The moment my 2nd grader opened the car door and climbed inside, I could tell something had gone wrong.
“What is it, honey? What happened?”
“Oh, mom,” he cried. “It was David’s* birthday. And he brought a cake.”
He clutched his face in his hands and shook his head. His body was convulsing now as the tears started to fall. It was as if the emotion had been piling up inside as he stood in the pick-up line, and only after he was safe in the presence of Mom could it come pouring out like a flood.
“He’s my very best friend. And he brought a cake,” he cried, as he fidgeted with a pre-packaged Rice Krispie Treat in its bright blue wrapper.
I keep a stash of Rice Krispies in his teacher’s desk drawer in cases like these. Because my son’s allergy to peanuts is so severe, his teacher can substitute one of the packaged treats if someone brings in a snack that might not be safe for him to eat.
The parents of the other kids in my son’s class are so thoughtful. They go out of their way on many occasions to bring a treat that doesn’t contain peanuts or nuts. They have learned to read labels. They check for foods that aren’t made in a plant with peanuts. And in the midst of the morning rush to pack lunches, they often choose peanut-free foods for their kids, just so they can sit at a special table with my 8-year-old.
But they can’t possibly remember, or even know, that it’s really not safe for him to eat something made in a bakery. And even if they did think of it, we can’t expect them NOT to bring their child’s favorite snack for his or her own birthday!
So, it’s just the reality in our home that the special days at school when the kids get to break 15 minutes early to celebrate someone’s birthday are some of the hardest days for my son. He gets tired of eating his Rice Krispie Treats while he watches the other kids bite into a big slice of cake with the thick icing on top.
He couldn’t comprehend that his “best friend” would bring a treat he couldn’t eat. But I know as a mom, this little boy’s mom had absolutely no idea my son would be so upset by it. (And I would never write this post if any of the other 2nd grade parents knew I had a blog.)
“Why, Mom? Why do I have to have this stupid allergy?” he cried. “Why??”
We talk about the things we have learned from it:
The allergy helps us all remember that some kids are born with legs that don’t work properly. They can’t run.
Some kids are blind. They can’t even see.
Some kids have autism. Some have epilepsy. Some have other diseases that severely limit their abilities. Some have challenges we can’t even begin to imagine.
Some kids feel the pain every day of being the only kid of their race in the classroom. They feel different. And left out.
Not that any of these things make his struggle hurt less. But it helps to remember.
And it reminds us every day that only God can protect him. Only God can see the stray peanuts that might fall into a box of cereal. Only God knows if another child was playing at the park with peanut butter on his hands. We have to trust Him for our son’s protection. Not only from peanuts, but lots and lots of other things.
“Did you cry in class?”
“I wanted to,” he said. “But I tried to pretend like it was OK. Like it didn’t matter.”
He ripped open the Rice Krispie Treat and tore off a big chunk.
It seems way too early in his life to learn to pretend like it doesn’t hurt. Like it doesn’t matter.
We moms have all been there. It hurts more to see our child hurt than it ever did to go through it ourselves. So, I write this post, not to make anyone feel guilty about peanuts. But just as a window into simple things that sometimes turn into difficult days in our home.
What is it for you? Have you had a similar experience with your kids?
And by the way, we made a HUGE chocolate cake with chocolate icing that evening. And we’ve been enjoying it for several days.