions can get heated. Here’s where this particular one went…
Sister B’s oldest son has the severe nut allergy. He is in fourth grade in public school and according to their parents, so do many other children in the class. So the teacher made the decision to ask that no one send in peanut-based foods in their lunches, snacks or treats. Apparently this did not go over well and the passive-aggressive emails started circulating. Sister B was up in arms about it.
We were trying to discuss with Sister B how you have to beware the slippery slope of telling people in the general public what they can and can not eat. Although how can you weigh any argument (even convenience, cost or the fact that many elementary-age kids are particularly picky eaters) against “but my kid can die if he comes into contact with nuts?” Even the notion that a great number of food intolerances are exaggerated into allergies (the CDC estimates that less than 4% of American children and 2% of American adults have true allergies, while the FAAN – The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network – says the true numbers may be less than 1%) was conceded by Sister B when she found the data online. Yet she kept going back to the fact that her son actually is severely allergic (with a doctor’s confirmation) to nuts and could have an anaphylactic reaction if exposed.
Then Kid C shared her story about a classmate I will call “Brian.” Brian had an allergy to dairy and every time a child celebrated his or her birthday at school with treats for the class, Brian had to go to the clinic and get a special dairy-free cupcake that his mom had provided for him. Kid C meant for the story to show that Brian was easily able to participate in the celebrations despite his allergy, but it just made Sister B even more sad about the whole situation.
“Poor Brian. He has to go to the nurse’s office and eat his cupcake.”
“No,” Kid C clarified, “He just picked it up at the clinic, but he ate with us in the classroom.”
“Did the other kids in the class make fun of him for it?” we asked (gambling that the answer would be negative, so as to reassure our sister).
“No, it was just what he always did.” she answered.
“Oh, they might as well make him wear a t-shirt that says ‘I’m Different!’ said Sister B through her silent tears.
And that’s how you throw a great family party.
Happy Birthday Kid E! I hope you liked your train cake. I made it with love. And gluten, but no nuts.
For more information on food allergies go to http://www.foodallergy.org.
Wish me luck for tomorrow…