Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Peanut

So there are a couple of things that you can always count on at the beginning of the school year.

First, there are lots of forms to fill out. Lots of redundant forms. It doesn't matter that you provided your school with all the useless particulars last year, you must fill out the same forms once again even if NONE OF THE INFORMATION HAS CHANGED. And forget about simply providing the name of your medical insurance company; no, it's not that easy. You will need to provide their mailing address and phone number, as well as your policy and group ID number. And the school also needs your doctor's name and phone number and your dentist's name and phone number. And they will most likely need the info on several different forms. And definitely one for each child, cause you never know when a family is going to mix things up and have different coverage for each child. 

I've started making stuff up. Not so much the names of the my kids' doctors, because I do (for the most part) know their names, but definitely their phone numbers. And the insurance policy number. I make that one up, for sure. Like I have those numbers committed to memory? Or even written down? I can barely remember my kids' names, for crying out loud. But rest assured, when they are sick, I look up their doctor's number. Come on, if it's a real emergency, is the school nurse really going to pull out my little blue information card to find my doctor of choice and then give them a call? I think not. So why do we pretend that this is such important stuff?

Another thing you can always count on during the first few days of school: the issuance of The Peanut Policy. In capital letters. I cannot tell you how much The Peanut Policy pisses me off. The fact that we have a Peanut Policy is simply beyond me. 

I'm not saying I don't feel for those kids with peanut allergies, because I do. A day without peanut butter is like a day without sunshine. And yes, I understand that sometimes - very rarely - but I'll give it to you - SOMETIMES said peanut allergy may be life-threatening. But then you know what? That kid with the fatal peanut allergy better be well-schooled in what may and may not kill him. He should be able to rattle off 10 things that contain peanuts or peanut by-products in 10 seconds. 

Do the parents of children with peanut allergies pass out The Policy to moviegoers at theaters where they frequent? Do they have copies of The Policy on hand when their child swims at the neighborhood pool? What about at the mall? Are the shoppers at Nordstrom made aware that there is a child in the shoe department with a life threatening peanut allergy? Cause I just want to know who is protecting the peanut allergy kids when they leave school property?

Aren't we doing the child a disservice by making the problem everybody else's and not solely his responsibility? Look, I understand there are hidden dangers for these kids. Wasn't there a case where a girl with a severe peanut allergy died after kissing her boyfriend who had eaten a peanut butter sandwich hours earlier? Or is that an urban legend? It might be. My point is, I realize there are real dangers, but if it was my kid, I would make sure that he was very much aware and informed and educated. Sure, if the allergy is severe enough it helps to make those around you aware of the problem. But a Peanut Policy? In capital letters? Really? How about a Lactose Policy? I suppose lactose intolerance doesn't kill. 

I think peanuts are getting a bum rap. And I think people are going overboard with The Peanut Policy. (In capital letters.) Do you know that peanuts are widely eaten in China and India but peanut allergies are almost unheard of there. Swear. I read that somewhere (not an urban legend). Apparently the roasting of the peanut (which is much more common in North America than China and India) causes the major peanut allergen to become stronger. So if anything, The Peanut Policy should notify peanut manufacturers to stop roasting the heck out of their peanuts. That way I can send my kid to school with a peanut butter sandwich without being read the riot act. 


Mom of Peanut Allergic son said...

Imagine for a moment that your child has a life threatening peanut allergy. Imagine the fear that you feel sending your child to away from you because one bit of a peanut product could END his or her life. Eating something with TRACE amounts of peanuts could cause at minimum hives for a week. Touching something like peanut butter would cause hives. Imagine the fear you feel. Now, imagine that you do everything possible to protect your child. In every environment you check about food. In every environment you talk to the adults that will be present. You educate your child beyond belief. You began talking to him or her when they were in preschool and showing them the needle (EpiPen) that would be required to save their life. Your child is so aware that he asks every adult, are there peanuts in this. And yet, there is not safety in his question because manufactured food has trace amounts of peanuts or is made on the same equipment as peanuts. Imagine the fear. Imagine the strength you would have to have to face people who don't get that there is a FOOD THAT CAN KILL your child. Now, for a moment, imagine how thankful you are when a school has a peanut policy.

I can only imagine how thankful I would be. My local school in small town America doesn't have a peanut policy. When my son enters Kindergarten next year we are going to have to work hard to protect his life. And you bet, I am going to start talking to the administration this year.

I appreciated reading your post and your frustration because it makes me much more aware of what its like not to understand food allergies. Honestly, it is a good reminder that I cannot educate enough.

Stephanie said...

I understand what your saying. I have a cousin who is ridiculously allergic to almost everything under the sun. Now, I'm not saying it's his fault or anything, but seriously? It's obnoxious. I don't ever want to be near the friggin kid.

Also, I read the comment above mine, and while I understand what she is saying, it doesn't take away from the fact that it's obnoxious.