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Dear Sports Parents – about those cupcakes

Submitted by on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 5 Comments

Dear Sports Parents,

The end-of-the-season cupcake cake was beautiful, and it looked delicious. I’m sure 90 percent of the team appreciated your efforts to make the last game special.

We are the 10 percent.

The one player who stood to the side and whispered in a wistful little moan, “I can’t eat it, Mommy, can I?”  Big Guy, whose many food allergies include egg, said it several times. The rapid transition from rough, tough, take no prisoners athlete to a little boy ready to cry over cake was stunning.

Though he’s lived in a world of “can’t have this” since he was 10 months old, not having cupcakes really bothers him. Especially since he knows I’ve always been so careful to have his back on this issue. Every birthday party we go to, every post-season celebration, I either bake the cake or take cupcakes for him.

He can deal with school birthday parties – his teachers have always kept a stash of safe cookies. He could have handled a regular sport snacks he couldn’t have. I’ve even stopped carrying backups because it just doesn’t bother him any more, as long as there’s “Gator Egg” – oh, the irony of his mispronunciation of that one.

But the cupcake cake was special – and he knew he was probably going to be excluded.

“I don’t know,” I told Big Guy. “Let me check and see if you can eat them.”

It was more hope than I usually give him, because this time I thought there was a chance. Another parent had talked to me about end-of-the-season cupcakes. She’d heard about the diet soda trick and asked if it really worked. Would it be OK for her to bring those cupcakes to the last game, she asked. I said yes, but told her how to prevent peanut and tree nut cross-contamination.

Somewhere along the line, a different parent wound up bringing a cupcake cake – a colorful, icing-thick confection with basketball players on top. I knew when I saw the bakery sticker this was a no-go for Big Guy.

“I’m sorry, babes. The plan changed, and I didn’t know it.” I hope everyone standing there saw his stricken face when I said that. I hope they remember it the next time they’re thinking of special snacks.

I was so very proud of him at that moment. He didn’t throw a fit. He didn’t jump up and down, demanding what he couldn’t have. He was just quietly – and heartbreakingly – sad.

Yes, the parents brought an alternate snack for Big Guy, which he accepted with a polite “thank you.” I wonder how many kids would be thrilled with Corn Nuts when the rest of the team’s celebrating with cupcakes. Big Guy wasn’t. I bet her child wouldn’t have been either.

I would never dream of asking parents to provide egg-free cake – it’s just too dang expensive if you’re not a baker. If you are a baker, it’s still tricky to pull off.

But it would be nice if other parents could do the allergic child a favor and coordinate with his or her parents. By the end of the season, I bet you know who they are and if you don’t, it’s not too hard to ask around. I bet the parents would be more than happy to take responsibility for making sure their food-allergic child was accounted for.

This is not the first time this has happened. We were on a team last year where one mom was an aspiring pastry chef and kept bringing her practice cupcakes to the field. I bet 90 percent of the players appreciated it.

We are the 10 percent.

By the time we got to the car last night, Big Guy had recovered. He’d found fruit rolls in the bag, and he was happy that he at least got candy out of it. I’m still not happy. I don’t like it when my boy’s sad over something that’s completely avoidable.

I’m also changing my sports SOP in the future as a result. In the past, I’ve always relied on notes from coaches and reminders on snack sheets that there’s an allergic kid. Obviously, that method doesn’t communicate everything I need to say.

From now on, I’m going to talk to all the parents at the first practice and ask them to tell me if they plan something “special.” Maybe a speech before game one will prevent problems come game 12.

Copyright 2012 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Kim of Mo'Betta said:

    This broke my heart! I know how you feel too…my son is almost 4 and we are constantly dealing with his egg/nut allergies. People often think about peanuts, but very seldom do they take egg allergies into consideration. My son has been excluded from many things b/c of this. I try to keep ‘backups’, etc. – but you can’t plan for things you don’t know about! It’s hard, and being excluded will probably get harder as my son gets older. I keep hoping he will outgrow it soon! I just wish everything was centered around food!

  • Kim of Mo'Betta said:

    oops, obviously that should be I wish everything was NOT centered around food!

  • Debra said:

    That’s OK, I got it. It’s like I tell my kids when I make those little slips – don’t always listen to what I say, but hear what I meant!

    You’re correct that a lot of the world is more savvy about peanut allergies – thank heaven!- even though they often miss his others. In this case, though, ALL of them were listed at the top of the snack signup at the start of the season. Granted, the dad handled the snack signup and might well have forgotten to pass the complete information to the mom. But they knew enough to have the Corn Nuts, so that means they were aware that he might not be able to eat the cake. I just wish they’d asked. Baseball season is starting soon, and I’m already drafting a letter to hand out to try to avoid a repeat.

  • spice said:

    Hi Debra, I’m also in the same boat. No matter how much U convey U always end up in the 10% because unless it’s your child or U have a food allergies at home no one’s gonna try to remember/think how it’s feel when whole class/group is eating & one can’t eat (specially cupcakes) because the one which is not eating is not their child. I always dread school/public gatherings as my 10 yr. old is allergic to eggs & some nuts. And no one pay much attention to egg allergy.

    Last school party even after almost 10 email exchanges the other mother confirmed me everything(specially the icing is egg free) only cupcakes were not approved so I send cupcake for her from home and other Mother decided to bring iced cupcakes where as they were supposed to be decorating them in the class. My whole email exchange was reg. eggless icing & she didn’t even realized that if she’s taking iced cupcakes(there was no pt. in discussing anything at first place) my daughter gonna bring plain cupcake she’s still left out from the group & yes cupcake did came back b’coz only she had the plain one & she didn’t wanted to eat that with everyone.

    Sorry for the essay but it’s so frustrating & i could so relate to your situation but yes U r right it’s better to discuss it in the first meeting in front of everyone if possible some paper should be handed over to all the parents, so that may be if other parent who’s not in the meeting also get to see what’s the point in discussion.

    & I beleive U must have guessed it that I’m first time here.

  • Debra said:

    Welcome, Spice! Sorry to hear about your daughter’s experience. Been there, done that on the seemingly endless email exchanges and BOOM! The allergen still shows up. We actually did OK at Valentine’s Day – only one Butterfinger had to be tossed. Big Guy told me it came from a kid who’d just moved there the previous week. “It’s OK, Mommy. He’s new, so he didn’t know.”

    We’ve been lucky of late because we have a great group of friends who are uber-aware of his allergies. One woman practically does a surgical scrub on her kitchen when we’re coming over, including her casserole dishes and all her cooking gear at Thanksgiving. Another texted back and forth with me for days, trying to make sure the candy in the goodie bags at her son’s birthday party was safe. I think that’s because Big Guy is a person to them, not some anonymous allergic kid. That makes the cupcake cake even more frustrating. These kids have played together on the same team for two months, under a coach who really emphasized teamwork and coming together. Yet, at the very end, one player was, not just overlooked, but excluded.