Tuesday, September 10

Helicopter Mom

Hello.  My name is Rebecca, and I'm a helicopter mom . . .

The media has a way of painting "helicopter moms" in a negative light.  As if our hovering and steadfast presence is somehow shameful.  It's true.  To quote my mother, "There is a fine line between protecting and smothering."  But, I often ask myself:  As a mother, what is my job?  Is it not to protect my child against any possible harm?  Is it not to guide her into healthy, independent, and responsible adulthood?

Now that the school year has started, I (like so many others) am struggling with the extent of my involvement when it comes to my peanut-allergic daughter's activities.  Should I stay at that birthday party?  Should I accompany the field trip?  Should I write a note to the other parents explaining her allergy and requesting that all nut products be kept at home?  Should I schedule a meeting with her teacher, the principle, the nurse?  Am I going too far?

I'm convinced that we can go to no length too great to protect our children.  This world is a scary place.  It's not nut-free, nor should it be.  But that makes it all the scarier for our food-allergic children.  It takes some pretty tricky navigation skills to get through safely.   These skills must be taught and practiced, and children learn best from example.  I know the day is coming when this helicopter mom must land, and place the controls in my daughter's eager hands.  So, today I'm focusing on what my daughter is learning from my example. 

When I sit on the sidelines at that birthday party with a safe cupcake on my lap, she sees and learns to never let her guard down, even when she's having fun.  When I go along on that field trip, I'm teaching her that she needs to be wary, especially in new situations.  When I write that note to the parents of her classmates, she learns that it's OK to let people know about her allergy.  She should never feel ashamed!  And when I meet with her teacher, she learns that I will always have her back.  Always!

I'm modeling behavior that will eventually become second nature to her, and will get her through the rest of her life.  As I prepare to land, to hand over the controls, her confidence will grow.

So, in the spirit of helicopter moms everywhere, here's the note I wrote to the parents in my daughter's class this year.  Keep in mind, the school is peanut and tree nut free, and very allergy friendly.  However, parents are still tasked with bringing a snack for all the children to share everyday, and this terrifies me!  So, though allergy reminders went home and the allergens are clearly posted in the classroom, I still felt it was necessary to write this letter.  With the hope of being a teacher, I approached the other parents in a spirit of friendship and camaraderie, instead of with an attitude of entitlement.  I find that when I include them on my "team," they are more than happy to work with me.

So, yes, while some have accused me of being overprotective, this helicopter mom is still at the controls, and she has to do what she knows is best.  Here's what I wrote:


Hello parents!

I know that {the teacher} sent out an email about our class allergies, but since Eve’s allergy to peanuts is life-threatening, please allow me to take just a few minutes to give you more details.  Her first severe reaction came at 9 months old.  At 14 months old she went into full-blown anaphylactic shock.  This means that her throat closed, she lost consciousness, began vomiting, her lips, tongue, and face swelled, and she developed hives on her stomach.  She must have an emergency epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) in the classroom or on the playground at all times, and there’s a second EpiPen with {the nurse} at the front desk.

I want to ask for your help when you are "parent helpers."  Since {the school} is a peanut and tree nut free school, I’m not so concerned about nut-containing snack foods.  What I am concerned about are products that are made in the same facility as peanut products.  These products may contain traces of peanuts and, therefore, lead to a reaction.  They will likely be labeled as “manufactured on shared equipment,” “made in the same facility,” “may contain,” or some other wording to that effect (though some may not be labeled at all).  I hope you don’t mind if I just glance at the ingredient labels of the snacks that you provide.  Just to set my mind at ease.  Additionally, when you prepare snack at home, please be sure that there is no peanut residue on the utensils, cutting board, counter, etc.  Also, I’d like to ask that while you’re parent helper, if you see Eve acting unusual at all, please bring it to {the teacher's} attention.  Early signs of anaphylaxis include:

  •  an itching or burning sensation in the mouth (she may say her mouth feels funny) 
  • coughing or trying to clear her throat (sometimes children make a “clicking” noise in the back of their throat) 
  • feeling extremely hot or cold
  •  hives (anywhere on the body) 
  • swelling of the face or lips 
  • vomiting

Thank you all so much!  I know we’re going to have a fantastic school year and I’m looking forward to getting to know all of you better!  If you have any questions whatsoever, please don’t hesitate to call or email me.  I'm happy to call companies and check websites for you if you're at all unsure of the safety of any snack food!

All the best!

{telephone number}


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