I have had David's peanut allergy on my mind constantly lately. I guess that's an understatement because it is ALWAYS on my mind as I read food labels and ask about food contents. It is just that as I have been thinking about sending him to preschool in the fall, I have been focusing new energy on his allergy. I have visited a few preschools. My preschool perspective is totally different with David. It isn't about the curriculum. It is about how the teacher would handle his allergy. I had a disappointing reaction from one teacher last week. I was talking to the teacher of a highly recommended preschool. I actually unexpectantly met her and realized who she was. The teacher has been teaching for many years and is known for her creativity and hands-on approach in the classroom. We talked a few minutes about David and how he was set to the be oldest in his class (his birthday is 2 days after the school cut-off). She was extremely upbeat about how that would help him as he goes through school. She was happy to tell me about her program, gave me her card and school website. Then, I mentioned that David has a severe peanut allergy. She asked if he required an Epipen. Her attitude changed. She started sharing experiences she had with another student that had a nut allergy. She started sharing her concerns. She started talking about how hard it is as a teacher (and I found myself self saying- I know- it is really challenging as a parent). When I told Seth about the interaction, he said her reaction was based on her fear. Perhaps it was. She was polite. However, at the end of the conversation, she said that all of the 3 year olds would be coming back and they would get precedence. She said that I should put David's name on the waiting list because it is always possible that someone might move or something. I was pretty stunned by the change of attitude. I am certain that even if she was the best teacher in the state, I couldn't confidently take my child to her class.
This past week at Cub Scouts, the kids were to make bird feeders (basic peanut butter and bird seed variety). This was an interesting activity because David is a "cub scout brother" and he attends all the meetings (our pack allows 4 and 5 year old brothers to participate as a way to introduce them to scouting). It was a small oversight (the kind that I dread when it happens in coming years during an activity of David's). Seth told the den leader that he would just have David stay home. So, on Tuesday, I took Jonathan to cub scouts. Right before the activity I realize that this could be quite frustrating to Jonathan. (My thoughts- Why didn't I think of this before? He CAN'T take the bird feeder project home!) I pull Jonathan over to the side and I explain that he can make the project but he will have to let someone else have it. (His reaction: solemn face "Oh. Okay.") As they start working on the feeder, I come up with another solution. He could prep everything, take some bird seed hom in a bag and use our sunbutter at home to complete the project. Brilliant! Jonathan was thrilled. Another adult dumped some bird seed in brown paper bag for me. I told Jonathan we could complete the project the next day or so. At home, I proudly tell my husband how it all worked out. A few hours later, he checks out the bird seed and tells me that it is full of peanuts. Oh my gosh, I was so surprised. But then, what do I know about bird seed? I had no idea that there were "nut loving birds" The only real blessing was that I did not get all the boys ready to make bird feeders and then pour out the peanut-laden bird seed in our peanut-free home.
Lastly, here's something positive. David has the most amazing attitude about his allergy. On Valentine's day I took him and Thomas (with Elsie in tow, of course) to the local library for story time. This was a first for us and I was hoping for Valentine stories. I was not disappointed but I was caught off guard by the valentine cookie decorating. The moment the librarian mentioned cookies, I had to pull a very excited Daivd aside and let him know that the cookies might not be safe for him. It was all he could do to wait until the last story was over to find out. As soon as she finished reading and said something about the cookie decorating, David asks her if she has a box for the cookies (He knows the only way to know if they are safe is to read the label!) I quickly explain that he has a peanut allergy and find out that the cookies are from a local bakery and are not safe for David. The librarian was so gracious in such a wonderful kid-friendly way. She said, "But, I DO have some graham crackers you can decorate." David was thrilled to get TWO crackers as opposed to Thomas's ONE cookie. Later when I complimented him (over and over) about his wonderful attitude, he said, "It's okay Momma, I just pretended they were cookies." His attitude is the only thing that makes this allergy journey okay. He is so, so positive about it!