School started this week which means that I am back to forcing myself into bed before midnight so that I can get up before dawn to get the kids to the bus by 7. I am also back to making 20 lunches and 20 snacks a week for the minions. This is always a bit of a challenge since this one doesn't eat this kind of chips, and that one won't eat apple sauce, while this one ONLY eats applesauce....you get the idea. However, we now have a new wrinkle in the lunch prep -- food allergies.
Now, before you get the wrong idea, my kids do not have any food allergies. I DO sympathize with those kids and their parents who deal with the dangers of food allergies, I could not imagine having a minor heart attack every time my kid put food in his or her mouth. I know that I am lucky to not have to worry about food that could kill my kids. I don't understand why these allergies are becoming more and more common. When I was a kid, I did not know anyone who could not eat peanuts, or eggs, or gluten, or milk, etc. But now, every single one of my kids has several kids in their class with food allergies and some of them are life threatening. Three out of four kids have at least one kid in their class with a peanut/tree nut allergy. This causes a problem for us because 2 of my kids ONLY eat sandwiches that are, you guessed it, peanut butter and jelly.
Now, usually, the restrictions on the food of the other students doesn't include lunch, but is limited to food consumed in the classroom. This makes perfect sense because if your 6 year old was eating peanut butter crackers for snack at his or her desk and then got up to sharpen their pencil, hand in an assignment, or stuck their peanut butter covered fingers into the crayons and then the kid who is deathly allergic ALSO touched something with peanut butter on it, the result could be deadly. And, as is the rule, the kids stop at the bathroom to wash their hands both before and after leaving the lunchroom. While it may be a slight inconvenience to me to not be able to give my kids anything that has nuts in it for snack, it really isn't a big deal. I could still send PB&J for lunch which was where it mattered. However, my daughter, the younger one that may be on the spectrum, brought her sandwich home untouched 2 days in a row.
This morning, when I discovered the uneaten sandwich in her lunchbox as I was busy making today's lunches, we had the following conversation:
"Baby, why didn't you eat your sandwich?"
"I didn't want it."
"Why not? You need to eat your lunch or you'll get hungry before you get home."
"What? Why not?"
"I just can't."
"Sure you can. Did you run out of time to eat? You should start with your sandwich first."
"No! I can't eat it because one of the kids in my class who is allergic to peanuts sits right next to me and I don't want to kill him!"
So, today she got a jelly sandwich for lunch -- no peanut butter -- and a pep talk about how she was very thoughtful to not want to kill her classmate.
I tried not to show her how this annoyed me. It really shouldn't. I am blessed in that my kids do not have any food allergies. I know that. But MY kids are still my priority and MY kid ONLY eats PB&J for lunch. Any other kid, I might could talk into a turkey, ham, or cheese sandwich. The older girl would even eat a salad if I fixed it every day. But not my younger girl. She has quirks and one of them is that she only eats PB&J. And now she can't. And because she is now also fixated on how she could kill her friend, she has chosen to go hungry rather than introduce the possibility.
I don't want my 6 year old thinking about death when she opens her lunch. I emailed her teacher about it since they have assigned seats at the lunch table, thinking that perhaps she could sit next to one of her other friends during lunch -- one that she didn't have to worry about exposing to her deadly sandwich. I was told that "everyone has to be willing to make sacrifices for the safety of our class" and that it would be "unfair to change assigned seats to accommodate one kid over another." I dropped it, but I wanted to point out that yes, it IS unfair. It is completely unfair to take a kid who ONLY eats PB&J and sit them next to someone who could die from being exposed to peanut butter. Surely there are other kids in the class who eat in the lunchroom or who bring something other than PB&J for lunch -- sit them next to the kid who is allergic. How is that unfair? What about what is fair for MY kid?
I will no doubt be bombarded with comments and emails about how this is inconsiderate, that it is a life and death situation for these kids and their parents, and how I and my kid should get over it. But it isn't that easy. If you have kids on the spectrum, you know its not that easy. So for now, I will feed my daughter a jelly sandwich just so she will eat something for lunch and brace myself for the criticism I will receive.
The email that I received back was NOT from her teacher -- it was from someone in the main office. I got the address wrong (it went to a different teacher with the same last name, who forwarded it to the office, where whoever go it decided to just handle it instead of passing it along). I called the school to talk to the office, thinking that I would just go over the teacher's head and that is how I found out. I got the CORRECT email address before hanging up and now I am waiting for the teacher's response.
SHE CAN HAVE PEANUT BUTTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The teacher called, she was super awesome and determined that my daughter was being hyper vigilant because she was concerned about her friend. She sits at the same table in the classroom, but not close enough at lunch for it to be a concern. Whew. (And yay for having a nice, normal, understanding teacher!!)