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Friday, May 13, 2011

Bathing Suit Phobias, Baby Steps and Food Allergies

The weather is finally getting warmer (yeah!) which only means that we are mere weeks away from the dreaded bathing suit season.  Last year, I wound up wearing my workout gear (waterproof shorts and a Lycra tank) to the pool.  People weren’t sure if I was there to do bicep curls or swim.  It was either that, or the same black suit that I have worn since my nursing days with Ari.  Just for the record, Ari is six-years old now.  Needless to say, I don’t quite fill it out the way I used to, and it’s pretty stretched and saggy at this point (yes, I could say, just like me…but I am trying to be positive).
In my bathing suit museum, there is the bikini I bought thinking I could pull it off, and that’s what I did, I pulled it off and never wore it again. There is a reason why one shouldn’t buy a $20 dollar bathing suit from T.J. Maxx; they just don’t last.  This one stretched out within three wearings and since clothing malfunctions aren’t pretty in your 40’s, I gave it the ole heave ho.  After that, I was done with department stores and their bad lighting along with cheap suits that claim to do all sorts of things and don’t live up to their promises.  I didn’t want to wear a suit in general.  In fact, I was ready to never step foot in a pool again, EVER! Obviously, this is a bit unrealistic since kids love and most definitely live for the pool.  Of all the anxious phobias Ari has about things…water isn’t one of them, just my luck.
 I readily admit that I have a bathing suit phobia, which is probably why I can’t even bring myself to order one online.  However, today is a new day.  I have been feeling better since I stepped on the scale during Passover and have decided that it’s now or never.  Therefore, as soon as I finish this entry, clean up the dishes, vacuum, pick up the kids, work on homework, car pool to karate, make dinner and possibly work out, I am going to entertain the idea of ordering a suit!  Hopefully.  It’s a baby step in a positive direction and I will let you know how it turns out.  Wish me luck.
Along the theme of baby steps, I have to mention that this week is Food Allergy Awareness  Week, and since food allergies affects my entire family (not to mention 12 million people in the US) allow me to tell you about my baby steps in that direction.  I need to preface this by saying (and perhaps you have assumed this already), I am not an in your face kind of person. Sure, I  engage in loud, sardonic repartee, but I don’t look for a fight, I hate conflict, and I don’t enter situations with guns blazing (though as I originally hail from  New York, I probably did all these things in the past). Perhaps age and parenting have softened me over the years, but I find that I don’t do well in adversarial confrontations.   Nevertheless, when it comes to my child’s well being, I do advocate.  It’s just a matter of how I approach the situation.
Ari is vigilant when it comes to his food allergies, and usually errs on the side of caution.  However, he is six and is subject to temptation.   As we near the end of the school year, I have to say that when he was faced with food challenges, i.e. special snacks handed out as rewards (don’t get me started), or birthday or holiday parties where he couldn’t eat what everyone else did, he was a pretty good sport.  The rule of the house is, whatever he can’t eat at school, there is a safe equivalent at home for him to have (which means I had to learn how to make or find allergy safe equivalents).
I never mentioned anything to the administration/principal because frankly, she has a lot to deal with in a given day.  The more I thought however, the more concerned I became. He had a right to a safe environment just like anyone else and there had been some occasions where school policy really needed some fine-tuning.
After a few emails, and some discussion with the principal, we agreed to some new “practices” that would lend to a safer environment.  I did not expect a complete overhaul, nor was I asking for one, because at the end of the day, it’s not worth my time fighting for something that clearly is not going to happen.  Rather, use my energies for other things that I can actually change.  Baby steps are sometimes the way to go in these situations.  For example, they aren’t going to stop providing food for classroom birthdays, holidays, or rewards.  However, they can send out an administrative letter expressing tolerance and understanding regarding food allergies.  So, I am happy to say, that I will be the creator of such a letter for next year to be signed by the principal…I hope these baby steps will yield positive parental support.
 I further suggested that kids in Ari’s class wash their hands after lunch.  I didn’t’ ask for it to be standard school policy, just his class, and any others that may have kids with similar allergies.  All it takes is for one child to eat peanut butter at lunch and then pass a crayon to Ari with nut protein on it to send him to the hospital.  Washing hands is a small measure with a big payoff.  Finally, I will provide a food referral list to the principal regarding safe snacks and locations in which to find them. 
Small baby steps do not entirely quell the fear in my heart that I feel as I watch Ari trot off to school everyday, though, when we are proactive, we tend to deal with our anxiousness a little better.  You can apply this philosophy to many things in life whether its food allergies…and yes, even bathing suits.

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