It’s no secret that, when most of us reading this post were younger, we celebrated Valentine’s Day by sending each other paper valentines and shared parties at school filled with candy, chocolate and cupcakes. Fast forward to today’s celebrations and we have a conundrum facing our schools as so many children are struggling with food allergies and other health conditions negatively affected by these kinds of edible gifts. Valentine’s Day, among so many other holidays, has had to shift its focus a bit in the classroom, but the question remains, “Can it be done successfully?” I say, yes!
For the first few years we sent our youngest to school, I spent February 14th (along with Halloween, Christmas and Easter) petrified until I picked him up at the end of the day. I spent hours praying for his safety ~ no joke! Many of those years, I would get phone calls and emails saying he had had a minor reaction and was in the nurse’s office. Oftentimes, I had to pick him up because that was the only way the reaction would dissipate. Unfortunately, the administrations of these particular schools were too afraid to pull the plug on bringing in chocolate and parents were less than sympathetic to our situation (or others). By pulling our son out of the school system and homeschooling him for a few years, we had eliminated that particular worry, but I didn’t want my son to associate such a loving, compassionate holiday with fear or disgust. So, I found ways at home to celebrate by finding candies he could have, chocolate he could ingest without fear, baking treats that were safe for him and designing homemade cards that shared with my boys how much I love them.
Fast forward to 2015. Our son had matured and was able to care more for himself with regard to his food allergies. Our middle son had been in a school that seemed to have a visible population of students surviving daily with this health condition. We watched for a year and noticed that there were no incidents and that the administration and faculty were very conscious and aware, not to mention very compassionate towards these situations. They were willing to accommodate him and we made the decision in faith to place our youngest in the school. Much to my amazement and joy, he had a very successful first year. This is his second ~ and it is going marvelously.
So, now that we have that covered…let’s chat about holidays. I remember as a child having the classroom parties and receiving Valentines cards in our art project containers. Nowadays, the stores are stocked (from Halloween through Easter) with various sweets that contain nuts, nugget (egg product) and various other allergens. How does a classroom in today’s society prevent these potential hazards from entering the building and keep potential life-threatening allergic reactions from happening? How does the administration stand strong enough to successfully encourage parents to take others into consideration and their situations to heart when sending in sweet treats with their littles?
By having a plan set in place.
This is why I have grown to appreciate the school we found for our son. Towards the beginning of the month, a letter was sent home with every child discussing how the school was going to celebrate the Valentine’s holiday. The school is a catholic school, so celebrating a day named for a saint…well, that goes without saying. As you see in the note below, no snacks, treats or candy were being allowed into the classrooms. The younger grades would exchange cards with every student in their class and the principal and vice principal had a well thought out treat for each student to be given during lunch. In the past, these treats have been popsicles or ice cream or some other allergen-safe option and they have been well received without incident or complaint. Last year, when the principal wanted to celebrate a particular accomplishment among the students, she personally approached us to find out what she could purchase to ensure that our son was included in a particular event.
As a note, if our son is unable to read a label or unable to be the one who opens the individual package, he is fully aware that he should resort to his own snack box that we have prepared and set aside in the nurse’s office. He has this filled with designated special treats for birthday celebrations in the classroom (see below for a picture showing examples of those treats).
In addition to the above, the entire school will celebrate Valentine’s Day as a whole by sharing kindness and showing compassion in the community throughout the month. Each class has selected a local group, such as military serving abroad, the homebound within the parish, the sandwich making ministry or even the nearby Shriner’s Hospital, with whom they will share cards and greetings on Valentine’s Day as an opportunity for them to follow the example of caring and sacrifice witnessed by St. Valentine himself.
It’s not that hard, people. Within the school system, it takes a principal with a strong heart who is willing to set the example and an administration / faculty willing to follow it ~ for the sake of the kids. It takes parents working hard together to understand the new situations and scenarios that face our children and their families these days because it can happen to anyone. It is beyond comforting to know that I could send my son to school today with little to no fear of receiving a phone call telling me he has had a skin reaction, his ears are swelling, his throat feelings funny, his lips are puffy, he has hives…or worse, is on his way to the hospital due to full blown anaphylaxis.
Today is a day of compassion. It’s a day to show love and kindness. I ask each of you to take the time to be considerate, compassionate and kind to others today. Yes, today is about showing love to your sweetheart and chocolate is usually a HUGE part of that. I even received a box myself from hubby (to be eaten at times of discretion). Parents like me simply ask that you be discerning regarding the timing of that chocolate delivery and message of sweet care. By taking this to heart, you are potentially saving a life and showing more love today towards more people than you ever thought you could.
Happy Valentine’s Day
PS – If you are looking to send treats into the classroom where they are allowed, please consider some of these options you see in the picture below for those who may be suffering from food allergies. Talk to the parents, ask the teachers what may be safe and take the time to understand. It will bring a smile to the faces of those who have to battle this on a daily basis. Thanks! Of note, our son is allergic to peanuts, treenuts and eggs…so the snacks pictured below are geared towards these.