More Food Allergy Teaching Moments: Ice Rink Birthday Party

Saturday I accompanied our daughter to her best friend’s birthday party at the local ice rink.  With the Chargers not making the playoffs I was bracing for a crowded Iceoplex, but the crowd wasn’t too large, thanks to unseasonably warm beach-like weather.

In hindsight, AGAIN I made numerous errors in planning the logistics of this occasion.

Of course we brought our own drinks, snacks, and dessert — this time it was a Fudge Explosion.  My biggest mistake was in bringing only $2 cash, because by now I should know better than to expect the rink’s concessions or lockers would accept credit cards. Since the rink’s locker rental fee was $3, I couldn’t keep our things isolated and we had to find a spot along the benches to place our possessions along with everyone else’s.

The party was actually a dual celebration — our daughter’s best friend and her cousin, a boy.  So we knew few of the children and fewer of the adults. The hosts planned it impromptu so they didn’t have a dedicated party room to themselves.

Problem 1 was when we noticed the birthday girl’s adorable 2 year-old sister enjoying a peanut butter sandwich maybe 2 feet away from our things. Scenes like this — a cute image worthy of a Norman Rockwell drawing — can elicit smiles to most parents’ faces but can drive a food allergic child’s parent bonkers. No telling what the toddler had touched, so I had to assume our water bottles now had exposure. I pointed out the situation to my daughter and we agreed she just wouldn’t drink any more out of her water bottle for the rest of the afternoon. Fortunately the concessions stand sold bottled water for under $2, so she didn’t go thirsty.

Problem 2 was when someone decided it was time to stop skating and start the party. Everybody’s things had been moved from their spot on the bench to outside. So when we found our way to the outdoors (like I said, it was nearly beach weather) we had to assume her snack bag’s handles were now contaminated, and I had to take care handling the bag and dispensing its contents.

When the cake was served of course my daughter politely demurred, explaining that she has food allergies and had brought her own safe treat.

You’d think that was the end of the dangerous situations.  At least I did.

I guess it’s been a while since I’d been around a bunch of grade school boys eating a meal. To me it seemed the meal consisted of everyone at the table constantly reaching, exchanging food, and touching everyone else’s plate.  It was all casual and matter of fact, and none of the kids seemed to notice they were doing this. Does this happen all the time? Was I like this in second grade? Somehow my daughter managed not to have her plate or cookies get touched, although after she had removed them from their package the package was picked up and inspected out of understandable curiosity by several boys at the table.

Then, when most but not all the children were finished, some grown ups started picking up, rearranging, and moving some of the children’s plates on the table.  It seemed like compulsive behavior, as if the adults felt like they ought to be doing something to help but couldn’t figure out what. Fortunately my daughter had decided not to eat any more, so her exposure risk was minimal.  Time to leave!

Lessons learned:  1) Bring cash and change, 2) Assume anything that can get exposure will get exopsure, 3) Keep food and beverage items concealed until the last possible minute

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About Tom

Tom Anichini owns Egg-Free Epicurean along with his wife, Amy Jones Anichini, who founded the business in 2009. Tom is an actuary and an investment professional. He holds an MBA in Finance from the Chicago Booth School of Business and a BS in Actuarial Science from the University of Illinois. He is also a CFA charter holder and an Associate of the Society of Actuaries. He lives in San Diego with his wife and two daughters.
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