While I am sure I will vent a lot on this blog about the frustrations that come with living with food allergies, it’s good to remember the kindnesses that are shown too. I think I may have hopelessly embarrassed both Max and this mom, but it really was a small kindness that made a big impression. The entry form came home after the Christmas party. I am glad we went to the trouble to enter her. The school presented her an award, and Max gave her flowers. Then she ended up winning the state-level award.
PTA Founder’s Day
Indian Hills Elementaty
heroic effort award
Having had a life threatening dairy allergy since he was an infant, our son, Max, now 8, is fairly accustomed to being unable to eat much of the food at school parties. Usually we, his parents, try to find out what the menu is and come up with some close approximation. Most of the time he is a pretty good sport about this system. He knows what it feels like to be covered with hives or to cough so hard he has trouble catching his breath after eating a food with even a trace amount of dairy. He is motivated to make sure that doesn’t happen even if it means feeling a little left out or opening himself up to questions from his friends. Some parties are harder than others though. There was a particularly memorable Halloween party in preschool where the room moms agreed in advance to serve fruit and cookies. Then one mom decided on her own to go above and beyond. She brought in special elaborately decorated cupcakes from a well-known local bakery. Each cupcake was slightly different, although all in the Halloween theme. During the party, the mom went around from table to table letting each child pick the one they wanted until she came to Max, then 5. Remembering just then about his allergy, she said oh, muttered she was sorry, and lifted the box over his head before moving onto the child sitting next to him. He put on a brave face, but that night before bed he confessed: “Mom, I really wanted a cupcake too.” That was the first and really only time that he has articulated that feeling of exclusion.
Happily, most of his party experiences since starting Indian Hills Elementary have been much better. Most room parents coordinate with us and often make some effort to include him even if it is just adding chips or fruit to make sure there is something safe for him. These gestures definitely are noticed and appreciated.
Room mom Kari Miller went above and beyond this year. She was determined that Max have a treat bag full of only safe foods. Since dairy is hidden in many foods where you would never expect to find it, that was something of a feat. She made several calls to us to find out about everything from popcorn brands (most have dairy) to candy canes. She changed the menu several times ruling out pizza and chicken nuggets in part because there aren’t many dairy-free brands. Each time she called we assured her she should do what was easiest and best for her budget and that Max was accustomed to being different, and each time she reiterated that she was determined to include him and would “x” or “y” work?!
Let us say her efforts did not go unnoticed. Max loved having a safe treat bag. He relished taking it home dumping it on the table and deciding what to eat first instead of what to give back. Instead of wistfulness later that night we got to hear him remember how awesome it was that his friend’s mom made everything safe for him. A much happier ending!