What Happens When a Parent Violates the “No Nuts” Policy at School?

Is your school's "safe snacks" policy fair or effective?

Photography by random alias, via Flickr (CC)

I made a mistake this week. I didn’t realize I had made it until my daughter gently pointed it out, but once she did, my heart sank.

“Mum,” she said, “You sent peanuts to school today.”

I froze, looking into her serious, concerned blue eyes, and hurried through a mental inventory of her lunch that day—smoked salmon, mango, two potato and onion perogies, two leftover pancakes. I gasped.

“The pancakes.” We said in unison.

I make pancakes for brunch every Sunday, always a double batch so that I can freeze some and pop them in the toaster for an easy breakfast during the week, or send a couple as part of my daughter’s lunch for school. This week, we made blueberry-chocolate chip pancakes, except, when I went to open the new package of mini chocolate chips, I realized that I had mistakenly bought mini peanut butter chips, something I never buy. I thought that blueberry-peanut butter chip pancakes sounded kind of gross, but the kids were enthusiastic, so I made them. They weren’t bad.

We went about the rest of our busy day, and that evening, as I prepared my daughter’s lunch for school, I did what I always did, and added a couple of the extra pancakes. I did not think for a moment that the chocolate chips had been replaced with peanut butter chips.

Until my daughter came home and told me.

I felt guilty, ashamed and completely worried. Had my daughter mentioned my mistake to her teacher? No. Was there anybody in her class specifically that had a peanut allergy? No, she didn’t think so, and we had never been alerted to an allergy in her class, beyond the standard “no nuts” policy for the school. They eat lunch in their classroom, so my indiscretion would have hopefully not affected any other child.

I relaxed a little, but it definitely got me thinking—it is that easy to make a mistake that could put a child’s health in jeopardy. I am conscientious about these things, and I read labels, but does everybody? How, I wonder, does the parent of a child with a severe food allergy or anaphylaxis, put their faith in the school community? And I also had to wonder, is putting the onus on the rest of the parents to ensure that no nuts enter the school a fair or effective way of keeping an at-risk child safe?

If I had unintentionally harmed a child on Monday, I would obviously never have been able to forgive myself. But it could happen—and easily.

Karen Green recently traded life in the biggest city in Canada for life in the biggest cornfield in Canada. Freed from her full-time job as a writer and editor, Karen now spends her time…writing and editing. And frolicking in the leaves with her two small girls. Karen is a speaker, the founder of Mom The Vote and the author of the blog, The Kids Are Alright, where she has been writing about the humorous and poignant moments of family life since 2005. She is thrilled to be a part of canadianfamily.ca.

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