As I drove home from my technical writing job today on the interstate going at around 60 to 65 mph there were a lot of cars in the two lanes that fanned out to three or four then back to two. With both hands on the wheel, I listened to my favorite Mozart CD and drove. I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw a woman behind me who was talking with a man who wore a dark business suit, white shirt and red tie. She quickly turned to look at him and seemed very interested in carrying on the conversation making some small hand gestures as she spoke. She made me a bit nervous. Minutes later, I saw two young men in a small, older car closing in quickly on me seemingly within feet from my rear bumper--much too close for my comfort. In both cases, I put on my blinker and moved to the next lane to get away from what I perceived as dangerous drivers.
As I continued to drive, it occurred to me that my driving attention includes a significant effort of watching the behavior of other drivers and mitigating my risks by trying to move away from drivers who I believe are dangerous. I am indeed profiling! By profiling drivers and intuitively rating them on a risk scale my decisions are impacted as are my route and speed. For instance, the distracted chatting woman and the aggressive young man were both profiled quickly as high risk because if the unexpected were to happen, I felt they would not be well-prepared to respond in a safe way so I changed lanes, altered speeds and moved away.
As parents of children with food allergies, I have learned that various people can be profiled to a certain extent when it comes to supervising my children with respect to their dairy and egg allergies. For instance, I’ve experienced an art teacher to said, “Oh I didn’t even think of that!” when I pointed out that she gave my then two-year-old egg-allergic-son an egg carton with which to create a craft. I’ve also experienced another teacher who almost immediately “forgot” what foods my sons were allergic to right after our meeting discussing it for well over fifteen minutes. Or there is the visitor who was just eating peanut butter candies in the car and has some smeared on their shirt. These “non-registering” folks are profiled in my mind as “high risk” for food allergy supervision.
Another high risk category are the people who act like parents of food allergic kids are a little crazy or at a minimum very over protective. For instance, one Sunday I came out of church service to find the Sunday school teacher gave the entire class sorbet and ice creams covered in chocolate sauce and other candies. Shocked, as I wasn’t advised there would be sundaes in Sunday school, I inquired about the ingredients and mentally checked my purse for the Epi-Pen. The teacher's reaction was a bit condescending: I felt the strong sense that I was somehow stepping out of line. Even my mother advised me several years ago that my brother said if he watched the kids he wanted to try to give my sons some dairy! So I find these consciously rebellious attitudes as high risk profile, but perhaps not quite as high risk as the first category of, “Geez, I forgot,” or “Geez, I didn’t even think of that.” At least this second group is conscious.
On a positive note, there are wonderful low risk folks who are like angels. Both of my sisters-in-law and mother understand and go to special trouble to make delicious meals that are dairy and egg-free. I trust them, appreciate them and am grateful. Further, our new church's Sunday school teacher carefully explained her own experience and daughter’s experience with food allergies all the while giving me assurances and food related activity schedules so as to settle my own stomach.
So just like we profile others when driving or doing various every day activities that involve assessing risk, we can and should profile people upon whom we rely to care for or supervise our food-allergic children.
I recommend considering the kind of person--is the person absent minded? Self centered? Forgetful? Rebellious? Arrogant? Panicky? If so, these are high risk personalities when it comes to food allergies. Their behavioral reputation will likely carry over to their ability to care for food-allergic children and either cause a crises or be unlikely to handle a crises well.
Look for people who show characteristics of being considerate, respectful and able to listen (and hear). Consider how carefully one communicates details. Do they have some experience with any serious health issue that might help them understand food allergies more? I think these are lower risk personalities and probably more likely to be successfully trusted to care for your food allergic child in a responsible, sensitive and positive way--both to your child and to you.