Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Life Lessons for Mom from the Peanut-Free Table

Am I smarter than a 2nd grader? I realized to my chagrin, that this Mom might need to be "schooled" on a few points. Not too long ago, I learned quite a few things from my daughter when she described a recent peanut-free table experience. I could definitely take a few tips on keeping my cool from my kid.

According to what my daughter tells me, she gets questioned pretty frequently by her friends and classmates about her severe allergy to nuts. This is especially true when she is sitting at the "peanut-free" table with non-allergic kids. (And hey, for the record, I'm glad they're with her. That means they weren't "packing peanuts" that day.) Naturally, conversation sometimes turns to the ins and outs of being a "peanut-free" kid.

The questions are normal, but they don't necessarily thrill me, especially when kids ask things like "Will you die from your allergy?" She gets asked this fairly often and she always answers "I could, but I won't." I really hate that my 8-year-old even has intimations on her own mortality but I'm glad she is confident that she will be OK. Still, I wish sometimes I were there to help buffer these questions.

Turns out I don't need to be there. This child has it covered, even when the questions get a bit more unecessary. For example, late last week some kids wanted explicit details about what symptoms my daughter would exhibit if she were having an allergic reaction. Not that this is bad, either. If everyone knows, they can help my daughter if she needs it.

My daughter described some of the symptoms of a severe food allergy reaction, including facial swelling. Unfortunately, everyone thought this was a hoot. (I'm sure they were having cartoon-like visions of what would happen, I'm not saying they meant her any harm.)

When I told my daughter that she could offer to change the subject if her friends' questions bothered her, she said "They are only concerned about me. They don't mean anything."

Then, one of the girls started holding up all kinds of non-food objects (dollar bills, pencils) and asking my daughter if she were allergic to those. Apparently the other kid was looking for laughs but from my perspective, of course, it's not too funny.

I waited to hear how my daughter handled the teasing. You can bet that I felt like flying out of my chair and giving the other kid a piece of my mind. The Mother Bear instinct kicked in, big time. I couldn't help it.

My daughter said "Oh, I just laughed it off. I pretended it was funny. But I didn't feel like talking much anymore."

My heart twisted in my chest at her last remark, but I felt incredibly proud of her reaction. Why not? Life is too short to debate the small stuff, especially when someone is just trying to get your goat.

Bottom line: Just when you think you're running this mothering show, the kids turn it all upside down on you. Am I smarter than a 2nd grader? Maybe not, but I'm getting there. I think.

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