I did it.
After several meetings with the principal and the superintendent and still little to zero progress I finally wrote to the school board. All I’ve wanted this year is for them to send out a letter to all parents notifying them that there are children who attend our school with life-threatening food allergies and that a commonly packed food in their children’s lunch box could potentially hurt or kill another child. That and students clean their hands after eating. Oh, and a bonus it would be nice to feel like my daughter’s food allergies are be taken seriously. Those things aren’t asking a lot, are they?
But apparently they are. Because here it is, January. And still no letter home as promised in my first meeting with the principal the second week of school, and again in a meeting with the superintendent in October. Sure, sure! No problem! Yes, we support you and yes, we will send out an informative letter! Yes, we will make sure children are cleaning their hands after eating nuts at lunch. But snack time? We may be able to provide a nut-free snack for all students and we could have wipes available for children to use before playing on the playground…but we haven’t yet. And we’re not going to follow up with you about it, either. But don’t worry. There’s a nurse in your daughter’s classroom. She’ll watch her.
I guess my example of 13 year old Natalie Giorgi who died over the summer after eating something containing peanuts in the presence of her father who is a DOCTOR and the fact that they used three Epi-Pens to save her life didn’t resonate with them.
I was patient. I waited. Every week I looked for a letter informing us parents about children on campus with a deadly nut allergy (Stella isn’t the only one). It wasn’t until I arrived at school early one morning to train the substitute how to use an Epi-Pen and she had to ask what my daughter is allergic to and what an allergic reaction might look like that I finally lost my patience.
I wrote out a detailed timeline outlining every meeting, conversation, promise and misstep that the school has taken so far this year. It was a hard thing to do, but as one mom advised me- I had to hold every person accountable.
I consider myself a pretty nice person, and I think anybody who knows me would tell you the same. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like rocking the boat and I certainly don’t like calling people out when they have done something wrong. If you’ve upset me or made me mad the worse I might do to you is not tell you to have a nice day.
That’s right. Feel my wrath, mother fuckers.
Sitting down to write a letter and name names and hold people accountable for their actions was outside of my comfort zone. But it had to be done. Sifting through my notes I had taken this year (thank goodness I did!) made it clear to me that I had to write it, I couldn’t afford not to.
Friday I hand delivered a copy of my letter to the school board to the principal. She would be seeing it anyway so I figure it would be best coming from me. I was a nervous wreck but I felt good handing it to her rather than her getting a copy in an email down the line. I then walked into the front office with a sealed copy of my letter to each board member in a large manila envelope and asked how I go about getting on the agenda at the next board meeting.
I felt a HUGE weight lifted off my shoulders as I left the school. I knew I had done the right thing, but as my day wore on I began feeling really nervous. What had I just done? What can of worms did I just open? And worse yet, I was feeling guilty and awful that I had called people out. The principal. Stella’s teacher. The superintendent. All people I would inevitably have to see again and again. And now they all know I was a tattle-tale. I hurt their feelings. Heck, I may have ruined their day and their weekend.
I began to look ahead- what will happen at a school board meeting? Will I have to stand in front of everyone and plead again how important my daughter’s life is? Will there be parents there who will scream out at me that their kid has a right to bring a PB&J in their lunch? I’m not going to lie- I am terrified beyond words and I have no idea what the outcome is going to be.
So here we go. This is the next chapter. As my husband said to me, the ship has left the port. This isn’t about all these people. It isn’t about me. It’s about Stella. It’s about all the other kids who will go through this school with food allergies. And I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t speak up and something bad happened to her or another child. I may have made some enemies but that’s a small price to pay for saving a life.