Dear Annie: My daughter was recently ordered by the court to have her 5-year-old son visit his biological father and grandparents every other weekend. They live 200 miles away. The boy has always lived with his mother, because the biological father felt he was not ready to be a dad and deserted them. Now they have decided they want to spend time with the boy.
When at their house, my grandson is not permitted to eat at the family table. He eats at a small table in the corner. He's only permitted to eat or drink at certain times, he cannot phone his mother when he wants, he sleeps in a room in the basement, he must call the grandparents by specific names or they won't speak to him, and most recently, he came home with so many mosquito bites that he required medical attention. Once, the biological father brought him home so sick that he missed a week of school. My daughter's lawyer has been contacted, but is there anything we can do in the interim to protect the boy from such horrible abuse?
- Worried Grandma
Dear Worried: We're not certain this qualifies as "horrible abuse." It seems more like neglect combined with incompetent parenting skills. The lawyer should go to the judge immediately with documentation and ask for supervised visitation, and possibly mandate that the biological father take parenting classes. If you believe the boy is truly being abused, contact the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.
Dear Annie: Thank you for printing the letter about celiac disease. I hope you have space for a letter about children who are severely food allergic.
Food allergies were not part of our world in 1999. That is when our baby developed hives after eating mixed cereal. The pediatrician said, "Maybe he's allergic to the wheat in the cereal. Give him Benadryl." We didn't know that "allergic to wheat" was serious or that wheat was in almost everything in our pantry, from barbecue sauce to root beer, cereals, potato chips, candy, hand cream, shampoo and sunblock. The early reactions were just hives. There was no thought of converting our kitchen or segregating him at school.
The first anaphylactic reaction came at age 4. The ER doctors explained cross-contamination. We were told to read all food labels and always carry EpiPens. At age 13, our son now cautiously sits at the school lunch table with his friends and goes to ballgames, overnight camp and select restaurants. We continue to be vigilant. One crumb of wheat in his mouth would lead us to the ER. We would like to share some resources about food allergies with your readers. Please suggest they contact:
Mothers of Children Having Allergies (mochallergies.org); Food Allergy Research and Education (foodallergy.org) (this is a merger of the Food Allergy Initiative and Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network); the Stanford Alliance for Food Allergy Research (foodallergies.stanford.edu); the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (aaaai.org/co-nditions-and-treatmentsallergies/food-allergies.aspx).
- B. in Chicago