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Worst. Aunt.  Ever.

Pride goeth.

I may have mentioned a few times that I enjoy my aunthood.  And I take especially seriously this business of acting as Jim The Small Child Nephew's godmother:  "With these two hands I wiped the holy water off your head at your baptism," I'll tell him, "and if I ever catch you cheating on your mistress or stealing sports memorabilia from a Vegas casino, with these same two hands I will throttle you."

He is afflicted with several severe food allergies--eggs, milk, peanuts--and while the eggs and milk can cause welts and rashes, it's the peanuts that really make us nervous.  So I've trained myself into a One-Aunt Peanut Squad, refusing nuts on airplane rides on my way into Cincinnati, reading labels for practice, and taking note of no-no restaurants (Lone Star Steakhouse, with its buckets of peanuts at each table... not so much, thanks.)

We don't know yet if Will The Smaller Child Nephew has the same problem.  He's cleared the milk hurdle, but his parents are waiting on peanut testing until he's a little bit older.  In the meantime, Will's tiny train-intensive world is kept nut-free.

Until, of course, Aunt Beth came to visit.

I was standing in the kitchen with my arm in a bag of (low-cal!  low-fat!) snacks when Will heard the crinkling.  He rounded the dining table and rushed me and the bag, dimples locked and loaded:  "Cookie!  Cookie!"  And as I watched a caramel swirl disappear into his mouth, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to check the label and see if the Honey NUT Cheerio Snack Mix might contain, you know, nuts.

If Will heard crinkling before, he really heard it now as I dropped to my knees to frantically read through the ingredients.  Peanuts, no, but peanut flour, yes.  That's often enough.

I ran to wash off my hands (an entire lifetime of OCD pays off at last; we are Olympic-caliber speed  handwashers), then peered into Will's little face, terrified to see horrible splotches of red or suddenly snatched breath.  He put up with this for maybe twenty seconds, and then wandered off in search of less freaky forms of entertainment.  I tailed him.  He stooped to collect his plastic child, then flung himself into his favorite chair and demanded a viewing of Charlie Brown.

He was okay.

Aunt Beth, however, was not.

In a moment of inattention, I could have accidentally killed my nephew.  "But you didn't!"  Josh The Pilot keeps telling me.  "But I could have," I'll say, and that is the difference.  Oh, I cannot imagine the therapy if something had actually happened to Will as a result of this; it's bad enough to know that I wasn't doing my job, failing to protect him from some potentially deadly caramel swirls.

But I didn't?

But I could have.

Terrible aunt.

soy, no joy at:  mbe@drinktothelasses.com

tip the bartender

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Reader Comments (10)

From a fellow devoted aunt of two nieces and two nephews (so far) I can relate to your reaction. It's the "could haves" that get you every time.

October 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStepheney

Oh MB,
I know whereof you speak. It wasn't my niece or nephew (thank God), but instead one of my students. During AIMS (Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards---one of those high-stakes tests that we annually torture students with), we ask parents to bring in snacks for the class. I had a student three years ago whose allergy to ALL nuts was so severe that the epi-pen had to be kept in my desk drawer so it would be readily available.

I had been very conscientious about making sure that none of the snacks that came in had nuts in them---even reading the ingredient labels to be sure none of them used peanut oil or anything. I made sure the note that was sent home expressly stated "No Nuts, please".

All was well until the third day of testing when I got distracted by a crying student (obviously just all tested-out). I looked up to watch the allergic student take a bit of a granola bar. On the wrapper, was written something like "Maple Nut". I can't remember exactly. I just remember panicking and making him spit it out. I asked him if he had swallowed any, and when he said he did, I immediately sent him to the nurse with a teacher's aide, who had epi-pen in hand. His mom was called and he was rushed to the emergency room.

Thankfully, he was completely fine. I, however, was not. I to this day feel guilty over what might have happened. I can't convince myself that since he was okay, I should just relax and be happy.

I'll work on letting it go.

October 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWiserlemmingAZ

There's an old Mexican saying:

"Tanto quiere el diabo a su hijo, hasta que le saca un ojo"

Which can roughly be translated to "so much does the devil loves his son, that he plucked an eye out of his socket".

I'm not of course implying that you're related to Satan or anything! but the saying is a sage reminder that often the ones you care and protect the most from any conceivable harm, are the ones who suffer from the mistakes caused by that same over-protection.

Mistakes happen; we're human.

October 15, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

I would like to actually say something about this post, but — Lone Star is bringing back peanuts? I started waiting tables there about three days after they quit doing it, so I got shafted out of a lot of tips because people wanted their stinkin' peanuts.


Yay for no reaction to the nuts! Try not to be so hard on yourself. Everybody makes mistakes, and fortunately, yours didn't even turn out to BE a mistake!

Don't ever go to Rocky Run. I believe they still have the peanuts in the bar area. I guess it's a man thing because I really don't like throwing my trash on the floor...

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKris

Ok, you are not the worst Aunt ever. This worst Aunt ever, signed and allowed the doc to give 4 shots in one sitting, while holding down the child. This worst aunt let a 2 year old try scallops cause the baby wanted what was on her plate. Not thinking that small children shouldn't have seafood, etc.

It happens to the best of us. I regained my Best Aunt in the World status by spoiling said child. Seeing her smile makes up for the horrible feelings I had when I messed up. I am glad of every smile and I do anything I can to keep her smiling.

Send Will some incredably expensive, loud obnoxious toy that his parents will hate you for buying. You will immediately feel better. I promise.

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKell Belle

Holding down a little one for a shot isn't Bad Auntdom- you were trying to keep him or her healthy. Somebody's gotta do it!

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMB

MB, you actually did an awesome thing by discovering that Will's not allergic to peanuts. Now you don't have to worry about it every time you're feeding him something, which will let you enjoy your time with him so much more. There's absolutely no way to know about those kinds of allergies until you try feeding the kid something.

October 17, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterj.s.

It happens. I know that sounds flip but I have horror stories of being the 'Worst.Mom.Ever' during my poor child's first year. I give thanks every day that she survived our bumbling idiocy as new parents. You are not the worst Aunt Ever. You are the Aunt every kid wishes s/he could have. You are also human. It's those types of learning experiences that keep you humble. And that is not such a bad thing.

October 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJenniB

My husband was allergic to corn as a child. Now, that doesn't sound so bad, until you realize that includes corn syrup, which is in EVERYTHING. His mom would send him to school with strict instructions to not give him corn, and when he would come home wheezing, the perplexed teacher would exclaim, "but all he ate was popcorn!"

At least people are developing more of a social tolerance for allergies. I was allergic to all sorts of things as a kid (thankfully not deadly so) and people used to accuse my mom of being "overprotective" when she denied me treats that contained these substances.

October 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterToni
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