Monday evening I was leaving Vacation Bible School when a mom came up to me and said "Oh great. You served red Koolaid. I can't believe you did that. It makes Sneaky Pete (her son) so hyper". I told her that if I had known, I would have served him something else and would be glad to give him something else for the rest of the week. "Oh, no. It's no big deal. I'll just have to deal with him being crazy at home". I found the whole situation quite irritating for several reasons...
#1. I have known this woman since she was a child. She was an obnoxious, violent, tantrum throwing brat. Her children behave exactly the way I remember her behaving.
#2. Sneaky Pete's issues are not due exclusively to red Koolaid. She knows this, I know this, everybody she knows knows this. And if they were, I am exactly the person to understand and help.
#3. Even children who have been diagnosed with some type of disorder or disability need discipline. Her kids really need discipline.
#4. (And this is really the point of my post) As a parent, it is my responsibility to make sure my child doesn't eat or drink things she shouldn't. And to also educate my child and any adults caring for my child.
Little Runner Girl happens to be allergic to red food dye. (Yes, same stuff as in red Koolaid.) Actually, it would be more accurate to say she has a sensitivity because red dye isn't life threatening to her. It just causes her to loose her mind. Which might be funny except that it is hard to find the humor in the situation when your toddler seems to need an exorcism.
Once we discovered this, we made sure to avoid exposure as much as possible. We read food labels. We told anyone who took care of her. We helped her learn which foods she could and could not have. (You would not believe the crazy things that contain red dye. Vanilla icing. Waffles. Chips. Read some labels. You'll be amazed.) We brought special snacks and drinks for her to parties, sleepovers, soccer games, VBS, etc, etc. Yes, it was a pain. Yes, it would have been nice to send her off without ever giving it a second thought. But here is the deal...my kid, my responsibility. I made sure that anyone entrusted with her care was aware of the situation and people were very understanding. No one was ever offended when Little Runner Girl brought her own juice or treats to a party. Her friends were sweet and very understanding.
The only person to ever say anything unkind was another child with special dietary needs. This child, Pudge, told Little Runner Girl she was weird for drinking water instead of Koolaid at a party. Right around that same time, Pudge's father wrote an editorial in a local magazine complaining about how unfair it was that his child had to follow certain restrictions to her diet. His solution was to force everyone else to follow the same restrictions. He even wanted other parents to make sure that party favors weren't in any way tempting to his child. Strangely, the favors Little Runner Girl got at Pudge's 10th birthday party contained more of the restricted item than I have ever seen in any other favor bag.
Prince Charming has two friends with life threatening food allergies. These wonderful mothers have given other moms food lists, provided their own treats and educated their children. One of these moms has to provide absolutely everything her child eats, or eats from, anywhere he goes. She brings utensils, plates, cups, etc. She has to bring his personal toaster to sleepovers. No it isn't convenient, but this is her kid. She can't expect everyone else to have completely uncontaminated cookware. So she does what she has to because she loves her kid and his well being is ultimately her responsibility. Unfortunately, I know another child with life threatening allergies whose parents seem to think mentioning the allergy to one adult in the school office should be enough.
Fortunately for my family, Little Runner Girl seems to be outgrowing her problems with red dye. And she understands the connection between what she puts in her body and how she feels later and, at the ripe old age of fourteen, knows exactly what to look for on labels. But until she is on her own...my child, my responsibility.