The Surprise Hamster: Conflict Resolution at School

Many years ago, dear son went to a peanut free preschool.  He had a wonderful classroom with lots of toys and bins and circle times.  We went to the preschool orientation and were very satisfied with his experienced teachers.  They knew about food allergies and had been peanut free for several years.

Dear son was absent one day in the fall.  I was surprised to see a hamster in the room the next school day.  Yes, that was the new class pet.  I was concerned because most hamster food contains nuts.  The lead teacher was resistant – she was sure the hamster food didn’t have nuts in it.  I checked the food and it did have tree nuts and peanut dust as an ingredient.

The teacher would not consider moving the hamster to another classroom.  She became defensive.  The hamster had to eat, dear son would not be feeding the hamster, none of the children would ever touch the hamster or its cage.  Of course these promises could not be kept – the kids would want to feed the hamster and play with the hamster and clean out the hamster’s cage.

I was furious.  The promise of a peanut-free environment was being ignored.  I felt that my son was not safe in his classroom any longer.  I was treated as a crazy, over-protective, paranoid mom.

This is the point where I should have gone to the director.  Instead, I complained to my friends.  I whined to my dear patient husband.  I went to PetSmart and found some hamster food that did not have tree nuts or peanuts as an ingredient.

If I could have a “do-over”, I would have requested an immediate meeting with the teacher and the director.  We would have had a decent chance of working out a solution to the hamster problem that didn’t put the burden all on me.  I could have educated the school better as to what “peanut-free” really means.


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