My daughter is allergic to peanuts. The severity is a bit of a mystery. We know she breaks out in hives at the mere mention of it. Not really, but she does break out in hives if it touches her skin.
We carry an EpiPen just in case she decides to try a cookie at the bakery.
She is six now, and in all the years of being in Sunday school, pre-school and kindergarten, she has been able to enjoy social interaction with her peers. The sensitivity to severe peanut allergies has produced a fairly common response among educators, care givers and Sunday school teachers. Peanuts are prohibited or tightly controlled.
By tightly controlled, I mean kids that bring a PBJ sandwich to school must be sequestered and made to wash their hands and faces very well after. Kids that bring peanut snacks are watched to make sure they are not inadvertently sharing with children who do not know the severity of their allergy or what each box or bag of snacks contains.
Is it fair? Not really. But parents of those kids can choose when to send their child with peanuts or peanut butter. I cannot choose for my daughter to have this allergy. So it’s not fair, but it’s right.
You can imagine my dismay when on the first day of school in Illinois, my daughter told me she has to sit at the peanut allergy table with a half-dozen other allergic kids.
Every day, all year, she must sit with the same group of children.
“But daddy, I can ask two friends to come sit with me every day,” she said, failing to understand the look of disbelief on my face.
Imagine spending a whole school year sitting at the same table, sequestered away from your friends and classmates because you have a peanut allergy.
Okay, I sat at the same table every day for years, but I was a nerd, and in spite of the fear of getting beat up for trying to sit with the cool kids, I still had a choice.
Yes, my daughter can pick two friends to join her at lunch each day, but in the end, it’s simply limiting her social circle, forcing her to remain away from the larger network of students. And it forces her two friends to decide between the luxury of the many or the faithfulness of the few.
I did not always see things this way. I used to rail against a school system that would criminalize peanut butter. How dare they tell me what I could or could not pack in my kids’ lunch boxes?
I believe I actually said, ” Why don’t parents with kids that have severe allergies just homeschool their kids so they don’t encroach on my rights?”
Not a proud moment in my life. Not in retrospect.
I’m just as upset about my daughter being sequestered away with the other allergy kids today as I was when I received a letter from a school many years and many states ago that told me I could not send peanut butter or peanut snacks with my kids, all because one kid was deathly allergic.
I love peanut butter. When my daughter was first diagnosed, I made sure to assert my right and the rights of my boys to eat peanut butter around the house. And I tried very hard to be meticulous about cleaning it up.
I don’t eat peanut butter any more, and I rarely get Thai food. Knowing that my daughter loves to give surprise hugs and kisses means that I have to be free of peanut all the time. I miss it. I miss peanut-butter cookies and things fried in peanut oil.
The family has accepted a tightly controlled peanut plan for the greater good. The greater good being the happiness and well-being of Gabbers.
I think the school should too. It’s easier to blanket ban a substance than to sequester the allergic kids away. Sure, it makes planning lunches a little tougher. And parents have to read labels. The airline industry stopped serving peanuts on airplanes because some people are allergic to peanut dust in the air.
Am I out of bounds here? Am I off my rocker?