Wednesday, March 5, 2008

If they only knew

Those who really know me know the great lengths I will go to in order to avoid conflict. Those who don’t know me as well might think otherwise.

The one thing I’ve noticed since Sáin’s diagnosis is how hurtful the phrase, “I wasn’t thinking” or “I hadn’t thought of that” can be.

Long before Sáin’s diagnosis I was the mom who went to PCC to get the gluten-free, nut free, dairy free, organic cookies that still tasted good even if I didn’t know of any nut/dairy/wheat allergies in Sáin’s class. I couldn’t bear the thought of any kid being excluded or made to feel different.

I figure this stems from always being a bit different myself. Usually I don’t mind being considered different; heck, most the time I view it as a compliment. (The best thing my mom ever taught me is that different is not wrong.) That said, I know the hurt of not fitting in and I know the loneliness of isolation all too well.

Naively I thought all parents were like me. I never expected to hear the aforementioned hurtful phrases so many times. “I wasn’t thinking when I added honey to the peanut butter sandwiches.” “I didn’t think 8 sugar cookies would really hurt her.” (Seriously, that was said to me.) “I hadn’t thought of how the juice, brownies and candy might impact Sáin.”

Other parents have been asked to let the teacher know before hand what snacks they were bringing in to class. (It’s actually in the school handbook that they are to do this anyway because of potential allergies.) Sáin’s teacher can then let me know and we can figure the carbs so Sáin can eat snack like everyone else.

Needless to say very few parents have complied. Sáin’s backpack comes home with squished brownies, broken cookies, etc. at least once a week. She tries to play it off as being no big deal but if you’ve felt the isolation of being the odd man out you can see the pain in her eyes.

The next time a parent says to me, “I wasn’t thinking” I’m going stop them there and say “no you weren’t, were you?”

I may not like conflict and God knows this will be viewed as such but the knot in my stomach from conflict is a heck of a lot easier to deal with then the broken heart you get seeing your kid singled out for something she has no control over.

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