Thursday, February 7, 2008

Life Lessons from the Peanut-Free Table

Since first grade, my daughter has been designated to sit at a "peanut-free" table in the lunch room at school. At her school, each class with an allergic child has its own peanut-free table, so she does have the opportunity to sit with kids from her class.

I feel that this table is a "necessary evil" at this stage, because she is still so young. I say "evil" because while it does prevent her from coming into contact with ever-popular peanut butter, it can sometimes be at the cost of not being able to socialize with some of her friends at lunch.

The peanut-free table has had its ups and downs for my daughter. Sometimes, several children congregate at this table--other times, not so much. It seems to fluctuate like the weather.

Even though I know that being "stuck at one table" is painful for her at times, it is even painful for me to contemplate her being left out or in some way ostracized.

Still, the peanut-free table has had its silver lining. For one thing, my daughter has had to learn to extend herself to others more, by seeking them out and getting to know them. She's found that she has a bigger group at "her table" when she goes out of her way to get involved with the other kids. Not a bad social lesson to learn at any age.

Another nice side benefit: compassion for others. This year, one of the kids in my daughter's class has some developmental disabilities. She has sought out this child from the beginning of the school year, adopting the role of "helper" and special buddy. I praised her for her actions and she said, "Mom, I know what it's like to be different."

I wish that she could choose to sit wherever she would like. However, I'm not sorry that she has learned a few things at this table, things that have to be learned from one's own experience and not necessarily from a parent or teacher.


Anonymous said...

Hi. I just found your blog, and I feel like you are a bit further along my path. My daughter is deathly allergic to peanuts and can't have tree nuts either according to the allergist. She is 3 1/2 and we found out when she was 13 months old. It is exhausting, especially now that she is in preschool. I have brought the food to all parties, she has her own cupcakes for b-days, etc. The other moms find me high-maintenance, but what else can I do? Epi-pens go with us everywhere, and we are just doing the best we can. Thanks for writing about this important issue. I'll be reading. You aren't alone with this, as I am right here in Skokie dealing with it too!

Jenny said...

Thank you for your comments. I'm glad to hear from moms in my same situation and of course from my same region! BTW, I am the "baking mom" for my daughter's class, too, and I plan to do a blog entry about that in the near future. :)

If you're interested, I have a food allergy-related article coming out in the upcoming March 2008 issue of Chicago Parent magazine.

I'm glad you found my blog and good luck to you and your family! --Jenny :)