Monday, September 8, 2014

When Being a Good Hostess Means Not Killing Anyone

We are in September, which means-- YAY! BIRTHDAY MONTH! Note: My wallet does not share this enthusiasm, since Monkey and Big Sis both have September birthdays...along with half their friends.

Anyhoo, we're once again diving into the birthday planning, with Monkey's party set to roll this Saturday. This will be the first time we're doing her party BEFORE her actual birthday. Once again, we are chancing the weather by getting a bounce house in the yard.

Different year, different yard, different bounce house company, and new responsibilities-- because this year, we are homeowners. All this just dawned on me this morning and I haven't even really spoken with MDDaddy about it yet. Previous parties with bounce houses were somewhat liability-free for us. It's been a "bounce at your own risk" kinda deal, with us monitoring to make sure nobody got too crazy or wild in the jumper.

But we were renting that house, and thus nothing would have been too deeply tied to us, insurance-wise at least. Morally, yeah, but you can't sue a bad conscience as far as I know.

This year is different. Monkey is turning six, and in kindergarten, in a new neighborhood and new kids from a new school.

Also new on this year's party discussion topics: Food allergies.

As in, there are a couple of kids in her class allergic to nuts. This particular allergy we're getting a little used to, as my friend's son is also allergic to nuts.

She doesn't keep peanut butter in the house, other than her annual indulgence in Girl Scout Tagalong Cookies, which generally don't last more than a weekend or two and are kept carefully guarded.

As we've gotten more social with her (and therefore, her son), we've adapted a few things to make sure we're not endangering anyone. She's also on hand to watch him when he's at our house, and they've had a plethora of conversations reinforcing what he can and cannot eat.

Thus, we knew to plan the cake and goody bags without anything glaringly, obviously, nutty. Done.

Yesterday, I got an email from a mom of one of Monkey's classmates, stating he's excited to come to the party (yay!) but they would need to pick him up a little early. Oh-- and he's allergic to nuts and eggs and she will be happy to show me how to use his EpiPen, and normally baked eggs in cakes are fine but she can bring him a cupcake separately if I want.

When she--apparently-- DROPS OFF her deathly allergic child at my house, where I will be supervising twenty kindergarteners on a bounce house.

Um... whoa.

There is so much about this that is bothering me, I don't even know where to start.

We hardly know this family, although they do go to our church. We've never like, hung out with them, other than chatting idly at coffee hour and maybe 10 minutes at kindergarten orientation. Neither kid has been to the other's house, ever, before.

To me, this is NOT the ideal test-run situation for dropping off your at-risk kid. Who, by the way, is FIVE YEARS OLD. And will be at the house where a PARTY is going on, full of lots of people and food which may or may not harm him, to the point of maybe needing epinephrine??!!

I didn't want to overreact, so I ran it by MDD.
His response: "Oh, HELL NO. They need to be here. Sorry, no drop-offs!"

I will be the first to say we are abundantly lucky that Monkey's a healthy kid, without any major issues or risk factors like this. We are blissfully ignorant of the kind of fear that so many parents have to deal with on a daily basis. I have friends whose kids would need the ER if there are peanuts in the same room, and I have only a marginal grasp on how careful they must have to be.

I'm not saying I shouldn't have to be...but on some level, maybe I am. I don't think it's at ALL rational or fair to expect to drop off your allergic five-year-old at a house he's never been to, and expect the parents there to be solely responsible for NOT KILLING YOUR CHILD in your absence.

I'm gonna have my hands full with the bounce house and checking for broken necks. 

If there's a chance for anaphylaxis, YOUR PARENTAL BUTT NEEDS TO BE PRESENT, Mom.

We are taking reasonable precautions. I knew there were nut allergies. I have no concept of egg allergies, other than what her email noted: no mayo. Well, my main food for the parents WHO ARE STAYING is pasta salad (safe) and my often-devoured taco dip (which has mayo).

So like, if someone has taco dip on their hands and touches this boy, are we in EpiPen territory?

Because, let's face it-- Big Sis LOVES that stuff, and she WILL be chowing down on it. We have to watch her to make sure she doesn't go overboard, because if left unattended, she totally would.
Not that I blame her. It's addictive and yummy and very, very hard to stop eating once you start. 

Thus, Big Sis for sure is GONNA have it on her hands probably, and maybe her face- does that mean she can't go in the bounce house? Or we need to wash her down or risk contaminating things with mayo and maybe KILLING someone???

Can you really expect an acquaintance to shoulder that responsibility-- while you are not even there? Why the holy hell would you assume it's OK to drop off a kid this young with this issue?

I am a compassionate person. I don't want to ostracize the kid; it's certainly not his fault his body has this allergic reaction. But it's also not up to the hostess/homeowner to fully bear the responsibility of keeping a child with such sensitivity safe without assistance from the parents, either.

When I come up against something I don't understand, I flip the situation around. So, OK.

If my kid was headed to someone's house for a birthday party, and I don't know the parents all that well, let's see: she's FIVE (well, almost six)-- yeah, I will be hanging out for the duration of that party.

And she's NOT deathly allergic to any food that may or may not be served at said party. She's just FIVE.

So I have been agonizing over what we're serving and how to do it and who's going to be where. I just did a bunch of research online about the snacks we got for the party and discovered there is conflicting data about whether or not the bags of small boxes of raisins we got will have to go back or not, because they MIGHT be manufactured in a facility that processes nuts.

Same with the fruit snacks. Damn.

I texted MDD about my discoveries, and he said what I am also feeling: This is getting way too complicated. No more food for events we're hosting, if this is what it will be like. 

Does it NEED to be that drastic? Am I overreacting???

I can only imagine how complicated their lives must be and how scary, but also then-- wouldn't you want to make sure things are safe?

I wound up emailing her back and stating as gently as I could that we were not anticipating kids being dropped off, and would feel much more comfortable if she or her husband were present for the party.  We've taken some precautions with the food, but want to make sure everyone is safe and has fun.

I feel awkward. After reading more stuff online, I am wondering if I am not being as accommodating as I should be or proactive in making her child feel included in the party. But holy hell, I also don't want to take on the risk of potentially killing someone's child.

I'm fairly sure she doesn't want that, either.

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