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Peanut-free table for one, please

Submitted by on Thursday, 4 September 2008 2 Comments

I’d never understood the primal maternal instinct to claw out another kid’s eyes — until yesterday.

Big Guy’s Mommy Day Care shuttle arrived at his school before he had finished lunch, so I sat down with him and waited for him to finish. It was me and one tiny 5-year-old at a vast expanse of grade-school cafeteria table, with only two laminated “peanut free zone” signs breaking up the white tile.

For some reason, a few older kids — they looked to be fourth- or fifth-graders — decided to think that was hilarious.

“Peanut free zone? You mean you don’t have to pay?”

Perhaps the lack of a hyphen between “peanut” and “free” confused him. His loud wisecrack drew the attention of several buddies, who decided to join him in a round of pointing and uproarious laughter. Big Guy, thank heaven, was sitting with his back toward them and didn’t notice.

I simply said, “Guys, he’s allergic.” They laughed some more and walked away.

I wanted to kill them.

I’m sure the solitary table is one of those things that bothers me far more than it does Big Guy. I hate seeing him sit alone every day, in part because he’s never had to do it before. At his preschool, the teachers always managed to find a peanut-free, egg-free friend to sit with him. I can understand why the staff at his elementary school doesn’t have time to do that with hundreds of kids to feed, but I fear he’ll start feeling lonely once the novelty of kindergarten wears off.

I’m sure the sight of one kid sitting alone at a huge table surprised the older kids. For some reason, the position of his table has changed since he went back on track this week, and he is more noticeable now.

And I’m going to assume the older kids didn’t mean to be cruel, but were merely commenting in an immature and rude way on a very obvious change in the cafeteria. I don’t even blame them for being ignorant — not enough people are aware that food allergies are real and dangerous things.

But I had to keep reminding myself that education, not ripping out their eyeballs, is the answer.

You see, kids, that’s my baby sitting there all by himself day after day because touching the wrong kid who had the wrong lunch could make him very sick.

So lay off.

And if you don’t, I’ll talk to the principal about what we can do to raise allergy awareness.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Ceneca Bettencourt said:

    Hello, I found your blog through ModMomsClub. I decided to check out your blog because my 3 year old son has a deadly peanut allergy. I fear what the future holds each new day, but am trying to let life be.

    I am going to homeschool him and his sister until they are in junior high to avoid the ignorance and disrespect of so many. I mean, my family and my husband’s are still ignorant to the severness of his allergy.

    Lets just say, my husband’s family invited us to fry a turkey a few months ago. We suspected that they were smart enough to use the right oils, etc. We showed up and ended up leaving only minutes after arival for they were of course frying the turkey in peanut oil. All they said was that he could eat the other foods. Uhh, no he can’t.

    I probably could find out if I read further, but am tired. How old are your kids?

  • debra said:

    Thanks for stopping in, Ceneca!

    Big Guy is 5 and is anaphylactic to peanut, egg and garlic. He’s also allergic to walnut, pecan and hazelnut.

    Little Guy, 3, so far is nonallergic and he’s been tested several times because I’m paranoid.

    I’m anaphylactic to pork, seafood and some fish, severely allergic to chicken and rice and mildly allergic to 15 other foods. On my last scratch test, there were only four out of 24 foods that I was NOT allergic to. I used to have all this on my “about page” but forgot to add it back in when I smooshed the blogs.

    Families are fun. When Big Guy started on solid food, I was very careful because he’d already developed eczema so severe he looked like one big hive. Plus I was afraid my food-allergy genetics would work against him. You know the drill — introduce foods one teaspoon at a time over consecutive days before feeding them a full serving.

    I’d cleared him on pears so far, and that was it, when I had to leave him with a relative one night while I worked. I came home and found FIVE two-ounce baby food jars in the garbage. Pears, applesauce, bananas and peaches. I FLIPPED OUT, stirring up a huge family uproar because “Debra needs to relax and quit being so picky.”

    Well … fast-forward about five months. We’re eating shepherd pie for dinner. One egg in the whole casserole and Big Guy eats less than a half dozen bites. He’d already been correctly introduced to egg and I thought he was clear. This was the time that it hit, though. We wound up calling an ambulance it escalated so quickly.

    At least the family conceded the next day that I was right to be concerned. Too bad it took near death for them to admit it.

    And the funny thing is, these folks have watched me decline pizza for years if it had pepperoni, ham or sausage on it. Their response when I mentioned that: Oh, we didn’t know your food allergies were serious.

    Grrr … That was more than four years ago and it still makes me hot.